After Pandemic, More Homeschooling?

A year ago when the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year was in doubt, I realized that I had to step into the breach. So did many parents. I started my own version of homeschooling for my soon-to-be-kindergartner. We did “numbers” over breakfast, “letters” before dinner, and I read to him at bedtime. It was nothing sophisticated; it took only about an hour in total, before and after my workday; but it worked.  By summer’s end, my youngster was already proficient in numbers beyond the level expected at the end of kindergarten, and he knew the alphabet, more

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Connecticut Progressives Should Jump Off the Biden Bandwagon

The Biden administration is on a massive spending spree. Connecticut progressives want to follow suit. Last week, Biden released a “trial balloon” proposing how to pay for his spree. Unsurprisingly, the idea is massive tax increases for corporations and upper income individuals, including a near doubling of the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8% to 43.8%. Connecticut’s progressives have proposed more than a billion dollars of new spending, primarily on vague social justice goals (“building wealth in underserved communities” and “reducing income inequality”), all to be funded by new taxes imposed exclusively upon upper income taxpayers, including a capital

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A Threat By Any Name is the Same

Upon his inauguration, President Biden issued a flurry of executive orders related to climate change, including one designating climate change a national security threat, one rejoining the Paris Accord, another halting the Keystone XL pipeline and yet another freezing petroleum leases and permits on federal land for 60 days. The primary security threat by this new climate-change name looks the same as the leading national security threat in traditional terms: China. The totalitarian Communist dictatorship is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the EDGAR database. China’s emissions are not only the world’s most, but they

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Error Distorts Public Employee Pension Debate

In 2015, the Malloy administration commissioned a study of Connecticut’s State Employees Retirement System (SERS) by the Center for Retirement Research, a prominent pension research institute. While the Center’s report was well done and most of its recommendations were adopted by the state, the Center miscalculated the level of employee pension benefits, saying they were not “overly generous.” They were and, today, still are overgenerous.  The Center’s error has distorted subsequent debate about state employee compensation, the origins of the drastic underfunding of SERS, and the high cost to the state of pension benefits, as the state’s annual contribution to

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Part I: Lamont’s Budget: A Game of ‘Caps,’ Except for The Privileged Few

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of three editorials, by Red Jahncke and UWA Region 9 President Michael Holmes, debating the state budget and the issue of state employee compensation. The series follows the classic format of point, counterpoint and brief rebuttal. Jahncke provides initial remarks. Holmes is given 3 days to respond. Jahncke is then was given 1 day for a brief rebuttal. Governor Lamont unveiled his proposed Connecticut Comeback budget last week.  A comeback is unlikely given the long-festering problem of overgenerous and woefully underfunded compensation for privileged state employees. Yet, politicians in Hartford won’t

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Instead of Undermining Responsible Town Government, Hartford Democrats Should Cede Authority to Towns

Give it to Connecticut Democrats They never give up. They are determined to diminish local government to a status of virtual triviality in the name of progressivism and in their unquenchable thirst for ever more state tax revenue. This legislative session, the Democrats want to impose progressive statewide zoning provisions that would virtually eliminate local authority over residential housing. In a second blow to housing and another blow to municipalities, the Democrats, led by Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, want to levy a statewide property tax. The very proposal demonstrates why local control should be defended at all costs.

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Connecticut’s Revenues — Anything But Simple

Last week, Governor Lamont invoked the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to explain his reordering of the sequence of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations.  He should not stop there. The entirety of state government could use a rigorous application of the principle.  Last year, Yankee Institute released a study of state revenue sources. The study was simple. What it found was not. The study was just a one-page list of all the state’s revenue sources – all 344 of them. The page was oversized, measuring 17 by 22 inches, with the list printed in a font as small as the

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Part III: Jahncke’s Rebuttal

Unfortunately, Mr. Holmes has ignored the concerns expressed in my column.  Instead of addressing the fact that state employees earn 40 percent more than Connecticut’s private sector workers, as documented both by internal state studies and by third-party economists, he refers to private sector workers as “working class brothers and sisters” of state employees.  In actuality, the gulf between state employees and real working-class workers in Connecticut’s private sector is enormously greater because the studies use average figures for all private sector workers which include the “ultrawealthy” that Holmes attacks.  The fact is that state employee compensation is crowding out

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Schools Are Safe, If Not Oases from COVID-19

The evidence is piling up that schoolchildren, teachers and staff are safe in schools. Indeed, the evidence suggests schools are the “safest place” for them to be, as CDC Director Robert Redfield said last November. Yet, teacher unions and other school employee organizations are ignoring mounting evidence that support Redfield’s words. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control released its first two studies of in-school spread of COVID-19, first, a study of the experience of 17 Wisconsin schools that operated in-person from August through November, and, second, a review of reports from around the world about COVID-19 contagion in schools.

