2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Democrat – 101st House District (Madison, Durham)
BACKGROUND: The Alliance represents community nonprofits across Connecticut that serve over 500,000 people, employ 198,000 and spend $29 billion annually in Connecticut’s economy. Nonprofits contribute to our state’s communities, economy and quality of life; they support the developmentally disabled, feed the hungry, provide behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, and help prisoners re-enter their communities. Nonprofits also enrich the state through art and culture — providing visual arts and performances and preserving our state’s historical landmarks.
QUESTION: What has been your experience with nonprofits in your community?
As a student growing up in Madison, I had the privilege of benefiting from extensive programming through Madison Youth and Family Services, which not only gave me leadership and personal development training, but helped me begin to understand the importance of serving my community. (I’m proud to say that, over a decade later, I will shortly be joining the board of this organization). In large part due to this experience, I went on to join the founding team of an education nonprofit, The Future Project, that set out to bring passion and purpose to high school students across the country. Today, we serve over 25,000 students, including those at twelve high schools in Connecticut, many of which I have personally worked at. So, as a non-profit leader (and educator), I have a deep personal understanding of the unique value and ability of this sector to provide necessary opportunities for citizens of all ages; and as an aspiring legislator, I hope to be a champion of non-profit services.
BACKGROUND: Community services for people in need are funded by state government through contracts, grants, and the Medicaid. At least half of the state budget comprises “fixed costs” that the state must pay – for example, post-employment obligations and bonded indebtedness. The “fixed” portion of the budget increases each year. Cuts in the portion of the budget that remains have caused significant reductions in funding for nonprofits and harm to the people they serve. When faced with cuts, nonprofits cannot raise taxes or prices, forcing them to cut services, lay-off employees or close programs. This is a model that cannot sustain itself – and it puts Connecticut’s quality of life at risk. The Alliance has argued that nonprofit services should be treated as if they are “fixed costs.”
QUESTION: If elected, how will you prioritize providing services to Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents? In the face of budget constraints, what changes will you fight for to ensure adequate funding for these services?
I believe the most fundamental role of our government is to ensure that all people have the opportunity to live healthy, productive, meaningful lives — and this often begins with protecting and empowering the most vulnerable. As such, this effort will be at the top of my priorities. Moreover, I understand — especially as someone who has served as VP of Development for a growing nonprofit — how difficult it can be to ensure adequate funding and resources for these services, and I know that the conversation must start with our state budget. I will work tirelessly to make sure we are restoring cuts to these vital services by finding efficiencies elsewhere, and most importantly, I will support initiatives (like targeted, reasonable investments in transportation and education) to ensure we can grow our economy and move into a place where we don’t have our backs up against the wall all the time.
BACKGROUND: Nonprofits are exempt from paying taxes by state and federal law. Nonprofits do not pay federal and state corporate income taxes for their charitable activities, donations to nonprofits are tax deductible, and nonprofits are exempt from Connecticut’s sales tax and local property taxes. Recently, there have been efforts at all levels of government to weaken the tax-exempt status of nonprofits, most notably at the local level.
QUESTION: Do you support nonprofit tax exemptions? Why or why not? Would you support legislation to protect or clarify tax exemptions for nonprofits? Why or why not?
I fully support nonprofit tax exemptions because I know, from first-hand experience, that they enable government, community, and private resources to be directed to services that would otherwise not be incentivized in our economy. And I would support legislation to protect and clarify these exemptions, not only to ensure they continue, but also because I believe that transparency and clarity of expectation are among the most important elements of effective planning (and budgeting), and that it is incumbent upon the legislature to let nonprofits (and those who would support them) know where they stand.
BACKGROUND: Even though community nonprofits deliver more than 90% of residential services to people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and 60% of clients served by Local Mental Health Authorities in Connecticut, the State continues to operate some of these services itself, with state-operated facilities staffed by state employees. The State and nonprofits provide the same services, but nonprofits do so at half of the cost. For example, the average annual cost to serve an individual with I/DD living in a state-operated group home is $265,000. The cost for a community nonprofit to provide the same service is just $113,000. This means that government funding can serve more people if those services are provided by nonprofits.
QUESTION: If elected, would you support converting more state-operated services to the nonprofit sector? If not, how would you ensure that state funding is able to help more people?
We must begin this conversation with an understanding not just of how many people are served, but of how effective that service is. Assuming that effective service can be provided by a non-profit in a given sector for less money than a state-operated initiative, I would support the more efficient and effective use of our dollars. I want to be clear, however, that these decisions must be made with a real understanding of the community being served in a given service sector, and that I have more learning to do in order to make specific decisions.
BACKGROUND: The nonprofit arts and culture community enhances Connecticut’s quality of life. The arts make our communities better places to live and work – they create jobs, generate revenue, and are key considerations when families and businesses are thinking of locating in our state. A recent study found that Connecticut’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $797 million in annual economic activity for the state, supporting over 23,000 jobs and generating $72 million in local and state tax revenue.
QUESTION: How do your plans to grow Connecticut’s economy include our arts and cultural offerings?
I should begin this answer by noting that in addition to working as an educator and non-profit leader, I’m also an artist who has toured professionally in the music industry; and again, as a student, it was thanks to community music nonprofits that I was able to develop skills and an appreciation for the arts. All to say, ensuring a thriving culture here in Connecticut is very important to me! In terms of my plans to grow our economy, I think on both the educational side (training and developing young artists) and the performance/industry side (supporting community arts initiatives), we need to prioritize this work since it is not only culturally aligned, but economically desirable. Additionally, I would support putting more money toward a CT tourism plan that shares all that we have to offer in our cultural offerings with those who might come enjoy the arts and culture here in our state.
The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance (The Alliance) is Connecticut’s statewide association of community nonprofits. Our members deliver essential services to more than half a million people each year and employ almost 14% of Connecticut’s workforce. To inform nonprofit professionals, staff, clients and volunteers, The Alliance is asking candidates to complete this short five-question document. Completed will be published on our website, sent to our network of thousands of CT voters, and included at our Annual Conference.