We liked to feel valued. Be it at our workplace, in our community, within our family, or when we voice our opinions to our elected officials, we all want to feel that our contributions matter, that we are not taken for granted.
What many of us felt, even before the pandemic, is that our economic and political system showed very little concern for those not at the top. Years of lavish attention to the needs of large corporations and business leaders have left workers essentially powerless in their jobs, their rights taken away in the name of efficiency, productivity, and profits. The state budget was built around deference towards the powerful and well-connected. Low taxes and economic segregation always came before education, infrastructure, healthcare, or affordable housing. Even our democracy was heavily slanted against having our voices heard, with an election process that makes voting harder than it has any right to be.
One of the driving ideas for us at Connecticut Working Families has always been to ensure that everyone in our state, no matter where they live, how much money they make, or where they were born, gets the respect they deserve. That we are valued at work, in our community, in our very democracy, not just told to stand in the line behind those with money and power. This is how we decide our policy priorities for the legislative session, and what guides us in our work.
We start at the workplace, because for most of us, it is our jobs that define most of our lives. We will work to pass legislation that ensures that workers are treated with respect in their place of employment, starting with stable, predictable schedules so no one wants to live with changing work shifts they have no control over. We also will work to improve access to paid sick days, because no employer should be able to ask their workers to sacrifice their health to protect their profits. And we want to expand the minimum wage to cover all workers, because your work is no less valuable if you are waiting tables instead of manning a cash register.
Our budget needs to reflect what we value as well. Connecticut´s revenue system is upside down; those at the top pay a smaller share of their income and wealth in taxes than any other group. If we want to fund quality schools and universities, update our infrastructure, and make the investments we need to expand economic opportunities for everyone in the state, it is time to make changes to ensure they pay what they owe.
There are two important, urgent priorities we need to address with any new revenue. First, ensure that healthcare coverage in our state does not depend on the place where you were born. HUSKY should be open to everyone, regardless of their immigration status. Second, we need to tackle housing affordability – both to ensure working families in our state have a place to live, and as an engine of equitable economic growth.
Finally, we need to tackle democracy itself, how we vote. Voters in our state just approved a constitutional amendment enabling early voting. Now, we need to pass legislation that expands ballot access by opening polling locations on weekends and outside office hours in communities across the state. It is also time, as well, to strengthen fusion voting by expanding the system to municipal races, and facilitating ballot access, so voters can support specific policy platforms and agendas at the ballot box, not just the two main parties.
Overall, we want to work to ensure that Connecticut is a place where everyone has a place, and a voice, and a chance to thrive and succeed. A place with good jobs, opportunity, and strong democracy. Our state has led on many of these issues for years. It is time to deepen our commitment to these values.