Doing The Right Thing For Connecticut’s Citizens

September 18, 2009

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly spectacularly failed Connecticut’s families and businesses when it ended the summer by burdening them with an unaffordable – and irresponsible – $37.6 billion biennial state budget.

As I said during debate on the floor of the Senate, I had hoped to be able to vote in favor of a state budget. After all, Governor M. Jodi had already vetoed one disastrous tax and spend plan and, in the absence of a budget, had been operating the state by executive order for the past two months. However, I could not in good conscience vote for the budget finally passed during the early hours of September 1st because I believe it will cost us more jobs and drive families and businesses out of Connecticut.

I share the dismay of many constituents who understand that imposing a so-called “millionaires’” tax, placing a temporary 10% surcharge on larger businesses, and increasing a wide variety of state license and permit fees is not going to help Connecticut emerge from this recession. Connecticut’s more wealthy residents are not immune to the effects of the economic downturn, and at least some of them are likely to respond to this tax increase by relocating and depriving the state of the taxes they already pay. Businesses burdened with the surcharge will surely pass this additional cost along, perhaps by raising the cost of their goods and services or by laying off workers. Those who need a state license or permit will see these increased costs for what they are – tax increases.

Furthermore, families and businesses looking forward to promised tax relief in the form of a .5 percent decrease in the sale tax beginning on January 1st are likely to be sorely disappointed. If tax revenues fall too far below expectations, that anticipated tax cut will be repealed – if it ever takes effect at all. In any case, Connecticut’s new budget will still cause state taxes to increase overall by $880- to $1.2 billion over the next two years.

None of this is good news for Connecticut. However, Republican legislators are not about to admit defeat. We know there are steps the General Assembly can take even now to lessen the harmful consequences of our new state budget. By the time you read this, the General Assembly most likely will have met in special session to pass legislation necessary to implement the new state budget. Republican legislators are taking advantage of this opportunity to offer our proposals for lessening the tax burden on residents of Connecticut’s towns and cities.
The best way to accomplish this is through mandate relief.

For many years now, municipal officials have been begging the General Assembly to refrain from imposing unfunded, or underfunded, mandates on local government. When legislators pass a law requiring towns to provide a service or a program, but do not provide the money to pay for it, the cost is passed along to local families and businesses. If ever there was a good time for the General Assembly to heed their request to lighten that expensive burden, the time is now.

Republican legislators have proposed a five-point plan to provide much-need relief for municipal governments and the people they serve. Our plan calls for:

• Delaying implementation of the state law requiring schools to provide in-school suspension at a cost of millions of dollars for hiring additional certified staff and providing dedicated space.
• Delaying implementation of policies that raise the age of juvenile offenders from 17 in order to save local police departments approximately $95 million in personnel and constructions costs;
• Delaying a requirement that towns and cities post meeting notices and minutes on municipal internet sites within a certain time period.
• Requiring a two-thirds majority vote by the legislature – instead of just a majority – in order to impose future mandates.
• Adding “services’’ to the list of purchasing contracts that the state Department of Administrative Services can enter into for municipalities.

It is my hope that by the time you read this, the General Assembly will have adopted our plan for alleviating the tax burden on residents of Connecticut’s towns and cities. If that is not the case, then I will continue to work with legislators in a bipartisan manner to pass common sense, practical mandate relief legislation.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators will continue to offer their ideas and proposals for making our state government smaller, more efficient, and less expensive. The fact that Connecticut now has a two-year state budget that Republicans oppose because it does not accomplish these goals does not mean that we are giving up the fight. I want to assure you that I will continue to work with fellow legislators to transform our state government so that it better meets our needs. As always, I hope you will continue to share your concerns and ideas with me.