The election for governor is one thing, but what in the world is the new man going to do in office once he gets there? Four observers chime in.
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Stemming the Decline
By John Wirzbicki
Connecticut is in decline. Our children are voting with their feet. The best and the brightest leave the state at the earliest opportunity. We need to take the actions necessary to stem that decline. That means making fundamental changes in the way we do things.
We can start with a few common-sense improvements that should, in anything but today’s highly fractious environment, be noncontroversial.
The towns need additional, dependable revenue sources. The critical word is “dependable.” The state routinely promises money that it does not deliver. The towns should receive, on a per capita basis, a constitutionally guaranteed percentage—high enough to significantly reduce the property tax burden—of any state imposed tax of general application, such as the sales tax or the income tax. It wouldn’t hurt if the legislature, at the same time, made the income tax truly progressive. It’s time that the affluent started to pay their way.
The state and towns needs to deliver services more efficiently. This state is composed of 169 towns, each of which provides mundane services, such as waste management, animal control and emergency dispatch services, that could be more efficiently provided on a regional or at least multi-town basis. Regionalization can be used to implement creative policies that would improve the quality of life in the state. We could use regional zoning to foster commercial development rationally, in the cities and transportation hubs where it belongs, while preserving the character of the rest of the state, and, it is hoped, improving the cities in the bargain.
Our current transportation policy can be summed up in three words: Build more roads. The result has been disastrous. Highways have drained the life and the middle class out of our cities. The roads we build are hardly completed before they are overcrowded. What mass transit exists is grossly inadequate, designed to serve only the destitute and the New York-bound commuter. I have no overarching solution, but one will never be found if we continue to pretend the problem does not exist.
These are problems only the government can solve, and we can’t hope to solve them unless we accept the fundamental premise that government is capable of effective action. A basic tenet of today’s Republican Party, however, is the belief that government, on any level, is inherently incapable of accomplishing anything useful. There is no reason to believe that Tom Foley does not hold to this fundamental Republican doctrine. There is, therefore, no reason to believe he will develop or implement effective solutions to our numerous problems. We can anticipate, instead, an insistent campaign on his part to shift the tax burden more decidedly away from the class he represents.
I’ll be voting for Dan Malloy in November. I didn’t support him in the primary, but I have no doubt that he would be infinitely preferable to Mr. Foley. As a former mayor, he is intimately familiar with the issues I’ve discussed, and the many I’ve not had space to address. If the recent primary proved anything, it proved he is a man who will fight for what he wants. He’ll have a lot of fighting to do, with the legislature here in Connecticut, and with Washington, to turn around Connecticut’s rather dismal recent record of losing out on government grants. Compared to his opponent, he’s more likely to get what he wants and more likely to want what we need. I’ve got no doubt that he will make every effort to make the fundamental changes we need to turn this state around. With Foley, we’ll get four more years of malign neglect.
John Wirzbicki is a lawyer who lives in Groton and practices in Norwich. His blog, CTBlue, can be found at ctblueblog.com.