Monday, June 26, 2006

Meta-Malloy and Malloy on Education

Meta-Malloy

I first saw Malloy at the Young Dems' RFK dinner in Rocky Hill in October and the circumstances couldn't have been worse. It was a Friday night, it was pouring, Billy Joel (or was it the Boss?) was playing in Hartford, the UCONN Football team had a home game on national TV, and the candidate was driving up from Stamford. What does that equal (I'm looking at you TurfGrrl, Bluecoat, and CGG)? Two hours late. Which was fine, everyone understood, and it could have been a good time to make a few cracks about CT's overburdened transportation system and then work the room. Instead, Malloy launched into his standard stump speech and the remaining 20 or so people came away with the impression that this was an inexperienced gubenatorial candidate.

I had a similar impression a few months later when Malloy came to speak to the UCONN Law School Democrats. Slightly bigger crowd, so it was slightly less odd to launch into the stump speech, but it made for a marked contrast to DeStefano who sat on the edge of a table and had a conversation with us (in fairness, Malloy's event was much better attended because food was served - next year, free food for all events - but we are checking law school IDs, freeloader).

A few weeks ago, my very kind Legislative Councilperson invited me to a Malloy fundraiser in Hamden and I was very impressed. Not an event for the wonkish, Malloy spoke passionately about his background and his vision for CT. Most importantly, coupled with my experience at our meeting on Saturday, it was clear that he had learned something as a candidate: How to connect with his audience.

I am not going to ignite a flame war by declaring Malloy a better candidate to beat Rell (the very definition of an uphill battle right now), especially in advance of a similar meeting with DeStefano, but I will say that my meta-impression of him as a candidate has turned 180 degrees since the first time I saw him last October.

Education

Branford Boy over at My Left Nutmeg has done as all the very great service of transcribing the event; rather than recreate the wheel, I have linked to his transcript of the education portion of the event. Click the link, show BB some love, and hurry back.

Since the fourth wall simply doesn't exist on a blog, you need to know a little about me in regards to education to understand where I m coming from. If you threw a tennis ball into a room filled with my family, you would hit a teacher. And two more on the ricochet. I myself am the product of the NYC public school system, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (a land-grant public university), Southern Connecticut State University, and now the University of Connecticut School of Law. The last private "school" I went to was in a neighbor's house on Paulding Avenue in the Bronx when I was 5. I believe deeply in the commitment of government to provide quality public education, to all, for free. Public schools are, quite literally, mining our most precious natural resource.

That said, it was very exciting for me to have the opportunity to ask a potential next Governor of Connecticut how he would help the struggling towns and cities to pay for public schooling. His full answer is linked, but I would like to pull out what, for me, is the money quote:

The big step is to create a new system for paying for public education, one that is far less dependent, if at all, on property taxes. Property taxes make sense in a farming community, because the property produces income. And that's what Connecticut was when this system was devised.
...
So we've got to change that system. And that means a more progressive way of paying for education. Certainly a shift to probably the fairest system, which is an income tax based system, but also identifying other sources to help out both education and general government.
...
Suffice it to say, we've got to change the system, it's gotta be more income based, it's gotta be more progressive in its nature and I think increasingly property taxes have to be looked at as how you pay for your local services, NOT education -- or substantially less to education.

It's a mindset. Other states have done it. I can give you the statistics. We're more dependent than any other state. It's not as if we get it right and 49 states get it wrong. Forty-nine states get it right and we get it wrong. It's time to change.


Here are the specifics (as I understand them, I feel confident that Malloy staffers (actual ones, not the everyone-who-doesn't-agree-with-you-kind) will correct any errors I make - I also have put in a request for the wonkiest details I can get - I will write another post when and if I receive them):

-Collect the state's portion of the casino money as agreed and commit it to the development of state's educational system - He pointed out that, unlike property taxes, this revenue source is almost sure to grow (and grow quickly) going forward

-Leave a portion of sales taxes and utility taxes in the community where they are generated and send a portion to a pool for towns that do not generate a large amount of funds via these taxes

-Direct allocation of a portion of the income tax to support localities

-Scrap the ECS funding system and replace it with one that allocates money based on need rather than to make per student funds equal across the state (i.e. acknowledge that it costs more to educate students for whom English is a second language, students with special educational needs, students on free or reduced lunch, and, and this is my own editorializing, transient students who switch school systems mid-year).


Obviously there are some details that need to be fleshed out here (most importantly, I don't see a new revenue source but I see increased funding for schools - how is the difference made up?), but untying educational spending from property taxes (a system of funding that does not adequately fund schools in poorer districts) and reforming the ECS system are ideas that progressives should be able to discuss, refine, and ultimately support.

And that does not even take Malloy's proposal for universal pre-k into account. Ask any teacher (especially in elementary school) what their biggest frustrations are and I guarantee that, somewhere on that list, they will say "kids that aren't prepared for what I am tasked with teaching them". Fixing that begins with universal pre-k.

