Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Kiss Mobile

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Former Gen Re Senior Vice President Sentenced

Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced that Richard Napier, 58, of Wilton, Conn., was sentenced today by United States District Judge Christopher F. Droney in Hartford, Conn., to two years of probation for his role in a fraudulent scheme to manipulate AIG's financial statements. Napier also was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $10,000 and to perform 400 hours of community service. On June 10, 2005, Napier pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud.

Himes with Obama on AF1

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Will Gregory

Ricci v. DeStefano

Plaintiffs argue that defendants’ decision and/or advocacy against certifying the exam results amounted to intentional discrimination against plaintiffs, 17 of whom are white and one of whom is Hispanic, in favor of Hispanic and African-American examinees who were favored due to their race and their alleged political support of Mayor DeStefano, via the Rev. Boise Kimber. Plaintiffs essentially argue that defendants’ professed desire to comply with Title VII’s anti-disparate-impact requirements was in fact a pretext for intentional discrimination against white candidates. …

Defendants proffer as their legitimate non-discriminatory reason that they desired to comply with the letter and the spirit of Title VII. Plaintiffs deride this “feigned desire to ‘comply’ with Title VII,” arguing that defendants in fact violated that statute, and their actions were a mere pretext for promoting the interests of African-American firefighters and political supporters of the mayor.

As plaintiffs point out, this case presents the opposite scenario of the usual challenge to an employment or promotional examination, as plaintiffs attack not the use of allegedly racially discriminatory exam results, but defendants’ reason for their refusal to use the results…

Plaintiffs do not dispute that the results showed a racially adverse impact on African- American candidates for both the Lieutenant and Captain positions, as judged by the EEOC Guidelines.

Thus, it is necessarily undisputed that, had minority firefighters challenged the results of the examinations, the City would have been in a position of defending tests that, under applicable Guidelines, presumptively had a disparate racial impact.

Specifically, the EEOC “four-fifths rule” provides that a selection tool that yields “[a] selection rate for any race, sex, or ethnic group which is less than four-fifths (4/5) (or eighty percent) of the rate for the group with the highest rate will generally be regarded by the Federal enforcement agencies as evidence of adverse impact, while a greater than four-fifths rate will generally not be regarded by Federal enforcement agencies as evidence of adverse impact.”

Here, the evidence shows that on the 2003 Lieutenant’s exam the pass rate for whites was 60.5%, for African-Americans 31.6% and Hispanics 20%. The four-fifths score would be 48%….

…The EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures create a presumption that “[t]he use of any selection procedure which has an adverse impact on the hiring, promotion, or other employment or membership opportunities of members of any race, sex, or ethnic group will be considered to be discriminatory and inconsistent with these guidelines, unless the procedure has been validated in accordance with these guidelines.”

The real crux of plaintiffs’ argument is that defendants refused to explore alternatives or conduct a validity study because they had already decided that they did not like the inevitable promotional results if the process continued to its expected conclusion and that their “diversity” rationale is prohibited as reverse discrimination under Title VII. In Hayden v. County of Nassau the Second Circuit held that race-conscious configuration of an entry-level police department exam did not violate Title VII or the Equal Protection Clause. In that case, the Nassau County Police Department was operating under several consent decrees prohibiting it from engaging in discrimination in its selection of police officers, and particularly from utilizing examinations with disparate impact on minority applicants. Following development of a test by the county and Department of Justice advisors, a validity analysis was conducted to determine which configuration of the test was sufficiently job-related “yet minimized the adverse impact on minority applicants. Of the twenty-five sections administered to the applicants, the [technical report] recommended that Nassau County use nine sections as the . . . test.” A class of White and Latino officers challenged use of the adjusted test under Title VII and the Fourteenth Amendment, inter alia, contending that the deliberate design of the test to reduce adverse impact on African-American candidates necessarily discriminated against them on the basis of race. The Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ contentions, finding plaintiffs were “mistaken in treating racial motive as a synonym for a constitutional violation” and observing that “[e]very antidiscrimination statute aimed at racial discrimination, and every enforcement measure taken under such a statute, reflect a concern with race. That does not make such enactments or actions unlawful or automatically suspect . . .”

