At a Capitol presentation on the upcoming budget this week by Connecticut Voices for Children, I heard an audience member loudly comment that higher taxes are our charitable obligation.
Talk about tone deaf.
I listened for a few hours and heard that we don't have too many state employees, how we don't spend too much on education and social services and that taxing business and the wealthy is the way out of this grim economic era.
With all due respect to Voices, a group that stands up for the poor and that I admire, I'm wondering whether they get it.
We spend too much and we aren't getting anywhere near enough for our money. It isn't about, as some Democratic leaders suggest, finding new ways to find "revenue" with new taxes.
The cost of living here is driving people away. We are not getting the services we deserve from the $17 billion we spend. We need to do something to tell the world that Connecticut isn't such a bad place to run a business.
Starting the discussion with a call to raise taxes won't help.
Which is why I was encouraged to listen to participants at a forum on housing and the economy in Hartford Wednesday sponsored by the Partnership for Strong Communities, a group working hard to build new bridges between nonprofit housing groups and the business community.
We are the state with the eighth highest overall cost of living, a state that lost tens of thousands of young, educated and wealthy residents over the last decade because there isn't enough opportunity here. We have the seventh oldest population in the nation. Companies aren't leaving for New York or Massachusetts - they're going to the South, West and beyond.
"We are losing a big chunk of folks that we absolutely need," said Timothy Bannon, president of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
"Too many businesses don't see Connecticut as a place to make their investment," added John Rathgeber, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
The partnership sees creating more housing for young and working-class folks as critical. I agree, but attracting business is probably more important.
I noticed two gubernatorial candidates - Mary Glassman and Oz Griebel - in the audience at the partnership's meeting.
I hope they got the message.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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