While the State of Connecticut continues to face a budget deficit north of $515 million, the majority in the legislature have repeatedly failed to do the job that they were elected to do. Instead of making the kinds of cuts needed to restructure state government at a time when taxpayers can least support its massive bureaucracy; they reflexively turn to borrowing and increasing taxes while approving only nominal cuts.
While the legislative majority makes every effort to insulate state government bureaucracy from the impacts of these hard times, they are turning their backs on the taxpayers of Connecticut, many of whom are losing their jobs, homes and businesses during this economic crisis.
With the start of the new legislative session on February 3rd, Governor M. Jodi Rell offered a budget that cancels hundreds of millions in current bond authorizations of earmarks that have been on the books for decades. She has also proposed $100 million to fund loan guarantees to make it easier for businesses to get credit and survive which will save jobs. Additionally, she proposes consolidating state agencies, and initiating job creation tax credits to businesses that create jobs.
The budget that was put in place last fall by the legislative majority, without Republican support, had no chance of being in balance or solving our financial difficulties. We voted against this measure because it spent more than the previous year, borrowed at the unprecedented level of nearly $1 billion, completely drained our Rainy Day Fund and raised taxes and fees on residents and businesses.
This budget also had the effect of prompting Moody’s Investment Services and Fitch Ratings to revise their outlook on Connecticut’s general obligation bonds from “stable” to “negative”. According to the Treasurer’s office, this lower credit rating could potentially cost Connecticut $80 million per year.
When it was clear that the majority leadership’s budget plan did not work, and a massive deficit occurred, the legislative majority’s answer during the recent special session was not to cut the size and scope of government, but rather to put Connecticut taxpayers on notice that they still are not paying enough. We think you are already paying too much, and it is the government’s turn to tighten its belt.
House and Senate Republicans offered an alternative plan that preserved aid to towns and cities, did not increase taxes, preserved essential services and put the budget back in balance. We were able to do this by cutting non-essential department budgets by 7.8%. Unfortunately, the majority did not adopt these proposals.
At the recent special session, the majority demonstrated more of the same flawed judgment that got us where we are in the first place. With a $466.5 million deficit, they could only manage to find $12 million in cuts. They also underfunded the state employee pension fund by $100 million and increased taxes and fees yet again. Governor Rell vetoed this latest offering.
If the majority in the legislature is going to work toward real solutions, they will need to adopt the same “Common Sense” approach to governing that we pledge to legislate by:
- Spend no more than you make.
- Borrow only what you can afford to pay back.
- If it’s not broken, don’t fix it and if it’s broken get rid of it.
- The more government tries to do the less it does well.
- We should all have the government we need but only the government we need.
While homeowners, business owners and taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet, and are often going without, they expect their government to do the same. This is what must be done for the state to successfully navigate these difficult times. Our future generations stand to pay a big tab for the mistakes being made today. Common sense can stop Connecticut from going down the wrong road before it is too late.
By State Representatives Tony Hwang and T.R. Rowe