Open letter to State Senator Alex Bergstein from Gerrit Argento, Greenwich
Thank you for coming to the Field Club. I and I am sure many others in the room appreciated the opportunity to hear your views and ask questions. In lieu of sitting down with you over coffee in Greenwich or in Hartford to give you some requested feed back, I would like to make the following comments.
1. Independence. All politicians say they are independent, just working for good policies and solving problems. As you said in your speech, CT is in such trouble because succeeding legislatures have been turned into servants for the interests, particularly the government unions. Also, all politicians come from constituencies that elected them. I would like to know more about the constituency that elected you. We see in CT an extreme example of one of the chief weaknesses of democracy: the exploitation of the atomized and pre- majority by the organized, focused and well funded minority. You will have to work to get the trust of the people and show that you are not the same as all the others you talk about.
However, I might note that for the many who so distrust Hartford, and feel the situation is hopeless and dark that your small candle on the dunghill might shine all the brighter because of the surrounding darkness.
2. State banks. You say you have come across a state infrastructure bank in Florida that was a success. In my experience, state banks are almost always harmful. They let politicians spend money to enrich themselves and their friends without an appropriation process. Before the housing crisis and in contribution to it, the leaders of Fanny Mae ballooned its loan assets in order to justify higher salaries and bonuses for themselves. The state bank of Sao Paulo, Brazil bankrupted itself as a result of making bogus loans to friends. There are many other examples. A state bank is undemocratic because it acquires and spends money without voter control. It is accountable only to itself.
3. Tolls. The last thing we need in CT is more taxes in the form of tolls or otherwise. We have had huge tax increases. A lot of the money went to the unions. Shift the money back from the unions to the people. Also, it is almost a certainty that once a new tax source is opened up, the politicians will drain it. We have the history of new income taxes in CT and NJ. Don’t worry boys, we are just going to use the new money for schools, nothing else, promise.
4. Pensions. Every financial problem in CT really comes down to union expenses in the form of salaries, perks, medical benefits, pensions and over staffing. We are overpaying the unions and shortchanging every thing else. In the question period after your speech, I observed that union benefits are secured by legal contracts and how do you break the contracts. The union can say as follows:
Our claims are protected by legal contracts under law. Don’t say you cannot pay our contracts. Of curse you can pay. Connecticut is not Bangladesh. Just tax more and pay us. If you don’t pay, we will get a judge to force you to honor your contracts and pay.
Ms. Bergstein, how do you handle this?
5. Job Security. Not only are unionized public sector employees better paid than their private sector counterparts (see Yankee Institute studies), they have rock solid job security. Their jobs are protected by law and contract (see attached article). This is a huge benefit and its true economic value must be taken into account in what you agree is the necessary negotiation to reconstruct union benefits.
6. “ Union Taxes in Greenwich.” An article I published in the Greenwich Free Press about the union and governance problems in Greenwich.
Again, thanks for coming and talking about serious issues.