Connecticut Is Not Out Of The Woods Yet

October 22, 2009

It has only been a couple of weeks since the General Assembly passed implementing legislation for Connecticut’s $37.6 billion biennial budget, and already the state is facing a $388.5 million deficit for this fiscal year.

Sadly, I am not surprised. Connecticut is still struggling to emerge from a national recession that affects every business and family in our state. According to the state Department of Labor, we lost 6,600 jobs in September and the state’s unemployment rate is now at 8.4 percent.

It should be obvious to everyone by now that Connecticut’s taxpayers – that is, businesses and families – cannot afford to continue paying for big government spending. I shared their disappointment and dismay when, rather than make responsible spending reductions, the General Assembly concluded months of negotiations, meetings and delays by passing a budget that relies on borrowing, one-time gimmicks and tax increases to keep our government running.

It took the General Assembly until October to finish work on a state budget that should have been completed before the regular legislative session ended in early June. Now, it seems likely that the General Assembly will be back in special session in the near future to address the $388.5 million budget deficit recently projected by the state Office of Policy and Management. Governor M. Jodi Rell is already working on the deficit mitigation plan she will ask the legislature to pass. The Governor noted that she “will also need the commitment and cooperation of the Legislature to finally bring real and lasting reductions to state spending. Even greater fiscal discipline is now required. It is early in the budget year – and we must address this deficit before it swells.”

Connecticut’s citizens have every right to expect the General Assembly to – finally – do what they are being forced to do: cut back on expenses. Back in September, I voted against the state budget because I believe it will cost our state more jobs and, consequently, drive both families and businesses out of Connecticut. Frankly, it was unconscionable to pass a budget that raises taxes by approximately $1 billion and borrows approximately $2 billion.

When legislators reconvened in October to pass the legislation necessary to actually implement the budget, I voted against all but one of the five bills brought before us. The single implementer bill I supported gives school districts another year before requiring them to conduct in-school suspensions, instead of sending suspended students home. I welcomed Governor Rell’s decision to veto one of the implementer bills passed by the General Assembly because, among other provisions, it would have exempted the Judicial Branch from budget cuts that are being required of other state agencies. Again, the bottom line is that we have to somehow develop the discipline needed to cut spending, even when it is not easy.

Connecticut is not out of the woods – and the decisions we make now will affect the families and businesses that call our state home for a very, very long time. That is why I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues to re-invent state government so that it is smaller, more efficient, and more cost-effective. As always, I welcome opportunities to discuss issues that affect our state. If you have any questions or concerns about our new state laws, please contact my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or e-mail me at [email protected].