Budget Problems Continue To Trouble Connecticut In The New Year

January 12, 2010

The General Assembly met this week to see if there were enough legislators willing to strike down Governor M. Jodi Rell’s veto of its grossly inadequate pre-holiday deficit mitigation plan. It took less than 10 minutes to determine that there were not. I was not surprised considering that some majority Democrats joined Republican legislators, including me, in voting last month against what Governor Rell called a “feeble” attempt to reduce state spending.

I am glad to see Governor Rell’s veto stand. However, Connecticut’s fiscal problems have followed us into the new year and, with only a few weeks remaining until the beginning of the 2010 Legislative Session, it is in everyone’s best interest for the state’s legislators to work together in a bipartisan manner to address the ongoing budget crisis.

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney and House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero have written twice in the past couple of weeks to the General Assembly’s Democratic majority leadership to express their concern over the lack of urgency in addressing this situation, and to urge immediate bipartisan budget talks. In their most recent letter to the legislature’s majority leaders, Senator McKinney and Representative Cafero pointed out that Connecticut is facing a $500 million budget deficit and that the people who elected us want a solution.

The two Republican legislative leaders this week also asked for a written response to their original letter of December 29, 2009 calling for immediate bipartisan budget talks. It is troubling, but certainly understandable, that they would feel the need to do this. Senator McKinney and Representative Cafero noted that public comments attributed to Senate majority leaders appeared dismissive of their request for bipartisan budget talks, while House majority leaders did not respond at all to their December 29th letter. On a more positive note, the Republican leaders did point out that one Senate Democratic leader has twice indicated a willingness to work across party lines to resolve issues that affect all of their constituencies. Republican Senators would like to include those issues in bipartisan budget talks.

The bottom line is that the state’s ongoing fiscal problems are dangerous to Connecticut’s families and businesses. Governor Rell was absolutely correct to veto the most recent deficit mitigation plan because it called for cutting only $12 million in actual spending and delaying planned changes in the state’s estate tax. As I have said before, Connecticut residents deserve better – and they should be relieved that the Governor refused to take the easy way out by signing legislation that was, at best, inadequate.

The General Assembly will convene the 2010 regular legislative session on February 3rd. This year’s regular legislative session will end on May 5th. That is not a great deal of time to accomplish the herculean task before us, but the consequences of failure are dire. No matter how difficult, or politically inconvenient, we legislators must put aside our differences and work together to resolve the state budget crisis for the good of the people who elected us. As I have said repeatedly, I am eager for the opportunity to do just that.