Over 80 attended our May luncheon and heard Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo speak. The reaction from those present was overwhelmingly positive. SFCTRA vice president Janess Coffina summarizes Kevin Lembo’s address below.
Using a baseball metaphor, Kevin Lembo, Comptroller of the State of Connecticut, spoke about his role: he is the one who calls balls and strikes for the finances of the State. He is an engaging speaker who wants to see Connecticut achieve the economic stability and development he believes it is capable of producing.
He described a recent bond issue, which he voted against. The bond gave millions of dollars to a major hedge fund, hoping to keep them in the State. His criteria are that such expenditures should have benefits for the vast majority and reflect our values. He preferred to see the money invested in areas that would improve student performance or develop the capability of the State to maintain businesses, rather than hope that the money will entice companies to stay, begging them not to leave. We need to examine the tax code and determine where it is a burden, which it currently is with those considered middle class and below.
Kevin cited what a business needs a State to provide in order for them to prosper: transportation of goods, transportation of people to the job, and a workforce that is prepared to do the work. Recently he attended a meeting of a business engaged in high tech, which had six jobs they could not fill because there were no candidates qualified for the doing the work. Getting goods and people from point A to point B in Connecticut can be challenging. Without infrastructure maintenance and improvement, that can’t happen. He referred to a sign over the road approaching Hartford that lets people know about the flow of traffic. It’s a high tech sign on an overpass that is falling down.
His advice is that we use data and stop relying on old ways that do not work anymore. We need to focus on what matters to families and the economic success of Connecticut. The growing budget deficit, which could be $2 ½ billion in 2019, requires another strategy. He believes that there is a way to fund the State that will be sustainable over time. It may require greater efforts now, but it will encourage more growth in the long run. Given the strengths that Connecticut has, Kevin is “bullish on where Connecticut can go”. Yes, things look bad, but he wants us not to hang our heads; he wants us scope things out and get to work. By using data and engaging various parties (businesses, academia, et al), we can look to the horizon and see a new path for Connecticut.
He commented on the Governor’s proposal regarding shifting 30% of the responsibility for teachers’ pensions to the municipalities. He sees that as a policy decision, which should require more input and discussion. He described it as a shift from income tax to property tax.
Kevin doesn’t have responsibility for the Teachers’ Retirement Board; he is responsible for State employees’ salaries and benefits oversight. His perspective is one that encompasses the overall financial well being of the State of Connecticut. We appreciated hearing from Kevin Lembo, a father of three sons, who has seen the importance of teachers in the life of his family. He drove from Guilford, joining the Deputy Comptroller Martha Carlson, to provide his views on Connecticut’s financial situation.
As this newsletter is being put together, the state budget for the next two fiscal years has not been agreed upon. Lawmakers are not confident that an agreement will be reached by the scheduled end to the legislative session on June 7th, which would require a special session this summer. The 50% reduction on our 2017 state income tax is still included in the governor’s proposal, “but everything id on the table”. Please contact your CT legislators and ask them to support this fair and economically sound tax exclusion for teachers. Please see the enclosed ARTC fact sheet. One of the points it makes is that: “Upon retirement, 26% of Connecticut retired teachers choose to move to other states, where their income is minimally taxed or not taxed at all. This is a money drain on Connecticut.”
SFCTRA Vice President for Technology Roger Stenz did a quick review of the 3561 retired teachers from the 8 school districts that we represent. 1309 or 37% have already move to other states. If those 37% had an average pension of $50,000 that would represent $65.5 million dollars leaving our state each year. Imagine how much is leaving statewide.
To find your CT Legislators go to this link: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/content/townlist.asp
Our Health Insurance Fund, which defrays the cost of your health insurance premiums, will be exhausted by 2020 if the state doesn’t contribute its promised 1/3 amount. During your working years, you contributed to this fund. Contact your CT Legislators to ask them to insure the solvency of this account.
Two Federal laws (GPO & WEP) still penalize many retired CT teachers. Presently there is a bill in the House of Representatives to full repeal this discriminatory law. Contact Representative Jim Himes (himes.house.gov) and ask him to sign on to HR 1205 and continue to support the repeal of GPO & WEP.
Remember: We are stronger together.
Frank Cooper, President