We Must Act Now on the State’s Budget Deficit [Commentary]

December 14, 2009

I am writing this letter out of complete frustration. In the face of a more than $8.5 billion budget deficit – the worst fiscal crisis the state has seen – the majority party muscled through a budget without any Republican votes and without the signature of Governor Jodi Rell. This budget had an inherent deficit for the current fiscal year which became apparent before the ink was even dry. This growing deficit will have a disastrous effect unless the majority party acts quickly.

Last month, the state’s Office of Policy & Management (OPM) projected a deficit of more than $466 million for the current fiscal year. On December 1st, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman’s office projected the Fiscal Year 2010 deficit to be even worse – $549 million. And our troubles won’t end here. The state’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) has already forecast a combined deficit of more than $9 billion for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Numbers don’t lie. We need to act now.

As dire as this outlook is, I am confident that we can solve it together. Last month, Governor Rell called the legislature back into a December 15th special session to address this growing deficit. She also offered her own ideas for a deficit mitigation package for the legislature’s consideration which would trim nearly $470 million from the deficit. And two weeks ago, I joined my fellow Senate and House Republicans in offering another possible solution to close the budget deficit. Our plan cuts spending by over $400 million yet avoids tax increases and protects funding for towns and cities. It also reduces the state sales tax from 6% to 5.5% giving Connecticut’s consumers a much-needed break. Although these plans may not be the only solutions, clearly inaction is no solution at all.

However, the majority party remains silent, taking a wait-and-see approach to our crisis. Not only has the majority failed to submit a viable solution to this mounting debt but even more concerning is that the majority took no action during this week’s special session. I appreciate the Democrat majority controls the legislature but with that power comes an awesome responsibility to the people of the State of Connecticut. That responsibility carries with it the obligation to ensure the people of Connecticut are put first. That obligation was not honored today.

Senate and House Republican leaders continue to stand ready, willing and able to meet with Democrat leaders to solve this problem together. The partisan sniping must stop and legislators of both parties must work together for the good of the state. This means the Democrat majority needs to open the lines of communication and talk to the minority party – not through the political rhetoric of a press release but face to face for honest, open conversations about this very serious fiscal crisis.

I urge every citizen of Connecticut to call or email their legislator – Democrat or Republican – and demand that we go into special session before the holiday break to finally, and responsibly, deal with this growing deficit. This problem cannot be passed off to tomorrow yet again. We must act today.