What to Do with Connecticut’s Piece of the VW Settlement

Connecticut is getting $55 million from the fund set up by VW due to its ruses regarding its “clean” diesels, which dirtied the air throughout the country. The League of Conservation Voters is recommending that CT residents tell Gov. Malloy to use the funds to help replace diesel school buses with electric school buses.

Here is the page for e-mailing Gov. Malloy, and below is my edited version of the League’s language on the page linked to above.

The Volkswagen settlement will give Connecticut $55 million for the purpose of cleaning up the air VW’s diesels dirtied over the years. Please spend it on transitioning from diesel to zero-emissions electric school buses, reducing toxic diesel pollution. This will protect the health of the 467,000 kids who ride buses to and from school in Connecticut, as well as the air of the communities they drive through every day.

This is the best use of Connecticut’s VW Mitigation Trust Fund.

Demonstrate Today to Get Rosa DeLauro to Support the Medicare for All Act

Today, in New Haven, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, Medicare for All CT and Colleges Organizing for Medical Access of Connecticut (COMA-CT) are holding a companion event to the national Millions Marching for Medicare for All.  There will be a demonstration outside of Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s office in New Haven (59 Elm St., between Church and Orange) to encourage her and the rest of the CT House Delegation to cosponsor H.R. 676, Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. The majority of House Democrats have signed the bill; DeLauro is one of a few holdouts left in the Progressive Caucus.

The Left is increasingly realizing that the Affordable Care Act is not enough, that a public-private solution means large ongoing increases in health exchange insurance rates and millions without insurance or sufficient access to health care.

You can also sign a petition asking CT’s House Delegation to support the Medicare for All Act.

Food Summit in Hartford on July 22

The Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) is holding a Food Summit and Network Launch at 224 EcoSpace, 224 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (registration begins at 9:30). This free event features speakers on a variety of food-related topics, including food access, farm viability, school curriculums, and food-related community organizing. The CFSA calls itself “a network of individuals, organizations, and institutions working towards a more just and equitable food system.”

Space is limited, so if you’re interested, register here. Questions may be directed to Meg at 860-296-9325 or CFSACoordinator@HartfordFood.org.

CT League of Conservation Voters Has Different Sorts of Volunteer Needs

The CT League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) is the sole environmental organization in CT that has a state PAC, endorses candidates, and gets involved in state elections, as well as lobbying at the state and local levels. It has three entities:  a 501(c)(3) environmental education fund, a 501(c)(4) political organization, and a PAC.

One of its political roles is to send Action Alerts to those who sign up. These alerts ask state citizens to contact their state reps and senators about legislative issues such as the one that was sent out yesterday to save the Council on Environmental Quality and the Community Investment Act from being eliminated in the state budget. Those who know little or nothing about this council and this act can read the LCV’s briefing papers about them (don’t worry; they’re brief). There are also alerts about protests and other events, about submitting testimony (you can read CTLCV’s testimony, and write your own; any state citizen can do this via e-mail). Both calls and e-mails, and testimony, mean a lot to our reps, who will see that their constituents care and are knowledgeable about environmental issues, even those that don’t receive much media exposure.

CTLCV also holds Citizen Lobby days in Hartford, a great learning experience for how the state legislature works and how environmental issues fare at the state level.

Another way people can help is with the Education Fund’s programs. The most exciting one is called CHISPA (“spark” in Spanish). It involves educating young people of color about environmental issues. Volunteers are needed to help with CHISPA field trips, to give talks and line up speakers, to help the students survey people, etc.

The Fund also has a new program to get clean buses in our cities. Volunteers are needed to educate and build up demand for clean buses in city neighborhoods, and to make calls to school board members to see who might be receptive to requiring clean buses the next time school bus contracts are bid out.

If you are interested in volunteering in either of these programs, contact Abi Rodriguez at abirod.ctlcv@gmail.com.

Health Care-Related Die-In on New Haven Green This Sunday

This Sunday, June 4, at the New Haven Green, from 3:00 to 4:00 pm, there will be a Die-In in protest against the Republican-sponsored health care plan. This is part of a nationwide healthcare protest, to dramatize the potential impact of the Republican health care policy:  tens of millions losing insurance, Medicaid coverage slashed, premiums for young seniors and the sick increased, protections for those with pre-existing conditions gutted,  health care jobs jeopardized, and health insurance companies and the wealthy enriched. Across the nation, people will symbolically “die,” holding tombstones that forecast real causes of death.

For more information and to let them know you’re going, click here.

The Die-In’s co-sponsors are Action Together CT New Haven County and Fairfield Standing United.

