Getting the conservative word out

The best thing Connecticut could do to improve its economy is to change from a pro-union state to a right-to-work state, J.R. Romano told a group of listeners Thursday evening, Oct. 10, at Wilton Library.

Mr. Romano, the Connecticut state director for the group Americans for Prosperity, came to Wilton at the invitation of the Republican Town Committee. He said the group is nonpartisan, although many of the initiatives the group espouses appeal to fiscal conservatives.

“We as a state, as a city, as a country have gotten out of control,” he said. “We are not citizens, we are revenue sources.”

High taxes of all sorts — property, income, sales, etc. — are making it difficult for people to save, start businesses, or otherwise become financially upwardly mobile.

Relief, he said, would come in a reduction of the state income tax and a change to making Connecticut a right-to-work state, which would allow workers to choose whether or not to join a union. Americans for Prosperity, he said, will be lobbying for this change, which he admitted could take several years to achieve.

Of the 24 right-to-work states, Virginia is the closest, he said, and if Connecticut were to change over it would be a boon to industry here.

Mr. Romano also took a swing at public sector employees and advocated for moving away from pensions to a 401(k) system.

“When you think of public service, there’s a sacrifice in salary,” he said. What’s happening, he said, is people in the public sector are making private-sector salaries.

“The push and conversation should be about creating something. How is it fair the American dream of going to college … when after 20 years I’m not making as much as my buddy working for the state of Connecticut who maybe didn’t go to college?”

He also spoke against the First Five Plus program, which Gov. Dannell Malloy has promoted. The program offers economic development assistance to corporations, such as loans and tax incentives. Calling it corporate welfare, he said when the government offers money to corporations and their contract is up, they will just demand more money or threaten to leave.

A member of the audience asked, “What should we do to have people come here in droves?”

Mr. Romano said first and foremost, establish right-to-work to revive manufacturing. Then reduce income and corporate taxes.

He acknowledged that fiscal conservatives have not done a very good job getting their message out in a positive way.

“Everything has to be an individual story,” he said. “We have to explain the impact of public policy on the poor.

“As fiscal conservatives, our mission is not to hurt people. We want people to be as prosperous as possible.”

For example, he said, raising the minimum wage would not help the poor. “It will just cause everything to be more expensive. Giving someone 75 cents an hour more doesn’t lift them out of poverty.”

Big corporations such as Wal-Mart, he said, “love a higher minimum wage. They have the cash” to pay more, but the mom-and-pop businesses do not.

Several people in the audience lamented that Connecticut was a hopelessly blue state and Republican leaders are weak.

“One of the problems is Republican officeholders are afraid of true conservatism,” said Marilyn Gould. “They are fighting against real fiscal conservatives.”

“We’re a Republican town but we’re being run out of town by a Republican-run government,” Ed Papp said regarding rising taxes. “We have a serious problem and it starts here at home.”

Mr. Romano said Connecticut is not “hopelessly blue,” because the greatest number of voters are unaffiliated.

He urged his listeners to communicate their thoughts with their legislators — and not by regular mail or email. He advocated Twitter.

Letters and emails are generally read by staff, he said, but politicians monitor their own Twitter accounts.

“One of the most active people on Twitter is Jim Himes,” he said, referring to the congressman who represents Wilton and the rest of the 4th District, “and he responds.

“There are few fiscal conservatives talking to them, so they think everything is OK.”