Connecticut has become one of the least economically free states in the Union, even as it enjoys more than the average level of personal freedom.
In past editions, we credited Connecticut with a “remnant streak of Yankee fiscal conservatism,” but the state’s politics have become increasingly tax and spend. Although residents of Connecticut enjoy broad scope of choice among local governments, state government tax collections are about 50 percent greater than local tax collections, making the choice of local government less important. After a big decline in state-level taxation from FY 2000 to FY 2009, it has grown again to its former level. Debt now hovers around 20 percent of personal income, a few percentage points above its 2000–2006 level.
Connecticut also does poorly in most areas of regulatory policy. Exclusionary zoning is common. Renewable portfolio standards are tight, keeping electricity rates high. The state has a minimum wage but lacks a right-to-work law. Connecticut was once a leader in occupational openness, but the state grew dramatically more closed between 2000 and 2012. However, in 2013–14, the state legalized independent nurse practitioner practice with prescription authority, a significant achievement. Price regulation in the property and casualty market has become more interventionist over time. The civil liability system is mediocre.
On personal freedom, Connecticut is about what one would expect for a left-of-center New England state. Guns are regulated strictly, but a medical cannabis law was enacted in 2011–12, and the alcohol blue laws were finally repealed. The state has long hosted popular casinos. It has no private school choice programs, but there is interdistrict public school choice. Cigarette taxes are sky-high ($2.90 a pack in 2006 dollars), and smoking bans, except for private workplaces, are tight. The state’s asset forfeiture law and practice are better than average. Crime-adjusted incarceration rates are higher than the national average and much higher than those of other New England states, but victimless crime arrest rates are much lower than the national average. The state legalized same-sex marriage in 2007–8.