Governor’s Budget Sets the Tone for the Challenges Facing the Legislature

February 23, 2009

On February 4th, Gov. M. Jodi Rell addressed the General Assembly to unveil her budget proposal for fiscal years 2010-2011. In her speech, she called attention to the extraordinary challenges Connecticut faces over the next two years in light of the national recession. She stressed that the journey away from this economic downturn will be long and painful and that the General Assembly has its work cut out as it begins to craft a budget that is over $6 billion in the red for the next two years. To make matters even worse, the governor and legislature must still rectify a nearly $1 billion budget deficit for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30th.

What began as a nationwide housing meltdown with the collapse of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae has turned into a major financial crisis taking with it some of our most respected financial institutions. Wall Street’s troubles have resulted in the loss of millions of jobs nationwide. Here in Connecticut an estimated 30,000 jobs have been lost over the past year, many of which have come in the financial services sector, and the forecast for 2009 indicates that trend is continuing.

These are indeed anxious times and why the governor has taken an aggressive approach to protect taxpayers. Her $38.4 billion two-year proposal offers hope as it smartly reduces the overall size of state government while avoiding tax increases. In addition, it maintains aid to our local towns to cover education costs and caps state spending at current levels. The budget also does away with many unfunded state mandates that are hamstringing our local municipalities.

While Connecticut is better positioned to handle this economic crisis than many other states, tough decisions need to be made to help balance the budget. Streamlining government by way of consolidating state agencies and eliminating many boards and commissions is a wise first step. Many of these government entities perform similar functions and their consolidation or elimination would not compromise government service. This proposal would eliminate vacant state employee positions that are budgeted and would also create an office to detect and abolish waste and fraud in our state government.

What’s more, the governor has proposed the cancellation of a large portion of state bonding without jeopardizing funding for vital projects such as school construction, clean water and matters of public safety. Much of this bonding was authorized when the state was experiencing strong economic growth, but due to the current economic climate the state is no longer able to afford these projects.

With many businesses struggling to get by, another burdensome tax increase could lead to even greater job losses. Many of our nation’s leading experts have warned about the negative implications that tax increases could have on our economy during a recession. The governor has been steadfast in her opposition to such increases and the legislature needs to follow suit.

As a member of the of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee I too am committed to working with the governor and my colleagues in Hartford to come up with a balanced budget that best protects taxpayers. The economic challenges facing Connecticut are unprecedented, but not impossible to overcome. The governor has laid the groundwork for the legislature to act. It is my hope that we can do so in a bipartisan manner to ensure we are doing everything we can to help residents and businesses overcome this crisis.

Senator Guglielmo resides in Stafford represents the 35th Senatorial District in the Connecticut General Assembly.