The Hayden court further held that the construction of the Nassau County test for the purpose of minimizing adverse impact on minorities was not intentional “reverse discrimination” against whites because the same nine test sections were used for all applicants, so it was “simply not analogous to a quota system or a minority set-aside where candidates, on the basis of their race, are not treated uniformly.” Rejecting plaintiffs’ argument that the design of the test reflected impermissible discriminatory intent, the Second Circuit wrote that “nothing in our jurisprudence precludes the use of raceneutral means to improve racial and gender representation. . . . [T]he intent to remedy the disparate impact of the prior exams is not equivalent to an intent to discriminate against non-minority applicants.”

In Kirkland v. New York State Department of Correctional Services,, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s approval of a settlement that determined promotional order based partly on exam results and partly on race-normed adjustments to the exam, after minority employees made a prima facie showing that the test had an adverse impact on minorities. The Court of Appeals noted that “voluntary compliance is a preferred means of achieving Title VII’s goal of eliminating employment discrimination,”, and that requiring a full hearing on the test’s job-validity before approving a settlement “would seriously undermine Title VII’s preference for voluntary compliance and is not warranted,” id. at 1130. Thus, “a showing of a prima facie case of employment discrimination through a statistical demonstration of disproportionate racial impact constitutes a sufficiently serious claim of discrimination to serve as a predicate for a voluntary compromise containing race-conscious remedies.”

The Second Circuit expanded Kirkland in Bushey v. New York State Civil Service Commission, There, the civil service commission had administered a promotional examination that had a significant adverse impact, with non-minority applicants passing at almost twice the rate of minority applicants. The defendants race-normed the scores for each group, increasing the pass rate of the minority group to the equivalent of the non-minority group, and effectively making an additional 8 minority individuals eligible for promotion, without taking any non-minorities off the list. The Court of Appeals held that the initial results, particularly “the score distributions of minority and nonminority candidates, were sufficient to establish a prima facie showing of adverse impact,” and, consistent with Kirkland, “a showing of a prima facie case of employment discrimination through a statistical demonstration of disproportional racial impact constitutes a sufficiently serious claim of discrimination to serve as a predicate for employer-initiated, voluntary race-conscious remedies,”. In other words, a prima facie case is one way that a race-conscious remedy is justified, but it is not required: all that is required is “a sufficiently serious claim of discrimination” to warrant such a remedy. Id. at 228; see 9Plaintiffs denigrate reliance on Kirkland and Bushey on the grounds that the “race-norming” procedures utilized in those cases would be unlawful under the 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(l) (“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a respondent, in connection with the selection or referral of applicants or candidates for employment or promotion, to adjust the scores of, use different cutoff scores for, or otherwise alter the results of, employment related tests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”)….

In this case, the parties agree that the adverse impact ratios for African-American and Hispanic test-takers on both the Lieutenant and Captain exams were too low to pass muster under the EEOC’s “four-fifths rule.” As Kirkland and Bushey held, a statistical showing of discrimination, and particularly a pass rate below the “four-fifths rule,” is sufficient to make out a prima facie case of discrimination, and therefore sufficient to justify voluntary race-conscious remedies.9 Here, defendants’ remedy is “race conscious” at most because their actions reflected their intent not to implement a promotional process based on testing results that had an adverse impact on African- Americans and Hispanics. The remedy chosen here was decidedly less “race conscious” than the remedies in Kirkland and Bushey,.because New Haven did not race-norm the scores, they simply decided to start over, to develop some new assessment mechanism with less disparate impact. Thus, while the evidence shows that race was taken into account in the decision not to certify the test results, the result was race-neutral: all the test results were discarded, no one was promoted, and firefighters of every race will have to participate in another selection process to be considered for promotion. Indeed, there is a total absence of any evidence of discriminatory animus towards plaintiffs – under the reasoning of Hayden… “nothing in our jurisprudence precludes the use of race-neutral means to improve racial and gender representation. . . . [T]he intent to remedy the disparate impact of the prior exams is not equivalent to an intent to discriminate against non-minority applicants.”