The State Budget

Progressives can make a real difference with respect to the Connecticut state budget, because everything is up for grabs right now, and no one is particularly happy with the budget put forth by Gov. Malloy. We can lobby our representatives and organize protests, petitions, resolutions by local party committees and other organization, and testimony on both sides of the budget, revenues and expenditures. It’s going to be a long fight, well into the summer, so now is the time to start understanding the issues, setting priorities, and organizing.

However, the issues are many and they are complicated. And sometimes it’s not clear where progressives should stand, especially in areas that affect government employee unions.

The best place to start is by insisting that an austerity budget (expenditure cuts) is neither good nor appropriate for Connecticut. Part of making this argument is criticizing and replacing the effective Republican narrative that Connecticut is an economic mess, that people and businesses are leaving (GE, the example most often given, didn’t leave; Boston paid it to build a new headquarters there) because taxes are too high (the top 5% of CT taxpayers pay a lower effective tax rate than the other 95%; see page 4 of CT Voices for Children’s Revenue Options brief; in addition, according to a Dec. 2016 report by Ernst & Young LLP, CT had America’s lowest total effective business tax rate (TEBTR), an absolute measure that captures business tax rates as a share of the overall economy).

Despite what the Republicans say, Connecticut’s economy is not in terrible shape (see an April 2017 report from three Central CT State Univ. professors, commissioned by the AFL-CIO, which tells a very different story about the state’s economy and taxes). What is terrible is the inequality of our educational and health systems, as well as our regressive taxes, including sales and property taxes and fees; even our progressive income tax isn’t progressive at the highest income levels.

A progressive narrative is that Connecticut has many advantages to offset its being expensive (that’s a Northeastern problem, not a specifically CT problem), and that we can afford to be fair, in both taxes and spending, rather than unnecessarily thrifty.

CT Voices for Children calls for a balanced budget approach (see its Revenue Options brief). On the revenue side, this means the following increases:  (1) modernizing the sales tax by applying it to services and more online transactions (by far the largest tax increase it recommends, it is less regressive than the sales tax on goods, because poor people don’t buy many services); (2) strengthening the corporate income tax, especially by getting rid of tax breaks; (3) reforming wealth and income taxes by increasing income tax for top earners (to make their effective tax rate closer to the average CT resident), increasing the tax rate on dividends and capital gains, and entering a joint regional compact to close the carried interest loophole, and (4) supporting a low-wage fee on employers and a tax on sweetened beverages (although this latter tax would be seriously regressive; it’s about personal health not economic health).

The Malloy budget proposal would put 40% of the burden of revenue increases on the poor and middle class. The largest burden on the middle class would be the elimination of the property tax credit on state income tax returns. The largest burden on the poor would be the reduction in the state Earned Income Tax Credit, an important credit for the working poor. An increase in the cigarette tax would affect both groups.

Gov. Malloy (but not the Democrats in the legislature) wants to make municipalities pay for 1/3 of the amount going into the teachers’ pension funds. An important argument for this is that school districts bargain for the salaries that pensions are based on, but don’t have to pay for the pensions. This situation creates an inappropriate incentive. On the other hand, municipalities are dependent on regressive property taxes and have trouble raising their mill rates. One solution is to let municipalities have a small add-on to sales tax, but this is also a regressive tax. Another alternative is CT Voices for Children’s proposed statewide property tax system to ensure a more fair and stable tax base for education.

With respect to expenditures, proposed cuts across agencies seems fair at first glance, but the burden once again falls more on the poor (and on state employees) than on others.

For some good maps and graphs concerning the CT budget, see this CT Voices page. For those who like to read in-depth analyses, check out the Office of Fiscal Analysis’ Feb. 2016 Tax Expenditure Report.

Resisting Inequality Teach-in/Vigil in Hartford Next Tuesday

On the anniversary of his assassination, the Fight for $15 movement and the CT Working Families Party are holding a teach-in, vigil, and march to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who risked his life to resist oppression and inequality.

At 6:00 pm, at the Shiloh Baptist Church Hartford, 350 Albany Ave, Hartford, hear from community speakers and participate in breakout sessions to discuss:

>Economic justice
>The right to healthcare
>Racial justice
>Immigrant rights

Food and child care will be provided.

Candlelight Vigil and March at 8:00 pm., calling for a living wage and job protections for healthcare workers, who are struggling to get a fair contract and being threatened with losing their jobs for not rushing through patient visits. The march will culminate in a rally outside Community Health Services (two blocks away) to support our brothers and sisters in the healthcare worker community.

For more information, contact bridget.daley1@gmail.com. Here is the Facebook page announcing the event.