Returning fiscal balance to our state
Here’s my first “Hartford Current” piece this season in The Darien Times:
In the legislative short session that started yesterday, Feb. 3, our state faces continuing financial challenges. Despite record tax increases of 24% over the last five years, we are still struggling to find fiscal sustainability and stability. The Governor and the majority Democrats in both the House and Senate gambled incorrectly that big tax increases would take care of the lingering problems from the economic downturn of 2008. Even Ben Barnes, Governor Malloy’s budget secretary, said in November “We are in permanent fiscal crisis.”
Exacerbating the situation, General Electric announced recently it was moving. Why? They attributed their decision to the bounty of tax increases on corporations and citizens in the budget set last June. Shortly after the announcement, Moody’s Investors Service issued a “credit negative” for Connecticut bonds based on the impending GE move and the continued stagnation of our state economy. While not a formal downgrade, it is a public statement about how Moody’s assesses the future fiscal climate in Connecticut.
The legislature was called into Special Session on Dec. 8. The goal was deficit mitigation, to address the shortfall from the budget that went into effect on July 1st. The shortfall attributed to lower than budgeted tax receipts. Less than five months into the fiscal year, the governor and legislators were looking to slash $350 million from the budget. Many of the rescissions came from the social service safety net, mental health care, public colleges and universities and hospitals. Simply, this is not the best way to guide our state. This is the fiscal irresponsibility that drove GE out of our state.
There will be several controversial proposals in this session, which I don’t believe will stabilize our fiscal situation or build a base on which to keep or attract new businesses. Some of these are paid family leave, state retirement plans for the private sector and a reintroduction of last year’s attempt to move toward statewide transit corridor development authority. As proposed last session, this was a politically-appointed state agency to promote economic and transit oriented development. This group may have policy and taxation powers over municipalities. To many of us, this is the heavy hand of top down government. There will also be further efforts to address inequality of property taxation in the 169 municipalities in the state.
Budget gimmicks and tricks have run their course. We need a change of direction. It is essential that we create an environment of economic certainty so that individuals, families and corporations will come to Connecticut and will stay. Can this alarming financial reality ever be corrected? The Republican caucus is trying. Proposals have been made to deliver basic state services in a more cost-effective and efficient way. State employee union benefits far outweigh the private sector and need to be modified. Other states have done this with success. The power of state employee unions over the Democratic majority in Hartford has been the driving factor in Connecticut public policy recently and has cost residents dearly.
My message to you is — keep hope. I do believe we will swing back to a state that enacts laws based on common sense and fiscal practicality. State representatives and senators are elected to the voice of their constituents. To reflect your values in votes, we need to hear from you on pending legislation.
Please keep in touch. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone in Hartford is 860-240-8718.
The original ran in The Darien Times here:
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