Plaintiffs contend that Hayden is distinguishable by the fact that the remedy approved there was pursuant to previous consent decrees; they do not explain why they view this distinction as significant. As Bushey held, it would contravene the remedial purpose of Title VII if an employer were required to await a lawsuit before voluntarily implementing measures with less discriminatory impact…

Thus, while the facts of Hayden were slightly different than those here, the Court finds the holding quite relevant and instructive. Defendants’ motivation to avoid making promotions based on a test with a racially disparate impact, even in a political context, does not, as a matter of law, constitute discriminatory intent, and therefore such evidence is insufficient for plaintiffs to prevail on their Title VII claim. Accordingly, the Court will grant defendants’ motion and deny plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on this claim.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Budget Cuts Threaten Health and Education Sector


A new report on job and unemployment trends during Connecticut’s economic recession finds that the Health and Education job sector is the only area of the economy showing significant growth since the recession began in December 2007. The report by Connecticut Voices for Children, a research-based policy thinktank, finds that the combined Health and Education sector (the state’s largest sector) added 9,700 jobs (3.7% growth) from December 2007 to March 2009, while nearly all other major job sectors declined.

Connecticut Voices for Children warned that since the Health and Education sector relies on public sector investment, major state budget cuts to health and education programs could undermine the only significant area of growth in the state’s economy and weaken Connecticut’s competitive advantage – its well-educated workforce.

“The Governor and state legislators should be doing everything they can to maximize growth in the largest and fastest growing area of our economy,” said Douglas Hall, Acting Managing Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “Taking a more balanced approach between budget cuts and revenue increases will help to protect our economy and speed our recovery. Severe cuts to health and education would be an ‘anti-stimulus package’.”

Because of Connecticut’s state revenue shortfall, Governor Rell and state legislators are considering a variety of budget cuts, including cuts that would cause strains on employers in the Education and Health sector:
· Cuts in funds for nursing homes, HUSKY health insurance, dental coverage for adults in Medicaid, Community Health Services, and School-Based Health Centers.
· Cuts in funding for magnet schools, charter schools, priority school districts, school readiness preschool programs, and child care quality improvement initiatives.

Using a model from the national Center for Economic and Policy Research, Connecticut Voices estimates that Governor Rell’s total recommended budget cuts to all state programs ($1.075 billion) in the next fiscal year (FY 2010) could result in a loss of approximately 14,700 jobs.

The budget submitted by the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee also includes several cuts to health and education that could potentially cost the state jobs, but many of the cuts in the Governor’s budget, particularly health cuts, are reduced or eliminated. The General Assembly is able to avoid several budget reductions by taking a more balanced approach to the state budget, relying upon both cuts and increased revenue to close the budget gap.

“These budget cuts would mean fewer jobs, less access to education, and fewer dollars circulating in the local economy,” said Joachim Hero, Research Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children and author of the report. “With household costs rising and jobs shrinking, the state must also do more, not less, to help families make ends meet and rebuild the economy.”

The report, “Connecticut’s Economy in Recession: Trends in Employment and Unemployment,” is based on data from the national Bureau of Labor Statistics, and also found:

· The 3.4% job loss in the current recession is more than three times the 1.1% job loss during the first year of the previous recession.
· The largest job losses were in Professional and Business Services (-16,100); Construction (-15,900); Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (-13,300); and Manufacturing (-12,400).
· Of the 9,700 jobs gained in the Health and Education sector, 8,000 were in Health Care and Social Assistance (including health, social work, family services, and child care) and 1,700 were in Education.
· Connecticut’s unemployment rate of 7.5% is the highest it has been since 1992.

To help avoid state budget cuts and raise the revenues the state needs, Connecticut Voices for Children recommends a variety of revenue proposals, including a more progressive income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes that enable corporations to shift their profits to out-of-state subsidiaries, and scaling back state subsidies to the entertainment industry though the “film tax credit.”

Click here for the report.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Republicans Will Kill Citizens’ Election Fund?

Yesterday, Connecticut Republican lawmakers released a
budget proposal which proposed eliminating $60 million from the Citizens’
Election Fund, effectively killing the program.

“The League of Women Voters opposes the Republican proposal. In
these tough economic times, we need a Governor and a Legislature that listens
to the people, not the industries that contribute the most money,” said Christine
Horrigan, government director for the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.
“The Citizens Elections program allows candidates to run for office free of
special interest money and we need this critical accountability measure now
more than ever.”