Luckily for Democrats, there is alot to like about both of our candidates when it comes to educational issues. I am looking forward to asking the same question to DeStefano, but, based on his website, there is more the two of them agree on than not. Which is one reason that I hope this thread wonks-out on educational policy rather than on attacks on the candidates and each other.

Edited for a typo.

25 comments:

Gio said...

The Malloy approach removes any and all local accountability, in the form of referendums. This, in turn, will lead to an explosion in the education budget and further tax increases. The state, the educrats, and the unions will prosper under this plan, while ordinary tax payers will be soaked...driving more and more people out of the Socialist Republic of CT. We need leaders to stand up to the education bureaucracy. Privatize, vouchers, home school. Education must be completely reinvented. This plan is a disaster in the making for taxpayers.

Gabe said...

Gio - I don't see how the state giving the towns funds for education says anything about removing local accountability - nowhere in my post, or in Malloy's proposal, does it say that towns would lose their ability to disperse funds as they see fit. This proposal would allow towns to drastically reduse their property taxes by allowing public education funds to come from the state.

More details, which I have requested, are needed to make a determination as to how the state can do this without raising income taxes, but it is important to make clear that income taxes are not the only, or in CT, even the major, source of the tax payer's tax burden. Property taxes and sales taxes are large parts as well; large and more regressive.

Gabe said...

and reduce is spelled "reduce", not "reduse". Mea cupla.

GMR said...

So Malloy would essentially raise income taxes, and presumably then local communities would lower property taxes.

What about all the Connecticut residents that work out of state, primarily in New York? Raising the state income tax isn't going to affect them at all, since NY state taxes are a lot higher. These folks are of course concentrated in lower Fairfield county.

Metro North estimates there are about 80,000 commuter trips that originate each day in Connecticut. I would imagine that about 80% to 90% of these people go to New York instead of another Connecticut destination. There are also more than a few people who live in CT but drive to RR stations in NY state (Port Chester, Katonah, White Plains, Southeast, etc) to take to Manhattan. So figure about 70,000 primarily high wage earners aren't affected by Connecticut state income tax rates, and pay no income tax to CT.

There are also drivers between Connecticut and New York, but I'd imagine that they more or less cancel each other out, or Connecticut supplies a few more to Westchester, since places like Ridgefield and Redding supply a lot of workers to IBM and Pepsi but have few office parks themselves for NYers to work in.

I don't think there's that much commuting between MA and CT, although there is some, but it probably is about balanced. RI probably supplies more to CT than CT to RI due to the casinos located near the RI border, but these casinos have primarily lower wage jobs.

So in any event, I would imagine that as a percentage of personal income, Connecticut probably has one of the highest percentages being earned out of state. We're a small state geographically (there's hardly any place in the state that is more than an hour's drive from another state). We have many wealthiest people located near a major metropolitan area in another state served by a decent commuter rail line.

So income taxes would have to be raised fairly significantly to fund most school costs, and even though you want it to be progressive, would it be steeper than NY state's income tax?

Another problem with raising income taxes would of course be people just up and leaving the state for a state down south. Many hedge funds are in Greenwich, but they don't really have to be (there are in fact many hedge funds located elsewhere). And of course many others might decide to up and leave (many retirees and others perhaps for 184 days per year if they like it here for their friends, the scenery, etc. Being in another state for over half the year exempts you from CT income tax).

BRubenstein said...

Gabe..greta post...

I think we need universal pre-k..and the wealthy and corporations should fund through increased taxes a right to 2 years of college for every citizen..free to everyone who maintains a "B" average..and mostly free to the others.

bluecoat said...

Gabe: it is an excellent post and I can tell you there are several states who let the municipalities tax income as well as real proerty - it works and it solves or at least addresses the problem the stuck in the mud Republicans seem to have with the issue of Hartford being the clearing house for education money - it's nuts that a retiree sees year afer year increase in local proerty taxes while at the same time demanding less and less local services....

bluecoat said...

GMR: the income tax is in lieu of the real property tax - the net spending in town would remain - and then the next step is to stop equating quality of education with the amount of money spent on it -

demwithdough said...

Gabe -
Excellent post, HOWEVER, your opening statement about the YD's RFK dinner gives me pause. I was there, the room was packed and would be for another few hours, and Malloy was extremely well-received. And this coming from a Destefano supporter (me). My impression, and the dozen or so people I spoke with about this afterward, was that his being late to hijack the keynote address was a brilliantly calculated move. There was even speculation that he was parked about a mile down the road waiting for his impeccably timed arrival to be heralded.

Bottom line is that when the clock chimes for he 13th time, we are forced to question the validity of the first twelve.

BRubenstein said...

Gio..you are advertising the same old tired Republican snake oil..vouchers dont work and would destroy the public school systems..privatising does the same thing....home care is largely ineffective and doesnt help a student schooled at home learn to socialize with others of a different pursuasion then the student.These radical things you champion have been defeated in CT and elsewhere accross the country.

Gabe said...

GMR - Two things -

1. I am going to take a pass on commenting on a possible increase in the income tax and how it would be offset by a possible decrease in property taxes, until I get more details (already requested).

