2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Democrat – 61st House District (East Granby, Suffield, Windsor)
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?
My background with nonprofits began as a Junior Rotarian and Boy Scout. As my business career started, I was an auditor with two Big 8 (now the Big 4) public accounting firms. I audited the American Medical Association, American Dental Association, American Cancer Society, and other nonprofit organizations. I have been involved with the arts, for example, as a baritone in the Hartford Chorale and other choral groups including the Springfield Unity Festival and as a section leader of Sinai Temple’s adult choir for the past 28 years. I have been involved with several interfaith services, both in the choir and co-leading its Jewish segment. I am President of Sinai Temple’s Men and Women of Sinai, an over-arching Sinai Temple group service the community, and have served on Sinai Temple’s Board of Trustees for 12 or more years, and have also served as Sinai Temple’s Treasurer and on its Executive Board. I also founded the Hartford-Springfield Chapter of the Financial Service’s Executives Networking Group and have served as its Chair or co-Chair for nearly 20 years.
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?
Nonprofit organizations are a backbone of our communities providing essential services to our most vulnerable residents and also provider arts and culture and so much more to our communities. I have the business experience to promote economic growth and fiscal responsibility while ensuring that the people of Connecticut receive the services they deserve. I recognize that nonprofits provide an essential role in providing many of those services and will fight to assure their continuation with adequate funding for these services. I will also analyze organizations who are operating under the guise of being nonprofits, but which are masquerading and siphoning funds from organizations which are truly deserving of those funds. I would presume that I could work in collaboration with The Alliance in that effort.
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 support nonprofit tax exemptions. For reasons, such as the example you provide, I will fight to reduce government funding of State services in areas in which nonprofits can more effectively and efficiently provide those services. It would be a win/win if the State the aided nonprofits delivering those services. This obviously applies to your next question.
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?
As cited in the previous answer, I would support converting more state-operated services to the nonprofit sector. I would work with The Alliance to ensure that we are putting our money to its best use while ensuring that state funding is able to help more people.
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?
According to the Arts & Economic Prosperity study, conducted by Americans for the Arts, Connecticut’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $793.7 million in annual economic activity in the state, supporting over 23,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $72.3 million in local and state government revenues. While I do not have more recent data, during 2015, nonprofit arts and culture organizations in CT spent over $515 million with organizations paying employees, purchasing supplies, contracting for services, and acquiring assets within their community. Those dollars generated nearly $525 million in household income for local residents along with the aforementioned $72.3 million in local and state government revenues. As Amy Wynn, President of the Connecticut Arts Alliance, stated, “The data proves that our sector provides a solid return on investment as far as state arts funding, resulting in state and local revenues that are so important to CT now and in the future. The arts sector is an accessible and cost-effective asset that connects, collaborates, and impacts other sectors such as healthcare, public safety, education, social services, innovation in business, manufacturing and science, and much more.” The arts generates jobs, cultural tourism, and economic impact. Art helps create a community identity and is critical to attracting and retaining an innovative workforce, as indicated by Kristina Newman-Scott, Director of Culture of Connecticut Office for the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development. In CT, 69% of visitors come for arts and cultural offerings and pay $50 per event attendee (without the cost of the tickets) for items such as dinners in local restaurants, parking, gifts and souvenirs, and overnight stays in local hotels. This is clearly a boon to CT’s tourism dollars and to its economy and as a whole, I would integrate it into additional revenue to be generated from the arts and culture and tourism, including agritourism. As a CFO and entrepreneurial President partnering with CEOs of many businesses, I recognize good returns on investment and work toward optimizing those returns. That should bode extremely well in my relationship with The Alliance and its nonprofits providing arts and cultural offerings.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions. I look forward to working with you in the future and hope that I will be doing so in my capacity as State Representative of the 61st House Assembly District representing Suffield, East Granby, and a portion of Windsor.
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.