Lillian Tanski

2018 Candidate Questionnaire

Lillian Tanski

Republican – 31st House District (Glastonbury)
 

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?

ANSWER:

Growing up in a working class family with a single mother and three children, I knew that we existed on the thin line between making ends meet and being unable to do so. Then, my mother had health issues following the birth of my little sister, and our family was without income for a time. In that time, community support from local nonprofits stepped in and gave up the support we needed. Local nonprofits made the difference between having meals in the pantry and going hungry, allowed my brother and I opportunities to attend summer camp, and provided essential postnatal supports to my mother. My family could easily have ended up completely derailed by an unexpected family crisis, but thanks to local nonprofits we were able to recover, my mother was able to return to work and we were able to make ends meet again. This experience has driven home for me the need to serve our community with a mind towards preserving and expanding social services, so families like the one I grew up in do not fall through the cracks. I hope to bring this mindset to Hartford as Glastonbury’s next State Representative.

In Glastonbury, I have served as president of the Glastonbury Newcomers and Neighbors Club, a non-profit dedicated to creating a more welcoming local community and supporting community involvement through social events and service opportunities. Last year, we started a Socktober drive, and raised over 1,000 pairs of socks to be distributed through Community Renewal Team of Hartford and we are excited to continue these efforts this year. We also host community events free to the public, including our very popular Easter Egg Hunt that serves about 150 Glastonbury residents each year. I am also a Charter member of the newly formed Centennial Lions Club of Glastonbury and I look forward to continuing the work of the Lions to support local veterans and expand vision services in the state, especially through the Lions youth vision screening program.

As a mother of four in Glastonbury, and member of our Board of Education, I also benefit from the hard work and dedication of the countless local nonprofits, from athletics groups to our Glastonbury Rotary Club and many others, and I feel incredibly lucky for the countless ways in which these groups work to improve the quality of life in our town.

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?

ANSWER:

Social Services are a necessity. I believe our state government needs a completely new approach to prioritizing spending based not on “fixed costs” but on providing necessary state services first and foremost. We must think of our State’s needs first and look for new and innovative ways to address our unfunded obligations and bonded debt and lower these costs rather than allowing the status quo to cannibalize our ability to fund our state’s essential needs.

We must also restore business confidence in Connecticut and revive our economy so that we will have the resources needed to support our needs. To do this we must address our debt burden and reduce the size of state government: these are the two biggest measures we can take to restore business confidence and drive new investment in our state (see hartfordbusiness.com article of 9/6/18: “Survey: Biz want next gov. to slash spending, reform state employee retirement benefits”).

I believe we need to do away with thinking about “fixed costs” as something we cannot reform, because we must keep finding innovative solutions to lower these unsustainable burdens. To begin, we must address Connecticut’s debt crises: I greatly anticipate the full report of the Pension Sustainability Commission and would support and push for our legislature to deploy unused or underused state property to reduce our pension liabilities, either through sale or lease, public/private development arrangements or other opportunities. I also believe we should explore all options to reform and restructure our benefits liabilities, not only to reduce state costs, but to ensure that Connecticut can continue to operate and provide benefits to our employees – without reform, our state will soon enough be unable to honor any part of the enormous commitments we have made.

I also believe we must find ways to reduce the size of state government, and I believe we can do this through increased support of community nonprofits. I would justify this approach to my constituents and community by making clear to Glastonbury voters that when we support our community nonprofits we are making an efficient choice – our community nonprofits leverage their local knowledge and specialized expertise as well as the support of their community to create social and economic returns that are many times over the dollars they receive from the state. By supporting the work of our community nonprofits, encouraging their growth, and transferring programs from state run to our nonprofits, we can support our vital community organizations and provide Connecticut’s businesses with the reassurance they need that our legislature is dedicated to a ‘right-sized’ state government. Then we can set ourselves on the right grow and prosper cycle that Connecticut needs.

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?

ANSWER:

I do support nonprofit tax exemptions. I would oppose any efforts on the state level to tax our nonprofits, or tax donations to nonprofits, as our nonprofits contribute to the state by their very existence. As a state, Connecticut must do all we can to keep giving attractive for our residents, especially as recent federal tax reforms have made itemizing contributions more difficult. I would also oppose any tax grabs, such as property tax changes, that would chill nonprofit giving or add additional expenses for our community organizations as they seek to expand and continue their work for our residents.

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?

ANSWER:

Local nonprofits have a better understanding of the needs of their communities and their clients, and our state government has shown itself to not be up to the task of providing needed services in an effective or cost-efficient manner. We must provide essential services to the residents of our state, but especially in these fiscally challenging times, Connecticut needs to be doing so as affordably as possible. For too long our state has cut its support for community nonprofits, when the best way to save tax dollars and maintain services would be to transfer more services to the community nonprofits that are already doing such good work in our communities, and at a fraction of state costs. I wholeheartedly support transferring more services from the direct service model to funding services through nonprofits with the correct level of support in our Connecticut budget.

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?
ANSWER:

Leadership in Connecticut needs to lean in to support for the arts. While current state funding for the arts is a tiny fraction of our budget, arts nonprofits are a natural winner for growth efforts because not only do they contribute economically, but they also make Connecticut a more attractive home state, especially for the millennial professionals and families (like me) that we need to build a strong future. To take advantage of federal matching funds, and to allow our organizations to plan for the future, we must maintain stable year to year funding, and ensure we meet our minimums to collect federal matching funds. I also support use of Connecticut Marketing, Culture and Tourism funds to promote Connecticut through promotion of the arts. Through greater support of the arts in our state, we can support jobs, attract young residents, and bring new visitors, and their tourism dollars, to Connecticut.

 

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.