The inaugural year of the Citizens’ Election Program was an unqualified
success. The new law frees candidates from special interest money by allowing
them to participate in a voluntary program for public funds if they raise a
threshold amount of qualifying contributions from individuals in their district.
Once they qualify, candidates agree to abide by spending limits and forgo further
private contributions. In return they receive a grant from the state to run their
campaign, and if they are elected they head to the statehouse accountable
primarily to the voters who elected them, not the special interests who would
have financed their campaign.

Seventy-five percent of all candidates for Connecticut’s General Assembly
ran under the Citizens’ Elections program. Eighty-one percent, or 152 out of 187
of those elected to serve in the next General Assembly ran under the Citizens’
Elections program. In the Connecticut Senate, 89 percent of the seats, or 32 of
36, will be held by Clean Elections officials. On the House side, Clean Elections
officials will hold at least 120 of the 151 seats.

“We can’t go back to the corruption of the past when the name of the
game was pay-to-play,” said Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common
Cause. “It wasn’t that long ago that John Rowland was giving no-bid
government contracts to special interests who gave him large personal gifts and even larger campaign contributions.

“From our perspective, the Citizens Election program has already paid for
itself by making it possible to reclaim the $20 million a year in unclaimed bottle
deposits,” added Cheri Quickmire. “The recent enactment of Connecticut’s new
law requiring five cent deposits on plastic water bottles and reclaiming the
collection of millions of dollars worth of unclaimed bottle deposits is the perfect
example of how the Citizens Election program can impact public policy.”

Environmentalists and others at the Capitol tried to make progress on
these two major issues for years, but the beverage industry and their lobbyists
with their generous campaign contributions kept reform at bay for years. 80%
of this General Assembly ran free of special interest money under the new law
and voted early in the session to pass the expanded bottle bill and to reclaim the
bottle deposit money. It is clear that landmark campaign finance laws passed in
2005 and 2006 have severely diminished the power special interests once
wielded in state government.

“It is no surprise that Representative Larry Cafero and Senator John
McKinney are leading the charge to gut this program,” said Tom Swan,
Executive Director of Connecticut Citizen Action Group. “They never were
supporters of public financing in the first place. This program is the most
significant anti-corruption measure adopted by the state. The Republican
proposal should be summarily rejected by all.”

Groups supporting the Ciizens Election Program In Connecticut include:

AFSCME Council 4
American Postal Workers Union,
WestConn Area Local
Capitol Region Council of Churches
Citizens For Economic Opportunity
Citizens For Election Reform
Collaborative Center for Justice
Connecticut AFL-CIO
Connecticut Association of Human Services
Connecticut Citizen Action Group
Connecticut Common Cause
Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ
Connecticut Federation ofEducational and Professional Employees
Connecticut Green Party
Connecticut NOW
Connecticut State Employees Association
Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund
Danbury Central Labor Council
Danbury Hospital Professional
Nurses Association, Local 5047
Democracy for CT
Earth Matters
Fairfield County Labor Council
Grassroots Coalition, Inc.
Greater Hartford African American
Greater Hartford Labor Council
Hartford Environmental Justice Network
Healthcare For All
Northeast Action
One Connecticut
People’s Action for Clean Energy
Sierra Club-CT
Toxic Action Center
United Auto Workers-Region 9A
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 18
Western Connecticut Central Labor Council
Yale Students for Clean Elections
Youth for Justice

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

State Revenue Solutions for Connecticut

Connecticut’s revenue system is failing to provide the funds we need to support the public structures that help maintain our quality of life – our schools, transportation systems, environmental protection agencies, and public safety agencies. The state’s revenue shortfall is serious, but manageable. Connecticut can adopt a more fair, reliable and accountable revenue plan by:

Increasing income taxes for those who can best afford it (increased revenues: $0.8 to 1.2 billion). Connecticut’s wealthiest families pay 4.7% of their income in state and local taxes (after federal tax deductions for state and local taxes).

