Teachers from across Connecticut convened at the state Capitol on Friday, asking lawmakers to not increase their pension obligations. Teachers call it the "teacher tax,” and they said it’s asking them to fix a system broken by years of under-funding by the state.
High school social studies teacher Matthew Macaluso appeared frustrated before the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
"The fact that people who have dedicated their lives to educating this state's children are being treated this way -- the fact that it literally affects their ability to feed their family -- is obscene and hateful,” Macaluso said.
The proposed increase equals about $700 a year per teacher, which, Macaluso said, is a month’s worth of groceries for his family.
"This isn't just teachers sort of kicking and screaming and acting like spoiled children,” he said. “Somebody else broke the bank and it's expected to be fixed on the back of teachers."
Teachers were expecting to only pay the seven percent contribution until July. After that it was supposed to drop back down to six percent, where it’s been for nearly three decades. But a bill before the legislature would keep the rate where it is.
State Rep. Vincent Candelora took offense with the idea that legislature doesn’t care about teachers.
"To suggest that people in this building don't care about education is crazy,” he said. “My wife is a teacher, my sister is a teacher, and conversations were had by many people when these decisions were made..."
Macaluso interrupted him.
"Representative Candelora, are you calling me crazy?"
"I'm not calling you crazy,” Candelora responded. “I'm just putting on the record, that I found your comments insulting, and going forward it's not helpful to have this kind of dialogue as we try to continue to navigate through Connecticut's difficult fiscal waters."
Candelora pointed out that it's not only teachers who are being asked to step up. Many of Connecticut's most vulnerable populations -- such as the elderly and people with disabilities -- have also suffered as a result of efforts to balance the budget.