So-Called Deficit Mitigation Plan Is Not A Welcome Holiday Gift For Connecticut Citizens

December 22, 2009

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a joyous holiday season and a wonderful new year. However, I wish I could tell you that the General Assembly as a whole had done its best this year to ensure that the quality of life in our state will indeed be more joyful in 2010 than it was this year.

As you know, the legislature met in special session twice this month to address a budget deficit that has been projected at more than $400 million, and growing. The first special session day we held last week was a waste of time. The outcome of the special session day we held this week was a travesty.

Like every other Republican legislator, and even some Democrats, I voted against the legislative majority’s attempt to resolve our fiscal problems by passing a plan that cuts only about $12 million in actual spending. Among other things, the deficit mitigation plan adopted earlier this week delays planned changes in the state’s estate tax. The General Assembly’s Democratic majority – in what Republican legislators see as a major abdication of the legislature’s responsibility – said it is now up to Governor M. Jodi Rell to figure out how to cut state spending enough to eliminate the deficit.

As I write this, legislators do not yet know whether Governor Rell will veto this most recent deficit mitigation plan. However, her immediate response was scathing. In part, Governor Rell stated: “I am profoundly disappointed – again – at the lack of leadership and lack of action by the Democratic majority in Hartford to address the state’s budget deficit. The hard-working taxpayers of Connecticut have every right to be just as disappointed and angry. They are faced with a bill for a state government that has become bloated and unaffordable. Instead of paring back on spending, the majority continues to run from their responsibility. They simply cannot cut and they apparently cannot be shamed, embarrassed or criticized into doing so. But they certainly can point fingers. It is always someone else’s fault and somebody else’s job to clean up the mess . . . It is time they stop the rhetoric and the finger-pointing and take their responsibilities seriously as elected officials and make the tough decisions.”

I agree with Governor Rell. She offered a comprehensive deficit mitigation plan, as did Republican legislators. Rather than consider either of those plans, the legislature’s Democratic majority quickly ended last week’s special session with a promise to quickly return with a plan of their own. Earlier this week, the legislature’s majority leadership summoned the General Assembly back into special session, the end result being adoption of a deficit mitigation plan that does not, in fact, come close to actually mitigating the deficit.

Connecticut residents deserve better. The truth is that Governor Rell is already cutting state spending to the extent that she legally can without first obtaining legislative approval. Furthermore, she is asking the state employee unions to once again discuss ways their members can help the state save money. An earlier agreement with state employee unions resulted in a one-year wage freeze and a requirement that each unionized worker take at least seven unpaid furlough days during this two-year budget period. Governor Rell plans to renew her discussions with state employee unions in the hope of securing additional concessions beyond the $700 million in savings produced by the original agreement.

As always, I am ready to work with Governor Rell and my legislative colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to address our fiscal problems and adopt a responsible plan to both abolish the deficit and restore prosperity to our state.