By comparison, middle-income families pay 10.2% and low-income families pay 10.9% of their income in state and local taxes. Increasing income taxes for the wealthiest residents will help to make our tax system more fair and to close the state revenue gap. Adopting higher income tax brackets for married couple families over $200,000, as recommended by the Better Choices for Connecticut coalition, would raise an estimated $1 billion in additional revenue to close the budget deficit, while affecting less than 7% of Connecticut taxpayers. Notably, even with this rate increase, the share of income paid in state and local taxes by Connecticut’s wealthiest 5% would remain smaller than what is paid by the “bottom” 95% of Connecticut families.

Closing corporate tax loopholes. ($130 to 150 million) Flaws in our corporate tax code are part of our revenue problem, costing Connecticut hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues each year.

Close Connecticut’s “Las Vegas Loophole” ($100-120 million). Flaws in state tax accounting rules enable many multi-state companies to artificially shift profits to subsidiaries in other states like Nevada, which has no corporate income tax. This enables them to avoid paying their share of Connecticut taxes, and shifts responsibility for taxes onto locally-owned businesses and individuals.

Connecticut should level the playing field for businesses in Connecticut by requiring “combined reporting” tax rules that are already in place in at least 22 other states, including neighboring New York and Massachusetts. This reform will fix arbitrary and unfair corporate tax "loopholes" that increase our state revenue gap.

Re-apply the corporation business tax to “S-Corporations” with graduated rates to protect small businesses ($20-30 million). Because of other loopholes, many large corporations do not pay corporation business taxes. Many of these “S-Corporations” are major businesses. In 2003, 18 of the state’s 100 largest business paid only a $250 business entity tax, which applies to these S-Corporations and certain other classes of businesses. Requiring that large corporations pay the corporation business tax, and establishing lower, graduated rates for small businesses, will result in a more fair and broad-based tax system.

Scaling back public subsidies to the entertainment industry ($90 to 100 million). Connecticut’s blank check to the entertainment industry is part of our state budget problem. The State of Connecticut is excessively generous to film companies, paying for 30% of the cost of making movies, regardless of how much income tax the companies owe the state. The costs of these film tax credit subsidies far surpass the amount given in tax credits to any other industry. These film subsidies are a blank check. There is no cap on the amount of money the state can lose through these tax credits.

The State’s own study, conducted by the Department of Economic and Community Development, estimated that the tax credits do not pay for themselves. For every dollar the State spends on film tax credits, it only gets back 20 cents, a loss of 80 cents on the dollar. (The study estimated 6 cents in increased revenues and 13 cents in budget savings would result from the tax credit expenditures.) Setting a cap on Connecticut’s film tax credits will begin to set some reasonable limits on the program and help to close our state revenue gap.

Increasing the sales tax by one percentage point ($575 to 625 million). We can also limit any harmful effects of this increase by creating a state earned income tax credit (EITC) to help working families (cost of $50 million) and a small business property tax credit (cost of $100 million). Both the small business credit and a state EITC would also act as an economic stimulus.

Increasing cigarette and alcohol taxes ($78 to 80 million). Increasing cigarette taxes will not only raise revenue, it will discourage smoking, particularly among Connecticut’s children and youth, thereby reducing long-term health costs.

Low Income Earners Pay Higher Taxes

Connecticut Falls Behind All Other States in Updating Its Tax Rules for Struggling Families

More CT families paying state income tax because of failure to adjust “tax threshold” for inflation

An increasing number of struggling, low-income Connecticut families are required to pay state income taxes, because the state has failed to increase the “tax threshold,” the income level at which families begin paying taxes.

Of the 42 states, including the District of Columbia, that have a state income tax, Connecticut is the only state that has not adjusted its tax threshold upward since 1991, according to a report released by Connecticut Voices for Children and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As a result, more low-income families have been paying income taxes, and without legislative action, Connecticut will be taxing families at the poverty level within a few years.

When Connecticut first instituted its income tax in 1991, the state was a national leader in its support of low-wage families by not requiring many to pay the tax. At the time, Connecticut had the highest tax threshold in the nation. But by 2007, 22 states and the District of Columbia had higher tax thresholds than Connecticut. This trend exacerbates the problem of Connecticut’s regressive state and local tax system, in which the state’s wealthiest residents pay a far smaller share of their income in state and local taxes (4.7%) than do middle-income residents (10.2%) and lower-income residents (10.9%).

