No Way To Run A Business, A Household, Or The State Of Connecticut

December 16, 2009

Rarely has Connecticut’s legislature convened as many times as it has this year just to discuss the state budget. Here’s what happened at our eighth budget session: The legislators who control 70 percent of the vote, the budget process, and the legislative agenda walked into the State Capitol, opened the session, banged the gavel, and left without doing anything to address our dire fiscal situation. I was incredulous.
Our state is drowning in red ink

Despite the majority’s passage of a “balanced budget”, our state still has a substantial deficit

The General Assembly’s majority legislators continue to put their heads in the sand and pretend that somehow, some way, the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis will just go away. Rather than heed Governor M. Jodi Rell’s call for a special session to address our $466.5 million deficit, they chose to ignore the flood tide of red ink drowning our state.

It seems to me that the strategy at the State Capitol is to keep state employment, wages, and benefits high and immune to any meaningful cuts, while turning a deaf ear to the massive layoffs, wage cuts, house foreclosures, and business closings that have become commonplace in the private sector. The legislature’s continued resistance to taking meaningful action simply prolongs the state’s fiscal problems and greatly lessens our chances for a robust recovery.

Governor Rell’s response to the Democrats’ lack of decision-making ability was right on target and reflected what so many Republican legislators have been predicting for the past year. Three months ago, I voted against the budget that is now in deficit because, rather than shrink state government, it called for spending even more than last year, raising taxes and fees, borrowing, draining the Rainy Day Fund, and using one-time revenues to cover operating expenses. As I anticipated, passing this budget put our towns and cities in a precarious situation and further threatened our already beleaguered state economy. It now looks like the majority will propose further raising taxes, and perhaps even more borrowing, to close the deficit.

As Governor Rell said in response to legislative leaders’ recent refusal to heed her call to hold a special deficit mitigation session: “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.”

To underscore the Governor’s concerns, Moody’s and Fitch’s investor services have already revised their outlook on Connecticut’s general obligation bonds from stable to negative. This clearly reflects the legislative majority’s lack of political will to cut spending in the face of declining revenues – unlike nearly every other state legislature.

This is no way to run a business, household, or our state. The citizens of Connecticut do not deserve this, and neither do the municipal government leaders who have already set their budgets for the year. This recession has forced so many families, businesses, non-profit organizations, and others in Connecticut to do more with a lot less. Those in Hartford, who are insulated from the reality of what is happening, do not understand that in economic crises, many small business owners go without pay, put their families at risk and sacrifice, so that their businesses and employees can survive. They have the right to expect their state government to do the same. So far, they have been sorely disappointed.