Where does the CT budget crisis come from? (II) : 20th century spending in a new economy

Last week we gave a brief overview of the fiscal challenges that Connecticut is facing, with a focus on the revenue side. We concluded that although Connecticut is not really a high-tax, big spending state if we take into account its wealth, we do raise revenue in very ineffective, outdated ways. The state has a sales tax riddled with loopholes, an income tax that leaves a lot of income untaxed, business taxes that penalize the service economy, and a property tax that steers development out of urban areas while undertaxing wealth. If we want to get Connecticut out of the current state of endless fiscal crisis, tax reform is both necessary and long overdue.

Of course, revenue is only half of the equation when talking about the budget – spending also plays an equal part. As with revenue, Connecticut has some spending practices that are both inefficient and outdated, creating a state and local government structure that is often not up to current challenges. In many areas, we just spend money in a lousy way. Continue reading

The high cost of low wages

wagesThere has been plenty of talk these past few days on how many jobs in our state and across the country simply do not pay enough. This was put into focus on a very stark, glaring way when one Wal-Mart in Ohio hosted a food drive for its own employees, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they needed this sort of charity because Wal-Mart is not paying them a living wage on the first place. That coming from a company that is spending $7.6 billion a year repurchasing its own stock to prop up share prices and make stock holders happy.

Leaving food drives aside, these low wages are also a drag on public budgets. Wal-Mart, as many other big employers, not only do not pay much to their workers, but also encourage them to apply for public benefits to fill the gap. Instead of offering a living wage, their workforce is forced to rely on SNAP (Food Stamps). Instead of providing health insurance, workers have to rely on Medicaid or Husky.  As a result, a two-income working class family in Connecticut can end up receiving almost as much money in public, taxpayer-funded benefits as they receive in wages.

In our new policy brief, we have a look at the data to see who are these workers, and what is the cost for the state’s budget. You can download the policy brief here. Worker’s share of the national income pay has been steadily dropping for the past two decades. It is time to change this.