2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Democrat – 107th House District (Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury)
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 worked my entire professional career with nonprofit organizations and continue to work with one now. I served two years with AmeriCorps; one with City Year in Providence, RI and the second year with Northwestern Connecticut Area Health Education Center in Waterbury, CT now named Health 360. After serving with Health 360, I joined their Board of Directors and have been on their Board since. I worked for a nonprofit in Washington, DC that provided leadership development programs for federal employees, and I currently work for a nonprofit, Norwalk Grassroots Tennis & Education, which provides free afterschool care, summer programming, and tennis lessons for impoverished youth in Norwalk, CT.
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?
One of the major components of government is to provide services for our vulnerable populations and, more and more, we find nonprofits being used to deliver those services through grants and contracts. Nonprofit organizations are great options for the state to use to provide services since they have the infrastructure in place and are already working with those populations that are being served.
It is unfortunate and unacceptable that social services are always cut first to solve budget issues and I will do everything I can to ensure that social services are treated as fixed costs.
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?
Yes, I absolutely support nonprofit tax exemptions because nonprofits provide vital services to our community. Nonprofits are notorious for working with less, providing excellent services with fewer resources. Many nonprofits already have tight budgets and it benefits us as a society to ensure that nonprofits have the necessary resources to provide services and that includes tax exemption status. I will support legislation to protect tax exemptions for nonprofits.
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?
Yes, I support converting more state-operated services to the nonprofit sector, so long as the nonprofit receiving the contract abides by state contracting salaries for their employees. I want all employees, including those working for nonprofits, to earn a livable wage.
Nonprofits are more efficient and have the infrastructure in place to provide social services and should be utilized by the state.
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?
While addressing how to grow our economy, we must take into account quality of life and what drives businesses to certain areas. This includes having great talent available, great schools, and vibrant towns and cities. The arts and culture play a huge role in making our towns and cities attractive for new businesses and improves the quality of life for current residents. We must invest in all aspects of our society to help grow our economy and the arts and culture are very much included in that investment.
John F. Kennedy once said, “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.”
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.