The Courage To Bring Connecticut Back – We Did It Before And We Can Do It Again

February 19, 2010

Chris Powell, editor of the Journal Inquirer, wrote “Connecticut is collapsing under the weight of a government that has grown all out of proportion to the state’s long-stagnant population and job growth.” Mr. Powell echoes a sentiment I have repeatedly shared with you, which is that Connecticut has a serious spending problem. If current spending trends continue, you can expect at least $3 billion per year in deficits through 2014. Last year, the General Assembly’s majority pushed through a state budget that called for tax and fee increases, as well as massive borrowing against future revenue streams, to pay current expenses. As businesses and our neighbors flee the state, our tax revenues are vanishing.

Would you be shocked to know that the Nonprofit Quarterly reported that Connecticut has the highest per capita budget deficit in the nation at $1,700 per person? Bear in mind, the population of Connecticut is approximately 3.5 million. The state with next highest per capita budget deficit is California with $922, and their population is approximately 36.9 million. That is a population ten and a half times larger than Connecticut. With California on the verge of collapse, where does that leave us?

According to a 2006 report in Governing Magazine, our state employees were the second highest paid in the country. Presently, state and local employees are unionized at the managerial level and, unlike the private sector, our state government maintains a defined benefit plan with pensions unheard of in the private sector. Compare Connecticut’s government employee paid portion for health insurance of $28 to the $150 that federal employees pay. Other spending excesses include a state employed physician being paid over $190,000 to serve four children. These are but a few examples of why we are facing $58 billion in unfunded pension liability and state bankruptcy. It is time we make a stand and do what is right.

Courage empowers us to focus on the horizon in the midst of the storm. Courage is exactly what is needed to confront Connecticut’s greatest threat – a massive, persistent, budget deficit. We can no longer afford to fool ourselves and downplay the threat as mere partisan rhetoric. At stake is the very survival of Connecticut’s private sector, town budgets and our households.

To do this, we must cut government workers’ wages and benefits and change defined benefit pensions to 401K plans. We must consolidate state agencies and services and, when possible, outsource to lower cost private, nonprofit providers.

Connecticut can thrive again. We did it over a decade ago with a Democratic majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate. Back then, we managed to pass legislation that resulted in reduced costs and reformed entitlement programs. We cut taxes and positioned our schools to become the best in the nation. That balance of power is over, as well as the reforms that produced job growth and revenue surpluses.
We have the capability to recover, but it takes courage to make the hard decisions necessary. In the past, we decreased business taxes and lowered the cost of employment for businesses under similar economic circumstances. That led to job growth, increased tax revenues and state budget surpluses. We know that expensive government does not mean a better quality of life for the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Our state is incredibly beautiful and our neighbors are bright and resourceful. Together, we can bring prosperity back into our lives. You, the taxpayer, can make a difference. Our state government must be reformed, so our once vibrant economy, which made Connecticut the most innovative in America, can be revived and thrive again. Our New England character is rooted in self-reliance and a belief that the people, not the government, create opportunities.

Now is the time for the Connecticut General Assembly’s veto-proof Democratic majority to work with Republican legislators and make the difficult decisions necessary to move our state successfully through this unimaginable fiscal crisis and back on the road to prosperity. Demand that your representatives exercise fiscal discipline and control state government spending. Challenge them to make the courageous decisions that will bring Connecticut back.