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Public Divided on State Spending Priorities; Health and Safety Draw Most Agreement

(Statewide) – There is no higher priority for Connecticut residents than assuring the health of state residents, when officials decide how to allocate funds in the state budget. The safety of people and property is the next highest priority, according to a new statewide survey of Connecticut residents. After that, the public is quite divided on where Connecticut should be spending taxpayer dollars.

With the state again facing a deficit in the current fiscal year, the 2018 state legislative session convening this week, and the recommendations of a special commission established to examine the state’s fiscal stability and prospects for economic growth due on March 1, the survey’s findings point to the public’s priorities for the allocation of state resources.

While some priorities are clear, others reflect a more divided public opinion.

Drawing the most agreement, 55% of state residents indicated that assuring the health of Connecticut residents was their first or second priority, the only issue to earn the high rankings of more than half of those surveyed, and 49% responded that assuring the safety of people and property was their first or second priority for state spending.

The data was compiled as part of the InformCT Consumer Confidence Survey, for the fourth quarter of 2017. InformCT is a public-private partnership that provides independent, non-partisan research, analysis, and public outreach to help create fact-based dialogue and action in Connecticut. Administered by researchers from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. and Smith & Company, the analysis is based on the responses of residents across Connecticut.

Respondents were asked to rank six issues in terms of “how important it is for the state to spend money on that issue.” The issues listed were the top six out of 10 that had been included in the previous quarterly survey.

Three issues were highly ranked by just over a quarter of those surveyed, but ranked towards the bottom of the priority list of six issues by at least as many state residents:

  • Increasing the quality of productivity of the workforce – While 29% ranked spending on the issue as their first or second priority, a much larger percentage, 43%, ranked it as the one of their two lowest spending priorities among the six issues.
  • Maintaining high student achievement in K-12 schools – Although 27% indicated state spending in this area was one of their two top priorities, a slightly larger 34% placed it as one of their two lowest priorities.
  • Assuring the security of Connecticut’s vulnerable children and adults – Residents were almost evenly split on how high a priority state government spending should be on this issue. While 28% said it should be one of the two highest priorities, an almost identical percentage (29%) said that spending in this area is one of their two lowest priorities.

An additional issue surveyed, maintaining and improving the quality of Connecticut’s environment, was most often ranked at the bottom of the public’s priority list. That issue was ranked sixth by 40% of respondents and fifth by another 19%; only 13% placed it as their first or second state spending priority. The online survey of 510 state residents was conducted in December 2017 has a margin of error of 4 percent.