OPINION: The Forgotten Middle Class

Posted on April 22, 2019 by admin


In his first one hundred days in office, Governor Lamont has defined his priorities and while he holds a similar battle cry as Governor Malloy for taxes and tolls, the specifics are very different.  Unlike Governor Malloy, this governor has embraced Connecticut’s one percent with policies that will shield them from tax increases, but at the expense of our working class.  For example, Governor Lamont has proposed to eliminate the gift tax creating millions in savings for our wealthy and at the same time, he eliminates the recently adopted income tax exemption on pensions and social security.  It is no coincidence that a billionaire has stepped up offering $100 million in order to help our underprivileged and high risk students and has called on other billionaires to match his grant.  Governor Lamont has embraced private partnerships, but only if they are wealthy, and has left the working class to pay bills with tolls and taxes.

The first signs of spring are now apparent all around us. While families save and put aside money to cover the added expense of sports, camp, amusement and recreational activities like mini golf, bowling or go carts, Governor Lamont wants to tax it.  His proposed expansion of the sales tax will impact working families and seniors when they get a haircut, bring their dog to the veterinarian, play a sport, rent a campground, hire an accountant or lawyer, or purchase a bike helmet.  Add tolls to the mix, and families will be paying about $1,500 per vehicle per year to travel around the state.  Essentially, these tolls will become a surcharge on your trips to the movies, sporting events or work.  These tax policies are far more impactful for the middle class than the wealthy.

Ideas like these prove that people who control the agenda in Hartford are out of touch with the financial struggles faced by families and working parents. Let’s consider families that have not one, but multiple children signed up for Little League this spring, these families are already struggling to make ends meet without taking into account the cost of clothing, equipment, travel or food. The ideas from Governor Lamont would essentially make all these things more expensive for families, whether through an additional tax, getting rid of the annual sales tax free week in August, or something as debilitating as 53 toll gantries throughout the state or family medical leave which imposes a payroll tax on your paycheck.  Because people are living paycheck to paycheck, all of these user fees are impactful on a fixed budget.  Once the state’s forced retirement savings plan and Paid Family Medical Leave kick in, you will be seeing an additional 3.5 percent taken from your paycheck in addition to all these new sales taxes.

I hear from constituents constantly about how hard it is for them to afford living in this state, which is usually followed up by the question, “Where is all the money going?” Taxpayers can’t understand the state’s perpetual fiscal crisis.  Recently, the legislature, mainly along party lines, voted on yet another union contract that would require $6 million in wage increases over the next two and a half years for Public Defenders and Judicial Professional Employees. All employees in these unions will receive at 3.5 percent increase, which includes bonuses, annual increments, lump sums, and longevity pay.  Since January, these contract votes have added another $12 million of expenses for the state.

Governor Lamont has never been part of the middle class so I don’t fault him for his lack of appreciation of living paycheck to paycheck.  It will be up to the legislature to remind him of these struggles because our middle class has no safety net and should not need to choose between little league baseball or taxes.