[Editor's note: Fairfield Patch will accept election-related letters to the editor until end of day on Wednesday, Oct. 31. Letters will run until Nov. 4.]
In truth we have little hope of solving Fairfield’s problems without legislative support from state and federal government. Without a sea change at higher levels, town boards can’t fix runaway taxes and spending, spiraling debt, rising unemployment, eroding real estate values and ongoing threats to our neighborhoods from predatory developers.
Decades of one-party rule in Hartford, together with super-majority years in Washington, have produced a veritable treadmill of missteps recycling through our system, from federal to state to local government. We are hamstrung by policies which force us into one-size-fits-all solutions and block a clear view of all options at our disposal to lower taxes and grow our economy.
Poor management of spending, debt and unfunded liabilities (such as pension and insurance benefits) is a good example of top-to-bottom economic failure: 2012 federal foreign debt is about $5.5 Trillion or $47,500 per capita, exceeding Greece's, according to the latest U.S. government data. Nearly 1/4 of it is owed to China. In their August “State of the States” report, Barron's rates Connecticut's $19.5 Billion debt compared to revenue and GDP “at the bottom of the list” of state fiscal prudence. That doesn't cover the $27 Million budget deficit, which Governor Malloy is offsetting with $1.5 Billion in NEW taxes. This year Fairfielders will pay about $26,000,000 in town loan interest alone, even as employee costs rise and pension investment returns plummet.
The Connecticut Department of Labor Statistics puts statewide unemployment well above the national average at 9.2%. Fairfield’s is at 7.7%, surpassing Westport’s 6.4%, Greenwich’s 6% and Ridgefield’s 6.4%. These figures exclude workforce dropouts and college grads seeking first jobs (“neither unemployed or employed”).
Bloomberg.com ranks Connecticut as having the 4th highest property taxes in the nation, along with one of the highest recession-era sales tax hikes, while “leading the nation in home price declines,” with Fairfield County homes sliding a negative 12.9% in 2012. If you haven't noticed, we also boast the 3rd highest gas prices nationwide behind CA and HI, according to AAA stats. The American Petroleum Institute credits Connecticut's combined state and federal fuel taxes for adding 63.4¢/gallon to gas and 80.6¢/gallon (highest nationwide) to diesel pump costs in October.
Then there’s that brick wall Fairfield's RTM invariably hits when trying to control budgets. It’s called Unfunded Mandates, some 1200 state requirements which towns may not want or need but must pay for. They include minimum education spending, education cost-sharing, in-school supervision of suspended students, prevailing construction wage rate regulations, compulsory arbitration and affordable housing laws.
In short, the country’s problems are the state’s problems are the town’s problems. They darken our children’s futures and retirement plans. They threaten job security, home security and national security. They expel new enterprise. Fairfield’s home sellers are stuck with low prices, high taxes and unprecedented real-estate conveyance fees. Home buyers look for tax-friendly towns; and some of the biggest employers in Connecticut, such as GE, Pfizer and United Technologies, are laying off hundreds of local workers as they quietly relocate jobs to business-friendly climates.
Had enough? Do the math. Connect the dots. Vote like your life depended on it November 6th. Vote the Republican Line. It's a lifeline.
Ellen Jacob, Fairfield District 9 RTM