Wanted: A Responsible Resolution To Connecticut’s Ongoing Fiscal Crisis

March 30, 2010

Connecticut residents who follow government and politics must feel that everyone at the State Capitol is caught up in a vicious cycle, something like the plot of the movie “Groundhog Day” – only worse because what is happening is real life, not fiction.

According to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis Connecticut’s budget deficit will exceed $500 million by June 30, 2010 As a member of the Appropriations Committee – and a Republican who is not a member of the General Assembly’s super majority leadership – I share their dismay and frustration. Last week, I joined every Republican on the committee in voting against the proposed budget adjustments approved by that committee. Despite a projected $700 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, the committee narrowly approved the Democrats’ budget plan, which calls for increasing spending by nearly $350 million. That is simply irresponsible.

Last Friday, the Senate called itself into legislative session to pass a mitigation plan to close the approximately $518 million budget deficit for this fiscal year. Following hours of waiting, hours of caucuses, and a long, contentious floor debate, we finally voted at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Three Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting against the plan that Governor M. Jodi Rell rightly characterized as being too heavy on tax increases and far too light in real, achievable spending cuts. While the Senate majority managed to marshal sufficient votes to pass its deficit mitigation plan, it did not secure enough votes to overturn Governor Rell’s promised veto. As a result, the House of Representatives has so far declined to vote on the plan.

Allow me to recap. Despite last weekend’s legislative session, the state of Connecticut is still facing a projected budget deficit of several hundred million dollars for this fiscal year. The mitigation plan pushed through by the Senate majority leadership is currently in limbo. In the seemingly unlikely event of passage by the House of Representatives, Governor Rell has justifiably promised to veto it. Meanwhile, the General Assembly is poised to consider the Appropriations Committees’ proposal to significantly increase spending next year in the face of a still growing deficit.

Unlike the plot of “Groundhog Day” in which the leading character is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right, what is happening in the halls of our State Capitol is not entertaining. In real life, Connecticut citizens, businesses and our economy are being seriously hurt by the General Assembly’s ongoing repetition of the mistakes that have contributed to our overall fiscal crisis and our current, and growing, state government budget deficit.

As she has done several times over the past year, Governor Rell is responding to the situation by using her rescission authority to trim the deficit, this time by $156.8 million. These budget cuts include some she recommended in her latest mitigation plan and some included in the deficit mitigation plan passed by the Senate last weekend. It is a start but, as Governor Rell noted, there is still a lot of work to be done if we are to resolve Connecticut’s fiscal crisis.

Republicans continue to offer proposals, ideas and suggestions for restructuring state government as smaller and more affordable. Connecticut’s already overburdened taxpayers – families, individuals and businesses – cannot withstand any more massive tax increases, nor can they afford to take on more debt. Somehow, the General Assembly must put aside its partisan differences and work together, and with Governor Rell, to find common ground. After all, everyone wants the same thing – a responsible resolution to Connecticut’s current fiscal problems and a workable plan for returning prosperity to our state.

As always, I urge you to share with me your concerns about Connecticut’s budget crisis and your suggestions for resolving it. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421 or via e-mail to [email protected].

As seen in the Thomaston Express