Low- and middle-income families pay a relatively larger share of their incomes in sales and property taxes, while higher income families pay a larger share of their incomes in income tax. In total, however, the state’s wealthiest families pay a much smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than do its middle and lower income families, because the state’s income tax rates are not progressive enough to offset the regressive sales and property taxes.

To make the state and local tax system more fair and to help stimulate the state’s struggling economic engine, Connecticut Voices for Children recommends:
• Increasing the tax threshold each year by adjusting it for inflation;
• Creating a state earned income tax credit (EITC), and
• Increasing the overall progressivity of the income tax so that taxes are distributed more fairly by increasing income tax rates for the wealthiest residents.

This would also help to raise additional revenues necessary to help close the expected state budget deficit.

“We have a tax system that is increasingly unfair to working families,” said Doug Hall, Acting Managing Director at Connecticut Voices for Children. “We should catch up to our neighboring states and the rest of the country with these simple measures that would give a boost to our economy and make our tax system more fair and adequate.”

The EITC is a tax credit targeted to low-income working families. Currently 22 states, including all of Connecticut’s neighboring states and the District of Columbia, have state EITCs, but Connecticut has not adopted one.

“The federal earned income tax credit has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for decades,” said Jamey Bell, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices. “Connecticut should join its neighboring states and build on the success of the federal model with a state earned income tax credit that rewards work and helps to alleviate the unfairness of Connecticut’s tax system.”

In 1991, the state income tax threshold for a family of four was 73% above the federal poverty level. However, today, the threshold is just 14% over the poverty line, the largest decline in the nation. Connecticut’s trend is the opposite of most states. On average, states have increased their tax thresholds by 25% relative to the poverty level. A family of four in Connecticut earning just $24,100 owed the state income tax in 2007 (if they were not eligible for the property tax credit because they owned neither a car nor a home). If the tax threshold had remained at the same level above the federal poverty line, today it would be $38,713.

CT’s Wealthy Families Pay Smaller Share of Taxes

CT’s Wealthy Families Pay Smaller Share of Income in State and Local Taxes than Middle- and Low-Income Families

Report supports efforts to pass a more progressive income tax

Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay much less of their income in state and local taxes than do the state’s middle-income and poor families, according to a report released by Connecticut Voices for Children today on the tax filing deadline. The research-based policy thinktank called on the Governor and state legislature to support progressive income tax reforms recently endorsed by the legislature’s Finance Committee to help ensure that those who can best afford it contribute a greater share toward closing the state budget deficit and avoiding damaging budget cuts.

The report, “Who Pays? The Unfairness of Connecticut’s State and Local Tax System,” was based on an analysis of state and local tax data by the national Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The study found that after federal income tax deductions for state income and property taxes, the wealthiest 1% of Connecticut’s families (with average income in 2007 of $4.2 million) paid only 4.5% of their income in state and local taxes. This was less than half the share of income paid in these taxes by the state’s middle-income families (9.3% of their average income of $55,000) and the poorest 20% of families (12.1% of their average income of $12,200).

“Before Connecticut policymakers make severe state budget cuts that could harm Connecticut families and the economy, they should at least make sure that the wealthiest residents are contributing their fair share toward the common good,” said Douglas Hall, Acting Managing Director at Connecticut Voices for Children and author of the report.

The report was released at Connecticut Voices for Children’s 8th Annual State Budget Forum, held at the state Capitol to discuss options for closing the state’s revenue gap. The report comes as the state faces a projected deficit of $4 billion in the next year (Fiscal Year 2010).

Among the study’s other findings:

· While some assert that Connecticut’s wealthiest families pay more than their fair share of tax, citing income tax paid as a share of the state’s total income tax returns, it is also true that they report the largest share of income in the state. According to the report, the top 1 percent of earners in 2007 (with adjusted gross income of $850,000 or more) paid 37% percent of the state’s total income taxes, but also reported 35% of the state’s total income. So the share of taxes paid by the wealthy is a reflection of the fact that they enjoy a larger share of Connecticut’s total income than other residents, not that they are taxed far more heavily.

