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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Saying goodbye to Connecticut

Sure, we have the McMansions. (We have the real kind, too.) Sure we have political candidates of all stripes visiting us to collect some green - four big names have hit Greenwich in the several weeks alone. We have upstate money and downstate money, too.

What we don't have is young people sticking around to join the party. They can't afford to.

Astronomical house prices may be good for longtime property owners, but it's discouraging the state's 25- to 34-year-olds, according to a new study that says 10 percent of that age group is moving out of state.

In fact, Connecticut leads the nation in the portion of its young-adult population that has decamped the state, searching for a more affordable life, said the study's author, Bruce Bluestone, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. Bluestone said that more housing stock, especially affordable homes for young families, is a key to the state's future. (Emphasis added.)

"The high price of housing is indeed a significant factor in the decline in employment and population in Connecticut," Bluestone said. "An increase in housing supply could actually 'inoculate' Connecticut homeowners against the possibility of a long-term precipitous decline in housing values." During an extended presentation in the Legislative Office Building on Monday, aimed at increasing legislative support for a bill that would give towns and cities a flexible and more affordable way to create housing units, Bluestone joined lawmakers, young adults, housing experts and economists in warning about potentially dire economic consequences.

So says the Connecticut Post, no right-wing alarmists they. In their rush to wreck other aspects of our life, what is the Legislature doing about such an appalling statistic? It looks like there is an affordable housing program in the works, but will it be enough?

This young gentleman tells us why he is getting out of here as fast as he can:

....My highest-paying job after graduating from Southern Connecticut State University was - I kid you not - as a pizza deliveryman. With tips, I made $15 an hour. Not bad, but that's not what I went to school to become.

That stint ended when I found work at a university library. As someone who had worked as a library assistant in college, I thought my job was safe and that eventually I could apply for a better job within the university. Less than a month after going to work, however, my supervisor pulled me aside and told me that the job was not for me.

It was a hard winter for me. To pay the bills, I worked part time for a media research company. However, at 20 hours a week, I couldn't even afford to pay my car insurance. In March, I thought things were finally picking up. I had an interview with a manufacturing company that wanted a technical writer. At last my hard work and perseverance had paid off. But it was not to be. During the interview, the supervisor told me that many in the company believed that my purpose at the company was to train workers overseas. I shook his hand and walked out the door.

But the nail in the coffin isn't Connecticut's present - it's the future. Connecticut is stagnant in several key categories. We rank 49th out of 50th in job growth and per capita federal spending. We rank behind Alabama in tax funds appropriated for operating expenses for colleges and universities, for student aid and for state higher-education agencies, according the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.

What's worse, our elected officials are rewarded, rather than castigated, for exacerbating the problem. While neighboring states New York and New Jersey have passed property tax reform to ease the tax burden on middle-class families, Connecticut has done no such thing. While Massachusetts has become the first state in the union to have universal health insurance, Connecticut also has done no such thing.

OK, he's a little confused, not realizing that universal health insurance would probably bankrupt us completely, but he's got it - it's taxes.

Don Pesci of Connecticut Commentary lays it all out for us as he explains, memorably, "...Why Florida Is A Boom Town and Connecticut A Wreck":

The city of Hartford is forced to go begging for a reprive from the legislature because a) the city itself has not minded its spending, b) revaluation has enriched the government of Hartford while impoverishing its people, c) the city now finds it must reverse an earlier prudent decision to eliminate a tax that is punishing to businesses because people simply cannot afford the hike in taxes.

The good news is – they can always more to Florida, where the weather is fine, the taxes are low and business is booming.

Oh yes; I almost forgot -- in Florida sprawl is pretty. Naples itself has sprawled and sprawled and sprawled; it keeps getting bigger and better all the time. This satisfies the town fathers, state politicians and those who depend on the large increase in tax revenue produced by the influx of nutmeggers fleeing south. The more people there are, the more tax revenue there is. And businesses follow. Businesses do not lobby legislatures in an attempt to pursuade graspng politicians to favor them over the vox populi. Between the two, there is an amiable truce; what is good for one is good for the other.

Here in the Land Of Steady Bad Habits, taxing is a zero sum game, and the fittest will survive -- or move to Florida, where everyone is happy, tanned and carefree.

Well said. At the rates things are going, taxes and spiraling home prices will soon expel everyone who can be expelled.

Will Mrs. Rell and the Legislature address taxes, especially in light of our surpluses?

Will we at least get our 25 cents a gallon gas tax down? Or will we only get more calls for investigations of the high gas prices?

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