2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Democrat – 23rd House District (Old Saybrook, Lyme, Old Lyme, Westbrook)
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?
I have spent most of my professional career in the non-profit sector. I began my career at the Ivoryton Playhouse where I worked in several capacities including creating programming for schools and children. I was the Executive Director of Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theatre in Middletown from 2008-2013. Running a non-profit during the recession was a challenge. We faced constant reductions in grant funding from the state and private foundations, while trying to maximize service delivery to the community and not reduce staff, increasing the number of unemployed persons in our community. I’ve worked in collaboration with many large non-profits in the state, including the United Way, YMCA, MARC and Community Foundation of Middlesex County to design and provide programs and find solutions to issues in the community, including arts education, asset building for at-risk young people, tackling bullying, and building life skills and confidence for MARC clients with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. My experience with the non-profit sector includes working with countless dedicated, tireless leaders and volunteers that sacrifice and work long, hard hours to help our neighbors.
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 will be a leader in advocating for prioritizing nonprofit services to our most vulnerable populations. We need to be investing in solutions, and work in partnership with nonprofits to work towards solutions to address the opioid crisis and providing mental health services. We cannot fix Connecticut’s economy or budget crisis on the backs of the most vulnerable in our communities. This does not move our state forward. The state budget is facing a massive deficit. I believe that the path forward for the economy ties is about supporting low-income and working families and individuals – many of them the people that receive support from nonprofits and staff nonprofits. We need to grow Connecticut’s economy and I believe that progressive initiatives such as paid family leave will help to do that. We need to encourage more young families to remain in and establish roots in Connecticut to grown the tax base. Providing paid family leave can also be a benefit to nonprofit organizations, helping them retain quality staff.
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 have spent my career in the nonprofit sector. I understand the challenge that exists especially regarding property taxes at the local level, and the desire in some communities for nonprofits to pay. I also understand the challenge this would bring to nonprofits in short time forcing cuts to service. I support nonprofit tax exemption and will support legislation to protect tax exemptions statewide.
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?
I am in favor of sitting down with non-profit leaders and identifying efficiencies in service delivery. Non-profits work hard to be fiscally accountable, transparent and maximize service delivery. I believe that working hand-in-hand with non-profits to provide service delivery to more people is a viable path forward for our state and for those most in need of services.
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?
Arts and Culture are part of the Tourism/Hospitality sector – the third largest sector in Connecticut’s economy. With a strong return on investment, I believe investing in arts and culture will be a path to growing Connecticut’s economy. Nearly every state in the country recognizes the value of investing in the arts and culture, as they have restored state funding to pre-recession levels. We need to look at initiatives that have worked nationally to produce a strong ROI and work to make changes in our state approach to funding arts and culture. We need accountablity for the line item funding for arts and culture institutions, while balancing the consistency that is important for organizational stability. Finally, I would engage the corporate sector in a plan to invest in our arts and culture organizations. It was the corporate support in Hartford during the 60’s and 70’s that helped capitalize and launch the flagship arts institutions in the capitol city. As corporations left Hartford, we’ve seen the challenges in the arts sector as funding sources shrink.
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.