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Almost Infamous… to Public Sector Union Leaders

I am not famous, but I am somewhat infamous, at least to leaders of two big government unions, the Connecticut State Employees Association (CSEA) and the statewide teachers union, Connecticut Education Association (CEA). In late November, CSEA launched an email membership and fundraising drive with the subject line, “State of CT Retiree Benefits Are Being Threatened.” The email included an excerpt from a mid-October column I wrote entitled “The Looming Crisis in Connecticut,” in which excerpt I warned – not threatened – that, because of the fiscal crisis and the disastrous underfunding of the State Employee Retirement Fund (SERF), “It

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Let Local School Boards Make Sensible Decisions on Classroom Instruction

Earlier this month, just days before the first Connecticut health care workers were administered the just-approved coronavirus vaccine, a coalition of public school employee unions sent Governor Lamont a petition demanding that he close schools unless and until schools implement a set of COVID-19 safety protocols designed by Connecticut Education Association (CEA). The CEA-led union coalition demanded that the protocols be enforced by the state, not local authorities. They demanded that Lamont mandate full-pay and a no-layoff policy for all public school employees through the end of the school year. What a striking juxtaposition between the selfless dedication of health

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American Consumers Deserve ‘Best Price’ for Prescription Drugs

President Trump finalized a “most-favored-nation (MFN),” or “best-price,” prescription drug pricing rule on Nov. 20. The goal of the MFN concept is to deliver fair prices to Americans without diminishing drug company profits that fund the all-important research and development that leads to life-saving new drugs. While there is controversy as to whether the final rule genuinely implements the concept, the MFN approach should be followed. Opponents of the rule should improve it, not oppose it. The MFN best-price concept mandates the same price for Americans and wealthy Europeans, who have been paying about one-third of what Americans pay. The MFN

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Looming Crisis in Connecticut

Recent public announcements concerning Connecticut’s fiscal condition have come out in separate disjointed fashion. Taken together, they spell impending crisis. It is no surprise that the state is facing an enormous deficit this year (and into the future), due, in part, to the sudden economic shutdown occasioned by the pandemic. However, in larger part, the crisis has been long coming and widely anticipated. It is a function of the bill coming due for decades of paying state employees massively overgenerous, yet woefully underfunded, compensation. It is unlikely that Connecticut will have money both to continue state operations and to fund

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Lamont Failed to Protect Lives and Livelihoods. Why Extend His Absolute Rule?

Governor Lamont has extended his emergency powers through February 9 of next year, despite his disastrous results so far in wielding those powers. Connecticut has sustained the fourth highest state death rate from coronavirus (126 per 100,000 citizens, according to Statista). Does this record justify the longest extension of emergency powers in the nation? According to National Governors Association data this past week, no other state governor has emergency powers extending into 2021 and only two are empowered even into December. The challenge in exercising extraordinary executive authority is to limit the spread of coronavirus while inflicting the least possible

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Claimed $24 Billion in Savings on State Compensation Based on Outrageous Assumption

Ever since former Governor Dannel Malloy announced famously to a state employee union rally in 2014 that “I am your servant,” the general public in Connecticut has grown increasing aware and upset about excessive state employee compensation. Late last month, I wrote a column in this newspaper and the Hartford Courant calling upon Governor Lamont to use his emergency powers to cancel, suspend or delay a large pay raise that all state employees were about to receive on July 1st, a pay hike that Lamont himself had called unfair in the context of massive private sector job losses. State employees

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Jahncke: Cancelling Raise For State Employees Could Raise More Than Lamont’s Final Toll Proposal and Almost Half of his Original

June 27, 2020 — Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, sees the unfairness of about 50,000 state employees getting a $350 million pay raise next Wednesday, July 1st while almost 600,000 private sector workers in Connecticut have lost their jobs. He said as much at a mid-June food bank give-away. It’s not just wages: the state workforce enjoys a contractual no-layoff guarantee through 2021 as well as gold plate health care and pension benefits. Yet Lamont cannot bring himself to cancel, suspend or even delay the raise, which follows a raise of roughly similar amount a year ago. As a result of the

