Ignoring Connecticut’s Fiscal Problems Will Not Make Them Go Away

December 16, 2009

Governor M. Jodi Rell called the General Assembly into special session this week to consider her plan to eliminate the $466.5 million budget deficit, so I left my job running my business and drove to the State Capitol to do the job you elected me to do.

It was a spectacular waste of time. Rather than consider the Governor’s deficit mitigation plan or the alternative proposal offered by Republican legislators, the Democratic majority simply went home. However, they promised to hold their own special session someday soon to act on a plan that, so far, apparently consists of deferring $100 million in contributions to the state employees’ already grossly underfunded pension fund, making $60 million in unidentified spending cuts, and “saving” $40 million by delaying changes to the estate tax that in reality costs the state $5.9 million. They did not say how they want to address the rest of the deficit.

The Democrats have said they do not like Governor Rell’s deficit mitigation plan because it would cost 5,000 jobs. There is no evidence to back up this claim. However, it is fact that the national recession has already cost the state 85,000 jobs – and their refusal to responsibly address a monstrous state budget deficit that could mushroom to $3.2 billion by 2012 is likely to cost Connecticut considerably more than an additional 5,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, the state continues to bleed red ink. On its face, the Democratic majority’s tentative plan is unworkable. Governor Rell is already cutting state spending to the extent she legally can without first obtaining legislative approval. Deeper cuts must come from the General Assembly. In other words, the Democratic majority cannot avoid making politically unpopular decisions by telling Governor Rell to just slash another $60 million from the budget without first voting on what to cut.

Governor Rell has made it clear that she expects the General Assembly to address the deficit by the end of the calendar year – and she has warned legislators that any deficit mitigation plan they adopt must include “real, lasting and achievable reductions in state spending.” She vowed that she will refuse to sign any deficit mitigation legislation that calls for increasing taxes and borrowing more money.

“The new taxes and fee increases contained in the current budget are not generating the levels of revenue they were predicted to bring in, so why would even higher taxes be the answer now? And the payments on the debt we are incurring will add to the burden on future generations. If we borrow more, we jeopardize our credit rating, making it more expensive to pay for important projects in the future. In fact, the state Treasurer estimates a lowered bond rating could cost the state as much as $80 million a year,” said Governor Rell.

The bottom line is that Connecticut is in trouble, and failing to move quickly to responsibly solve state government’s fiscal problems will further jeopardize our economy. Everyone who calls Connecticut home deserves better. Governor Rell has presented the General Assembly with a deficit mitigation plan. Republican legislators have offered an alternative deficit mitigation plan. Now it is time for the legislature’s Democratic majority to step up to the plate and work with Governor Rell and Republican legislators in a bipartisan, responsible, manner to abolish this deficit and put Connecticut back on solid footing.