Many in Connecticut have just celebrated Christmas -- some making do with less, all spending their hard-earned money to find just the right gift for the special people in their lives.
Up in Hartford, Gov. Dannel Malloy played Santa Claus, too -- but with your money.
Despite a deficit of $31.6 million in the 2015 budget -- and an administration declaring a "permanent fiscal crisis" for the state -- Gov. Malloy reached into his sack and pulled out a generous $1.4 million in raises for 200 of his political appointees, some of whom received pay increases of as much as 12%.
None of these state employees were struggling. In fact, all 36 of those who received the 12% increases already earned approximately $100,000. And 10 who received the biggest increase have salaries placing them in the top 5% of all America wage earners (i.e., over $175,817 per year); 22 of those receiving the 12% raise have salaries in the top 10% of all American wage earners (or over $125,195 each year). Nice work if you can get it...
Now contrast the stuffed stockings of the government elite with the plight of those subsidizing them. Since Gov. Malloy's election in 2010, the state's median income has increased by a paltry 2.5%, a lower percentage than the lowest raise (of 3%) provided by the Governor this Christmas! And that anemic 2.5% figure doesn't even tell the real story. When adjusted for inflation, Connecticut's median income has actually dropped by about 4% since 2010!
In light of these facts, are pay raises ranging from 3% to 12% really fair? Should a hard-working secretary in Bridgeport or a weary construction worker in Woodstock or a struggling small business in Manchester really be subsidizing these pay increases for the government elite?
A special shout-out goes to UConn President Susan Herbst -- who has lots to celebrate this season. Thanks to Connecticut taxpayers, she racked up an overall increase in salary and other compensation that will bring her total compensation to more than $785,000 in 2015. Herbst should be blowing kisses to state taxpayers; her new package is 55% higher than the average for public university presidents as of December 2013. Note to the Governor: When your constituents call on you to make our state "more competitive," we don't mean for highly-paid government workers!
And, of course, Herbst's bounty stands in stark contrast to the fact that UConn's tuition has increased by a whopping 52% over the past eight years, and is running a $462 million deficit, requiring cuts and further tuition increases! An ironic coda to the whole mess: Connecticut ranks sixth in the nation in student loan debt.
So as we bid farewell to 2014, how would we sum up the state of the state? In short, there are two Connecticuts: The government class is doing just fine. As for the rest of us, things aren't so great.
Oh, and remember Ben Barnes, Malloy's budget director? He's the one who declared the "perpetual fiscal crisis" right after the governor's re-election. Congratulations to him -- he just received a 12% salary increase, for a new salary totaling $209,439.
For those of us paying him, the "fiscal crisis" rolls on.