2. Don't forget that the possible negative consequences that you mentioned have to be compared to the negative consequences of continuing to have a heavy proprty tax burden when compared to most other states. People are contemplating moving out of state now.

Gabe said...

Dem with Dough - Sorry I didn't meet you at the RFK dinner! I can't speak to whether his late entrance was planned or not, but given the Friday traffic that I fought through for 5 years from Norwalk to Hamden, compounded by weather and 2 events in Hartford, either could be the case.

Either way, by the time he came, there were less people there than when the event started. And packed is quite a stretch, but semantics aside, there were few enough people there that I and the people I was chatting with after found him to be impressive, but his launching into his standard stump speech in front of a small crowd of young dems a little odd. It is my opinion that he has come along way since then.

I'm not a clock maker, nor a liar (did I get the implication wrong?), but the post are my recollections as I best remember them. You are free to disagree as you see fit

bluecoat said...

Gabe: I saw Malloy and JDS side by side on a Sunday Morning Fox 61 news show a few eeks back; I was impressed with JDS talking about what he wanted to do calmly, DM made a stump speech...and I don't understand why people cant distinguish between the appropriation of a budget and the financing of it - the net taxes should not go up if there were budget restraints -

Gabe said...

Bluecoat - Part of the same problem that I see quite often is the media and pundits mistaking income taxes for total tax burden - total tax burden is income taxes combined with property, sales, social security, medicare/caid, etc.

bluecoat said...

getting rid of the car tax should have been a slam dunk if Rell and the Republicans hadn't hyped it a real tax releif and just called it good govt.; I have no idea how you sell and income tax to fund education but if it were allowed to becollected at the local level - and there are mechanisms to do this - it would be better for the state...and those who already live, work or have retired here...couple that with the end of corporate welfare that has made Malloy what he is and I would be happy...

bluecoat said...

Agreed Gabe on the tax burden issue

bluecoat said...

from Condo developers donate to Malloy's campaign is this quote STAMFORD -- The developers who want to build what would be Stamford's tallest building have donated $26,000 to Mayor Dannel Malloy's campaign for governor. F.D. Rich Co. President Thomas Rich said the donations by several executives of his company and Cappelli Enterprises, who are proposing a 37-story condominium tower at Broad Street and Washington Boulevard, have nothing to do with the development application. with the normal disclaimer by Malloy "I've not spoken to any board member on behalf of this project," uh huh riiiight, who says you have to say something...

bluecoat said...

Gubernatorial candidates don't call for Fabrizi to resign By Tom Breen, Journal Inquirer 06/23/2006 and why would they? the first one to call for his resigantion would lose the Bridgeport vote controlled by the same people who control Fabrizi - smile for the camera, Mr Mayor

and in other news Judge considers whether former chief justice must testify
By SUSAN HAIGH Associated Press Writer

BRubenstein said...

Bluecoat...Im very disappointed that both candidates havent called for the resignation of Fabrizi...is there 2 systems of justice..one for the welathy,powerful and influential..and another for the rest of us? NEITHER JDS OR DM SHOW THE BACKBONE OR LEADERSHIP NEEDED TO BE GOVERNOR ON THIS ISSUE.

BRubenstein said...

Bluecoat...sometimes the most honest and best approach is one of " politics be damed...do the right thing" JDS already knows Fabrizi supports Malloy..and as the son of a cop..i "expect more" ( JDS's campaign slogan) from him.

bluecoat said...

BR: I agree, Fabrizi is a grownup, educated, etc.etc....we're not talking about an eighteen year old with no good role model to help him with his choices in life....or maybe we are.....

bluecoat said...

GC: I think there is something wrong with the comments link on your next post about Paul Bass's take on JOe but this comment is for Deby Conservative if he is out there Derby’s downtown revitalization stirs up merchants’ emotions Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Naugatuck Valley Bureau Chief NHR June 26, 2006 as I promised you the other day, garafolo's preferred downtown developer will not od what's best for your community , you need to register at NHR to see it all or buy the paper but here;s the beginningDERBY — Signs in the windows of several downtown businesses declaring "Hands off my business" and "Stop eminent domain abuse" highlight merchants’ turmoil and worries about what redevelopment of the area will mean to their livelihoods.
Stoneridge Partners LLC plans to revamp the south side
they are bad news bears...

Genghis Conn said...

Try the comments for that post now. Should be working.

Jake Gittes said...

Just looking back over sources of funding for the candidates. Ever notice that Mayor DeStefano has received a lot of contributions from trash haulers in the past?

JJG

bluecoat said...

No, I haven't but I never looked either...

RS23 said...

bluecoat- This quote is from a Yale Daily News article:
"Among the leading contributors to DeStefano's campaign are a large group of architects and construction company executives whose firms have been awarded lucrative contracts from the city of New Haven. Together, these donors comprise over 10 percent of those who have donated the legal maximum of $2,500 to the campaign."
Here is the link: http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=30079