I'm part of the brain drain, the young college-educateds who are leaving Connecticut for greener pastures.
This is something I never thought would happen. But I leave without regret, and that says a lot from a man whose roots in the state go back more than 300 years.
I am descended from Thomas Minor who, 10 generations ago, was among the three founders of Stonington. I was one of a handful in my graduating high school class to remain in Connecticut, and I did so in New London, where my ancestor landed aboard the Lyon's Whelp in 1660. I marveled at how I was studying on the very land where he studied, worked off his debts and became successful. I believed I could enjoy the same success he had. My grades were good, and I had a strong communications background.
In Connecticut, these assets proved to be of little value. My highest-paying job after graduating from Southern Connecticut State University was - I kid you not - as a pizza deliveryman. With tips, I made $15 an hour. Not bad, but that's not what I went to school to become.
That stint ended when I found work at a university library. As someone who had worked as a library assistant in college, I thought my job was safe and that eventually I could apply for a better job within the university. Less than a month after going to work, however, my supervisor pulled me aside and told me that the job was not for me.
It was a hard winter for me. To pay the bills, I worked part time for a media research company. However, at 20 hours a week, I couldn't even afford to pay my car insurance. In March, I thought things were finally picking up. I had an interview with a manufacturing company that wanted a technical writer. At last my hard work and perseverance had paid off. But it was not to be. During the interview, the supervisor told me that many in the company believed that my purpose at the company was to train workers overseas. I shook his hand and walked out the door.
But the nail in the coffin isn't Connecticut's present - it's the future. Connecticut is stagnant in several key categories. We rank 49th out of 50th in job growth and per capita federal spending. We rank behind Alabama in tax funds appropriated for operating expenses for colleges and universities, for student aid and for state higher-education agencies, according the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.
What's worse, our elected officials are rewarded, rather than castigated, for exacerbating the problem. While neighboring states New York and New Jersey have passed property tax reform to ease the tax burden on middle-class families, Connecticut has done no such thing. While Massachusetts has become the first state in the union to have universal health insurance, Connecticut also has done no such thing.
At a time when we should invest in fuel-efficient cars and transportation alternatives, our representatives suggest temporary suspension of the gas tax.
Where are the elected leaders who will invest in 21st-century energy production, lowering electric rates for homeowners and businesses? Where are the public officials who will invest in more efficient modes of transportation? Why, if we like our UConn Huskies so much, do we appropriate less tax money for post-secondary education operating expenses than Alabama? What realistic hope does Connecticut have to compete in the new economy?
At 25, I am part of the fastest-growing age segment that is leaving Connecticut. I did not want to leave, but a prohibitively high cost of living coupled with widespread complacency and ineptitude at the state Capitol have sealed my fate. I liked Connecticut's shorelines, its state parks and its midsize, human-scale cities. How many more people like me have to leave before the rest of the state gets the message?
Kevin Miner lives in New Haven and is moving to Austin, Texas, this weekend to seek better employment opportunities and play music.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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