As your State Legislature begins its work and a new Governor takes office, Connecticut’s financial future is murky at best. Our state faces a budget shortfall the magnitude of which has never been seen in Connecticut. Our unemployment rate continues to hover above 9 percent. We owe tens of billions of dollars to the state’s pension and retirement funds. Adding insult to injury, bond traders – the folks who buy and sell government bonds – have more faith in Brazilian bonds than in Connecticut bonds. The State of Connecticut is, indeed, broke and incoming Governor Dan Malloy seems to have acknowledged that. He has been very vocal that it will take “shared sacrifice” to right the state’s financial ship.
But what does that mean? Thus far, Mr. Malloy has avoided requests from the press to provide detail as to what his deficit reduction plan will be. However, many of us at the state Capitol are worried that “shared sacrifice” means tax increases for everyone. In my opinion, tax increases in the middle of a job crisis would simply add fuel to the fire.
Over the course of the last month I have been soliciting feedback from Shelton residents as to how they would like to see our state’s budget gap bridged. This is nothing scientific. I’ve simply been asking folks whether they prefer to cut important government programs or raise taxes to continue them. Overwhelmingly, Shelton residents would like to see state spending cut drastically before any thoughts are given to tax increases.
Interestingly, people don’t particularly care what the spending cuts look like, as long as they happen. Social service programs? People are telling me to cut them. The size of the state employee workforce? Slash it. State employee benefit plans? End the gravy train. Road repairs? Put them on hold. It’s pretty clear to me what most of you want.
I do have a number of proposals for cutting the budget that I will be pushing over the course of the next six months. In general, I believe we need to roll back our state spending to 2008 levels. If the state returned to spending levels of just two years ago, it could save at least $2 billion. Considering the state is at least $3.5 billion in the hole, the impact of the spending cut would be significant. This, of course, doesn’t get us to the full $3.5 billion, but strategic sale of state assets could help bridge the gap as could the removal of certain state tax loopholes. To most people, this approach seems like common sense.
But here is my fear. I have met too many state legislators who have never seen a government program they weren’t in love with. They feel that a jump in the income tax, a small adjustment to the sales tax, and a few new taxes here and there don’t really matter as long as they help fund a new government program. They’re wrong. These added costs do matter. They matter to the families and employers who are paying them. They can mean the difference between a new winter coat for your daughter or one more season with the one that she has outgrown. Or they can mean a family needs to skip this year’s dentist visit.
I will be working with fellow conservative legislators to hold the line on spending and your help makes a difference. Your phone calls, letters and emails to the Governor’s office will help me and my colleagues to make our argument.