Mr. Bayne says that “no serious person will tell you that growth is the entire solution.” Fair enough, but Ms. Wood does not claim it is the entire solution, only the priority. She is serious and she is right.
Before the adoption of the state income tax, from 1976 to 1991, Connecticut led the U.S. in GDP growth. Connecticut routinely attracted individuals and businesses from neighboring higher tax states. Fast forward through two decades of rising rates and crushing regulation, Connecticut’s GDP has shrunk 9.3% since 2007, and we are one of the four slowest-growing states in the country. Connecticut offers a pitiful environment for business formation; Forbes ranks the state 42nd on its regulatory environment and 41st in overall ease of doing business. The Tax Foundation ranks Connecticut 47th in its 2019 State Business Tax Climate study. It is no wonder why many of Connecticut’s largest employers have started to view Massachusetts and New York as relative bargains.
The state’s anti-growth policies have evaporated tax revenues and drained precious human capital. Nearly $9.0 billion in income (and counting) has left the state since 2013, and net population has declined every single year for the past five years.
As Ms. Wood recommends, we must focus on restarting the state’s economic engine and making Connecticut a preferred place to live, raise a family, and start a business. The state will simply not survive if we do not take meaningful steps to accelerate sustainable growth in the tax base. We can accomplish this by reducing or holding the line on individual tax rates, cutting the corporate tax rate, and eliminating burdensome regulations for small businesses. Fiscal conservatism recognizes a simple timeless fact: no state has ever taxed its way to prosperity. Connecticut will surely not be the first.
Of course, these pro-growth policies must be coupled with meaningful cost cutting. To achieve savings, Democrats across the state have endorsed regionalization, which would collapse major services from smaller towns into a larger metropolitan authority. The stated goal is to eliminate layers of redundant governance at the local level. I would urge Darien residents to contemplate the consequences of ceding financial and strategic control of our excellent school system to an unaccountable regional panel of bureaucrats. The end result of regionalization is, as Ms. Wood notes, a one-way flow of dollars from fiscally conservative towns to mismanaged ones. A study of history would tell us that regionalization would not make Hartford look more like Darien. It would make Darien look more like Hartford.
On that specific point, Mr. Bayne takes issue with Ms. Wood’s characterization of the state’s large cities as “mismanaged”. He also portrays a gloating Darien “starting on third base.” I would be interested in how Mr. Bayne would otherwise describe Hartford’s breathtaking decline. In 1960, Hartford itself was on third base; the city’s median income was 6.0% higher than that of the nation as a whole. Today, median family income is about 50.0% the national average. Hartford squandered its advantage through serial mismanagement, primarily in an unsustainable expansion of its retirement-benefit and debt burdens, which collectively total over $1.0 billion. Beside the disastrous race to the bottom that regionalism would set off throughout the state, the savings these policies would generate are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Meaningful expense reductions in Hartford, and Connecticut overall, must include eliminating spending on wasteful urban renewal projects that do not improve our cities’ competitive advantage, serious pension reform, reining in expensive collective bargain agreements, and prioritizing debt pay down.
The Republican vision for Connecticut is focused on economic growth as a driver of quality of life, lower taxes, and restoring the state’s business-friendly status. In contrast, Democrats insist on higher taxes, more regulation, increased spending, and top-down regionalization that eliminates local autonomy and punishes fiscal prudence.
Mr. Bayne signs off his letter with a personal attack on Terrie Wood, claiming that Darien deserves better. Nonsense. One thing is clear: Connecticut has followed Democratic ideas and policies for a quarter century and we certainly deserve better.