Members of the Central Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America condemned Connecticut’s annual state budget at their monthly meeting on Sunday.
On Thursday, after the longest budget impasse in state history, both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bipartisan, two-year budget plan to close a $3.5 billion fiscal gap. Lawmakers now await action by Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is in the process of choosing whether or not to veto the budget. Whatever Malloy decides, the bill will likely become law, as it passed in the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities — more than enough to override a gubernatorial veto.
Convening just days after the budget’s passage CCTDSA’s October General Meeting drew a crowd of about 60 community members, who re-evaluated their organization’s long-term goals in terms of the budget. The organization also updated its mission statement and set priorities for the upcoming election cycle.
“We feel that there is something wrong, when we live in the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world and we’re told that the political reality is that we need to be laying off workers and cutting services and raising taxes on the working poor,” said steering member Becky Simonsen.
The new veto-proof state budget would impose hefty cuts on public education, renewable energy initiatives, subsides for Medicare and Medicaid and cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit — all issues of significant concern to the members, a steering-committee member said.
Members also expressed worries about a lack of a long-term vision in Connecticut for working-class rights. They discussed electoral approaches to the 2018 election cycle — including various canvassing plans and endorsements of progressive candidates — and the fact that turnout is low among the working-class.
As all state senators and representatives are up for reelection in 2018, the organization outlined its priorities for the next election cycle and its plans to increase membership. Those priorities focus on developing political committees in strategic districts, doing solidarity work and improving its political education initiatives.
The organization voted to prioritize forming new DSA chapters in strategic districts within the state — including Waterbury, Middletown, Hartford, Bridgeport and college campuses. The organization hopes that by electing progressive candidates, it can promote its members’ values in strategic districts, Simonsen said.
Although many shared that they had been nervous at first to canvass as members of the DSA, members said that they were surprised by the positive reactions from those they canvassed.
“So far the reception on the doors has been overwhelmingly positive,” Dan Fontaine, an attendee at the meeting from Wallingford said. “Hopefully we can change the narrative and debate for the next budget.”
Committee member of the CCTDSA Salonee Bhaman said that she hopes the chapter will gain membership in the next year to gather a diverse group of individuals who want to implement socialist policies in the state.
On Sunday, the organization voted on adopting a new statement of values to be included in a new membership packet. According to Bhaman, the new statement includes a clearer definition of working class, mentions that the chapter is against “imperialism and warfare,” and includes environmental justice as one of the group’s main goals.
The organization also hosts a speaker series, endorses events — such as the “March to End Homelessness” that will occur in New Haven this Wednesday — and holds fundraisers, including one for the Immigrant Bail fund last year that raised $25,000, according to Simonsen.
On Sunday, the group passed a proposal to form a new Labor Working Group, in response to the creation of a national Democratic Socialist Labor Commission, which was set forth at the DSA National Convention in August of this year.
The Central Connecticut chapter of the DSA was founded in early 2016 and gained momentum after the election of President Donald Trump. Bhaman said that their chapter is a product of the ground swell of organizing following November 2016, but that many of their members are actively involved in Connecticut state politics.
Caleb Malchik GRD ’23 said that he found out about the chapter from the Yale DSA and is happy that there is a chapter so close to Yale.
“I’m very glad there is something in New Haven that is more than just a student group,” Malchik said. “There is more potential to build long-term power in a group like this as opposed to … a student group which has such a high turnover.”
The Democratic Socialists of America was founded in 1982.
Isabel Bysiewicz | firstname.lastname@example.org