· Low- and middle-income families pay a relatively larger share of their incomes in sales and property taxes, while higher income families pay a larger share of their incomes in income tax. In total, however, the state’s wealthiest families pay a much smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than do its middle and lower income families. Why? Connecticut’s income tax rates are not progressive enough to offset the regressivity of the sales and property taxes. Indeed, most Connecticut residents (61%) pay the same 5% income tax rate as the wealthiest millionaires.

To help in alleviating the unfairness of the state and local tax system and to ensure that the state has sufficient revenues to fund essential programs to support all Connecticut families and keep the state economically vibrant, Connecticut Voices for Children recommends that state lawmakers:

· Increase the income tax rate for Connecticut’s wealthiest residents. Adopting higher income tax brackets for married couple families over $200,000, as recommended by the Better Choices for Connecticut coalition, would raise an estimated $1 billion in additional revenue to close the budget deficit, while affecting less than 7% of Connecticut taxpayers. Notably, even with this rate increase, the share of income paid in state and local taxes by Connecticut’s wealthiest 5% would remain smaller than what is paid by the “bottom” 95% of Connecticut families. That is, this change would only begin to make the state and local tax system less regressive.

· Provide additional state aid to Connecticut’s cities and towns to reduce Connecticut’s relatively high property taxes. Providing full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program and increasing the state’s share of K-12 education funding to close to 50% would reduce pressures on local property taxes; and reductions in local property taxes would provide particular benefit to our middle-income families and to small, start-up businesses.

· Adopt a state earned income tax credit (EITC) and increase Connecticut’s personal income tax exemptions. Both measures would make Connecticut’s tax structure fairer at the lower end of the income scale and help to compensate for the fact that Connecticut’s tax threshold – the income level at which families begin to pay the state personal income tax – has not changed since the tax was adopted in 1991. As a result, an increasing number of low-income families must pay income taxes.

“Connecticut residents of all income levels benefit from our public structures -- our schools, roads, and public safety agencies," said Jamey Bell, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. "We all have a stake in ensuring that we have the revenues we need to protect the services that help make our state a great place to live and work.”

The report, Who Pays? The Unfairness of Connecticut’s State and Local Tax System, is available on the CT Voices Web site at www.ctkidslink.org.

Connecticut Voices for Children is a research-based policy and advocacy organization that works to advance strategic public investment and wise public policies to benefit our state’s children, youth and families. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (www.itepnet.org) is a non-profit, non-partisan research and education organization that works on government taxation and spending policy issues.

Monday, April 13, 2009

CT Democrats’ Budget

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance Statement

The Democrats alternative budget preserves Connecticut’s commitments to children and families while being fiscally responsible. The budget supports the Raise the Age law, removing non-violent minors from adult prisons, and Family Support Centers, a successful model for delivering preventive services to struggling families.

The Raise the Age initiative, which has already been signed into law, can and should proceed. The Democrats’ proposal shows that including 16-year-olds in the juvenile justice system can be done with minimal impact on the state’s budget. We applaud them for carefully reviewing the true cost of the reform and finding a way to implement this important public safety policy.

Governor Rell signed Raise the Age into law in 2007 and said that her proposal to delay implementation was based on financial considerations alone. Likewise, all arguments against the bill have centered on cost -- not on any philosophical objection to treating minors as juveniles, which is already the practice in 47 other states. The budget proposal proves that we can begin raising the age without burdening taxpayers. Thus we expect that a broad coalition will emerge to support this common sense reform.

We regret that the proposal does not extend to 17-year-olds, and will continue to work with stakeholders to find a way to include these children in the juvenile justice system as quickly as possible.

Even in hard times, it is essential to invest in our state’s future. Each non-violent minor diverted from the adult system is far less likely to sink into a long-term criminal career and far more likely to become a productive and taxpaying citizen. Similarly, Family Support Centers are successful at helping youth before they need more costly interventions or become involved in the juvenile justice system.

The Alliance applauds the alternative budget's provisions for Family Support Centers. State law mandates that families in every community have access to Family Support Centers, a gateway to services like family mediation, educational advocacy, mentoring, crisis intervention, and intensive, in-home therapies. The centers have been enormously successful in early intervention and the prevention of involvement in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, they are currently available to only 130 of the state's 169 communities. This breaks faith with families who are denied services simply because of their addresses. It also breaks faith with taxpayers, as it limits the use of a model already proven to reduce costly delinquency.

