An Unwise Budget [Commentary]

June 21, 2005

Why I Voted Against the Biennium Budget Plan

The 2005 Legislative Session came to a close on June 8 th and while there were certain successes, the biennium budget plan that passed both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate was not among them. The plan did not have my support since it relied far too much on tax increases to raise revenue and increased state spending well beyond its means.

The plan increased state spending by 8.7% for Fiscal Year 2006. As a point of reference since 1992, which was the year 88% of state voters approved a constitutional spending cap, state spending on average had gone up only about 3.5% per year. Plus, the 8.7% increase is double the rate of inflation and double the rate upon which the average wage increased in Connecticut.

Simply on its face, this budget is fiscally imprudent. Yet this year, it seems as if certain leaders in the General Assembly improperly deemed the Constitutional cap as just a ‘guide.’ In my view, the state should strictly obey the cap – after all, it’s what the voters of Connecticut want.

What is most troubling about this package, however, was the inclusion of $18 million dollars for “contingency needs.” Put simply, this is no more than a “slush fund” – money appropriated in the budget to be used by only a few leaders for unidentified purposes. This is an example of politics at it worst and is not an open or responsible way to budget.

A better budget would have returned this funding straight to our municipalities so it could be used on local schools, roads, or programs to help those in need. This “slush fund” alone would have been enough for me to vote against the plan, but there were other negatives, as well.

For instance, in the midst of formulating a budget, it became clear that the state had $700 million or so surplus. With that much in reserve, it seemed logical to use a good portion to either pay down existing debt or put some away for future emergencies. Yet in this plan, just about all of the surplus is being used on ongoing expenses. As legislators, we have a responsibility to think about the state’s fiscal well-being in the short and long-term. Spending nearly all of our surplus is simply unwise fiscal planning.

The argument, made by some proponents of this plan, that some municipalities received more money under this new budget is baseless. For instance, for every $1.00 more in taxes we pay to the state, the state returns significantly less to our towns. So their argument would suggest that every year state taxes should increase so the municipalities can get more money. Such logic is nonsense.
This was not a friendly budget for our portion of the state or for much of the rest of Connecticut. I will continue to express my opposition to such proposals and help ensure your tax money is spent wisely, not included in politically-motivated “slush funds.” If you have any questions on the budget or would like to speak to me regarding any local or legislative issue, please visit me at my office hours or call me toll-free at 1(800) 842-1421.