2018 Candidate Questionnaire
Rep. Susan Johnson
Democrat – 49th House District (Windham)
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 worked for a nonprofit organization in my community for 20 years. The nonprofit community is very helpful to those in need. The State needs to support the community that hosts nonprofit organizations.
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?
We must save the nonprofit organizations. Many state agencies have given their duties to the nonprofit sector. The reason was that it was less expensive than public service. The services are vital to having a civilized state.
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 support the exemptions. The state must make up the difference for the towns that host nonprofits. Most are the poorest towns in the state. So it increases the property tax burden on the least able to pay.
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?
It depends on the service. I worry about state oversight. Also, I am concerned that once the state gives the work to the nonprofit sector it will no longer feel responsible for the service provided.
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?
Education is the best way to grow the arts and cultural offerings in Connecticut. If our citizens don’t know about the arts and our diverse cultures then they will not be interested in supporting the arts as adults.
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.