Three months ago, in a move to try and “win over” the support of retired teachers, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy proposed a targeted tax break designed to benefit those who spent their careers teaching in Connecticut’s public schools.
In February, the vote-seeking governor explained his support for the partial tax break on teacher pensions by saying, “All I’m trying to do is equalize that unfair treatment.” Malloy added, at the time, that teachers were “vital public servants.”
However, it now looks like Malloy is about to back off his proposed tax break for this year.
The news that Malloy is reneging on his promise to give retired teachers a tax break will come as no surprise to Connecticut’s active and retired teachers.
Since taking over in January 2011, Governor Malloy has consistently sought to undermine and denigrate teachers, retired teachers and the teaching profession.
Sadly, retired teachers have been a special target for the Malloy administration antics.
In February 2012 Governor Dannel Malloy proposed reducing Connecticut’s contribution for an individual teacher’s health care premium from one-third to one-quarter of the set amount to help teachers pay for their health insurance. Malloy’s plan would have cost retired teachers more while saving the state $7.5 million a year.
At the time, Malloy’s budget chief said,
“This will encourage them to stick with their local [health] plans…”
Despite the obvious and significant problems facing Connecticut’s health care system for retired teachers, Malloy’s budget chief blithely claimed that the change would not limit retired teachers from getting insurance. (A statement that was far from true).
A year later, in January 2013, Malloy was back to assault retired teachers again.
As the CT Mirror reported at the time,
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking legislators to eliminate the state’s contribution for retired teachers’ health benefits in the upcoming budget, a move that would save the state $70.7 million and help close a yawning deficit. [Note: The retired teachers’ health care plan helps approximately 35,000 retired teachers and their spouses with a portion of their health care insurance].
“I have to put down a budget… I think we have given the right outline of what the budget should look like,” Malloy said in response to a question about the proposed cut.
But the leader of the Teachers’ Retirement Board, the state agency that manages the health plan, reports this cut would put the plan’s funding at a “dangerous level” in two years.
“The fund is in serious jeopardy… If the cost is just left to teachers, then the plan will collapse,” said Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
Stephen McKeever, vice president of the state’s other teachers’ union, agrees.
“This proposal amounts to a breach of the contract entered into,” said McKeever, of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and who testified before the Appropriations Committee last month. “It’s cruel. Balancing the budget on the backs of retired teachers is just plain wrong.”
The Connecticut General Assembly ended up putting some of the money back into the budget.
But this year, faced with a tough re-election campaign, Malloy changed course completely and proposed an “income tax break for retired teachers.”
As the CT Mirror reported this time,
The Democratic governor, who has clashed with public school teachers on several issues in recent years, expanded his recent efforts to extend an olive branch.
It took the form Friday of a two-stage break on state income taxes for retired teachers.
Malloy’s proposal specifically would exempt 25 percent of retired teachers’ pensions from state income taxes retroactive to Jan. 1.
That exemption would climb to 50 percent in January 2015. The annual cost to the state of this once it is fully implemented would be $23.7 million per year.
Malloy rejected suggestions this was an election-year overture to a key part of his base, noting that most retired teachers aren’t eligible to receive Social Security benefits. There are about 23,000 retired teachers living in Connecticut.
But here we are 90 days later and Malloy’s budget gimmicks and rosy revenue projections have caught up with him.
With the General Assembly careening toward its final day of the 2014 legislative session on May 7th, 2014, watch for Malloy to change his proposed tax break for retired teachers. Instead of having it take place this year, as promised, Malloy is likely to push off the effective date of the change until at least next year.
That way he can go into the fall campaign claiming that he still gave teachers a tax break, but the break won’t take effect until after the election…when the state will be facing a $1.4 billion-dollar deficit.
Retired teachers are some of the smartest members of the Connecticut electorate. Few will fall for a politician who has set up a fight in which the promised tax break for retired teachers can only be fulfilled if the next governor and legislature are willing to push through a massive tax increase.
The sad truth is that Malloy’s disdain for teachers and teaching appears to have no boundaries.