For more information about Raise the Age and Family Support Centers, visit: www.sayyesct.org.

Colleen Shaddox
204 Davis St.
Hamden CT 06517

Monday, April 6, 2009

Democratic Candidates

One of MyLeftNutmeg's own was honored by the Fairfield Democratic Town Committee yesterday. In attendance were MLN superstars of the past Maura and Branford Boy and various other disreputable characters some of whom are pictured below:

1. Three non-candidates for governor and senator

2. MLNer with unidentified gubernatorial candidate

3. Two MLNers with unidentified gubernatorial candidate

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Progressive Income Tax Applauded

Better Choices for Connecticut applauded the Connecticut General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee today for releasing a revenue package that begins to reform the state’s imbalanced revenue system. “This is a giant step in the right direction,” said Maggie Adair, Policy Director of Connecticut Association for Human Services and co-chair of Better Choices for Connecticut. “We commend the Legislature for taking a realistic approach to the state budget gap. By proposing a progressive income tax, not only are they helping to alleviate some of the most devastating cuts called for by Governor Rell in February, but they are also addressing a fundamentally unfair aspect of Connecticut’s tax structure.” The revenue increases are critical to a budget that strives to preserve key provisions in the areas of health care, education, and human services.

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee released a proposal that includes a progressive income tax that will raise rates on the state’s wealthiest earners. The proposal calls for increasing the tax rate to 6% on taxable income for married couples earning more than $250,000, 7% on income greater than $500,000, 7.5% on income greater than $750,000, and 7.95% on income greater than $1 million. Currently the tax rate on married couples earning more than $20,000 is 5%. Connecticut's middle-income and lower-income families pay much more of their income in state and local taxes than do the wealthiest families. After federal tax deductions, the wealthiest 1% of Connecticut's families pay 4.7% of their income in state and local taxes. This is less than half the share of income paid in these taxes by the state's middle-income families (10.2%) or low-income families (10.9%). Better Choices for Connecticut noted that Governor Rell proposed an increase in the income tax in 2007 and urged her to adopt the current proposal.

The Finance Committee also proposed a rollback of the property tax credit. While Better Choices for Connecticut acknowledges the need for shared sacrifice, there are better choices available to us, including adoption of mandatory combined reporting, and paring back on a variety of tax expenditures such as the film tax credit. "There are additional, sensible options for increasing revenues that should be on the table," said Douglas Hall, Acting Managing Director at Connecticut Voices for Children. "Fixing our revenue problem with revenue solutions will avoid the economic and human damage that budget cuts will cause." Specifically, the coalition urges adoption of revenue proposals that were not part of the Finance Committee’s proposal:

· Close corporate tax loopholes. Flaws in our tax code – “loopholes” – enable many large and profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share and shift the responsibility for taxes onto in-state businesses and individuals. For example, many multi-state corporations exploit flaws in the tax code that allow them to artificially shift profits to their subsidiaries in other states and avoid paying taxes. Closing these loopholes through “combined reporting” – as at least 22 other states do – would mean that companies could not use creative accounting to shield themselves from taxes.

· Increase the sales tax by one percentage point. Connecticut can also limit any harmful effects of this increase by creating a state earned income tax credit to help working families and a small business property tax credit.

· Scale back public subsidies to the entertainment industry. In Fiscal Year 2009, the state will lose an estimated $117.5 million in revenues to the television and film industry through film tax credits. These subsidies far surpass our public investment in any other industry or business activity through tax credits. There is currently no cap on how much revenue Connecticut can lose through these subsidies.

· Increase alcohol taxes. Increasing alcohol taxes will not only raise revenue, it will discourage excessive alcohol consumption, thereby reducing long-term health costs.

Better Choices for Connecticut is a community coalition working to help Connecticut make better choices on ways to improve the state’s imbalanced revenue system so that it advances opportunity for shared prosperity for all Connecticut residents; preserves services for children, families and the elderly; creates and sustains good jobs; and reinvests in the middle class and our communities. For more information, go to www.betterchoicesforCT.org.