The 2010 Legislative Session Did Not Put An End To The State’s Fiscal Problems

May 5, 2010

By the time you read this, it is quite likely that the General Assembly’s 2010 Legislative Session is history. Sadly, however, Connecticut’s fiscal problems will continue – regardless of whether or not we managed to pass a new state budget by the May 5th midnight adjournment of this year’s regular session.

As I write this column Wednesday morning, the General Assembly still has several hours left to debate and pass bills. It is possible, though by no means certain, that we will have passed a revised budget for Fiscal Year 2011 by the close of session. However, it will not be a budget that is either supported by Republican legislators or good for the state. Allow me to explain.

While Republican legislators have offered many commonsense, responsible, proposals for avoiding the $400 million budget deficit projected for the next fiscal year and the $3.4 billion deficit projected for 2012 fiscal year, we did not have enough votes in either the Senate or the House of Representatives to ensure that our ideas became law. Nevertheless, most of us were shocked when it became apparent last weekend that the Democratic majority intended to ignore all Republican ideas in its efforts to pass a new state budget by the time the General Assembly adjourned late May 5th. Instead, the General Assembly’s veto-proof majority leadership was negotiating with Governor M. Jodi Rell to forge an agreement on a new Fiscal year 2011 state budget that would rely on federal revenues, gimmicks and better-than-expected tax collections in order to avoid much-needed spending cuts and structural reform.

That is not good news for anyone. Refusing to pass a budget that significantly cuts spending and shrinks the size of state government only postpones the inevitable. Ultimately, the General Assembly and the next Governor will have no choice but to make the difficult, politically unpopular, decisions necessary to put Connecticut back on solid fiscal ground. Meanwhile, neglecting to do the right thing now just prolongs the suffering for individuals, families and businesses who have already endured so much hardship during this recession.

So, I agreed with my fellow Republicans that I could not in good conscience support a state budget that fails to address Connecticut’s needs. For example, it was made clear to us that none of the cost saving ideas offered by Republican legislators – such as state agency consolidations and a voluntary retirement program for longtime state employees – would be part of the legislative majority’s new state budget.

I had hoped to be able to vote for a responsible state budget that incorporated the best ideas of both Republicans and Democrats to close the projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2011, avoid the deficit expected for Fiscal Year 2012, and set the stage for a more fiscally secure future by making some necessary changes in the way state government operates.

However, while I am disappointed, I still believe that the General Assembly still has the opportunity to reinvent state government so that it can deliver necessary services at a more affordable cost to the taxpayers. Frankly, the time is coming when we will have no choice. The General Assembly cannot continue to rely on higher taxes, massive borrowing, fiscal gimmicks and one-time revenues forever. Nor can Connecticut’s individual citizens, families and businesses continue indefinitely to support a state government bureaucracy that has grown too big. When that day comes, I and other Republican legislators will gladly work in a bipartisan manner to make the difficult decisions necessary to restore prosperity to our state.