Last night residents of Columbia gathered at Yeoman’s Hall in Columbia for a Town Hall style budget meeting presented by State Representative Tim Ackert.
The event began with a short presentation by Ackert who explained the current situation of the state budget as well as the Governor’s proposal. Connecticut is currently facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit and Governor Malloy proposed $4 billion in tax increases over the next two years to close the gap.
“I was optimistic when Malloy took office,” said Ackert. “I was happy he chose Ben Barnes, a political outsider, as his OPM Secretary. Unfortunately, the budget they produced doesn’t appear to be a good first step to getting our state back on track.”
After the presentation Ackert opened up the floor to people with questions and comments and there were plenty of both. Many in attendance were upset at the apparent lack of spending reductions in the Governor’s plan and the heavy tax burden falling on the middle class.
“We need to encourage business growth or at least remove some of the disincentives for growth,” one resident said. “I have 10 employees and I refuse to go to 11 because it means more regulation. Then you look at paid sick leave- if that passes what is the incentive for a business with 48 or 49 employees to hire anyone? A business with 50 or 51 employees will lay people off. It doesn’t seem right to me.”
Much of the discussion centered on how Malloy’s tax proposals will negatively affect businesses and families in Connecticut. People in attendance were upset the Governor’s budget proposes to increase spending by $900 million over the next two years and were hoping to see more spending cuts.
Ackert explained that he will not consider a single a tax increase until he is confident that every spending cut and efficiency has been exhausted. “We have a bloated state government simply because the state’s answer to a budget deficit is always new or increased taxes. We need to get to the heart of the matter, route out waste and fraud and make our government more affordable. If we don’t do that then we haven’t solved anything.”
Representative Ackert has two more Town Hall Meeting scheduled. One tomorrow Thursday March 24th at 6 pm at Coventry High School and another on Thursday, April 14th at Lake Street School in Vernon at 6:30 pm.