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One Size Does Not Fit the Virus

The nation and Connecticut are reopening fitfully and unevenly from a shutdown that many think should not have happened – many including Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman of the left-leaning New York Times and Dr. David L. Katz, a Connecticut MD and an expert with a public health degree from Yale. Our “one-size-fits-all” shutdown policy is strange in the face of a virus which afflicts different population segments in such wildly different ways. For those over age 65, who comprise only 16 percent of the country’s population, the virus has been devastating. This age group has sustained about 80 percent of

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Opinion: It’s Not Stimulus if There’s Nothing to Stimulate

It is not “stimulus” if there’s nothing to stimulate. Most states have been under stay-home-shutdown orders for almost seven weeks, and only a few plan to reopen before mid-May, so the “stimulus” bills are really just “bridge” bills – constituting a combined $2.7 trillion bridge to an uncertain future date when people can go back to work and businesses can re-open. Moreover, the bridge isn’t even fully built. Many citizens have not received their $1,200 “stimulus” checks, and many small businesses haven’t received Payroll Protection Program loan funds intended to cover eight weeks of payroll. Many will never receive PPP

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State Workers Should Give Back

For the second time in a decade over 100,000 private sector workers in Connecticut have lost their jobs, while not a single state employee has been laid off in either instance. For almost the entire decade, state workers have enjoyed contractual no-layoff guarantees, presently extending to 2021. Not only that, following the Great Recession, state workers got three 3 percent annual pay raises, and, now, they will get a 3.5% wage hike in just three months – on the heels of a 3.5% pay raise last July 1st. That’s unfair, almost cruelly so in face of the unfolding economic ravages

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Balancing Virus Response With Economic And General Health Consequences

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The coronavirus is not the only threat we face. As I wrote in The Hill on last Thursday and The Wall Street Journal editorialized last Friday, we may face a far greater threat from a collapsed economy, which would devastate everyone’s financial and medical condition. This should be of special concern in Connecticut which entered the current crisis already economically anemic and financially shaky. While this may not be popular to say, we should rethink shutdown policies in Connecticut. Actually, it may not be unpopular. A new Pew Research Center poll shows that 70 percent of Americans see the virus

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Jahncke: Tolling Revenues Won’t Add Up

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There’s a new game in Connecticut. It’s called dodge-a-gantry. Right now, it is only a virtual game being played on Google Maps. Governor Lamont latest toll plan – he’s had many – is to toll only tractor-trailer trucks at just 12 highway bridges in the state. So what are truckers doing? They are getting ready to game Lamont’s proposed system. They are researching the best toll evasion routes, i.e. the best local roads to use to bypass the intended highway gantry locations. The governor and his advisors have failed to take into account a unique and fundamental obstacle to imposing

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Connecticut’s Hospital Tax Exploits Medicaid to Finance Irresponsible State Spending

Hartford is exploiting an anomaly in the Medicaid program to extract billions from the U.S. Treasury, not to finance health care, but rather to finance otherwise unaffordable state spending, primarily state employee health care and retirement benefits. This anomaly, or “shell game” (the term used in a U.S. Senate committee report) operates through the hospital tax. While all states impose this tax, no state imposes nearly as high a hospital tax rate. That’s what former Office of Policy and Management Director Ben Barnes told me in late 2017. He said Connecticut’s hospital tax scheme requires explicit federal approval, because the

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Opinion: The Ongoing Game of Whack-a-Toll

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Highway tolls in Connecticut have become a game of whack-a-mole. Governor Lamont’s toll mole has popped up again, after having been whacked summarily by General Assembly leaders of his own party less than two weeks ago. The current mole is a variant of the Governor’s original trucks-only campaign proposal. Things have gone full circle. The whole toll mole game started with candidate Lamont’s vague trucks-only plan. Lamont whacked his own proposal after his inauguration, saying that truck tolls alone wouldn’t raise enough money. He added cars, and presented a sketchy 8-page plan with a smothering network of as many as

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Opinion: The Surprising Income Equality in America

This is a column about a column. On November 4, 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a column entitled “The Truth About Income Inequality,” by Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator from Texas, and John Early, twice Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The column makes a convincing case that the U.S. enjoys remarkable income equality –  not inequality. This reality flies in the face of the almost universal belief that the U.S. suffers from gross income inequality, which notion serves as the foundation of all the extravagant proposals from one side of the political spectrum, ranging from

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