New Governor & General Assembly Will Continue To Deal With State’s Fiscal Problems

September 14, 2010

Those who follow state government news were undoubtedly heartened to learn that Connecticut closed out the last fiscal year with a nearly $450 million surplus. Unfortunately, we are looking at an expected deficit of $63 million for this fiscal year, and a $3 billion projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2012.

That means that our next Governor, and our next General Assembly, will have to hit the ground running when the 2011 Legislative Session opens in January. In my opinion, the most important job – really the only important job – facing the General Assembly next year will be to find responsible, workable solutions to Connecticut’s ongoing fiscal problems. It would be a mistake to assume that a slowly improving economy will be sufficient to save our next Governor or legislators from the need to make tough, probably unpopular, decisions.

Recent media reports show the various constituencies of state government understand that, news of budget surpluses notwithstanding, Connecticut’s immediate fiscal future is far from rosy. Municipal leaders are worried about not getting as much in state funding as they get now. Business leaders are worried about the effect tax increases would have on their ability to keep their doors open and their workers employed. Frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who wants to pay higher taxes. Believe me, I understand. As a taxpayer with a family to support and a small business to run, raising taxes is not something I will support. Nevertheless, I think we all have to understand that resolving Connecticut’s fiscal problems is going to demand painful sacrifices from all of us.

As I have said in the past, I strongly believe that the first step to restoring fiscal sanity is to admit that we cannot afford to continue supporting a state government that has grown too big and too expensive. What we must do is reinvent our state government; that is, make it smaller, less expensive to operate and more responsive to our needs. Among other things, that will mean cutting spending and, where feasible, consolidating state agencies. We have to be willing to decide what government services and programs we cannot do without, and which ones we are willing to reduce or eliminate. Will making those decisions will be difficult and painful? Of course. But the most important question we must ask is whether having the courage to restructure our state government will make Connecticut a better place to live and work. I strongly believe the answer is “yes.”

Undoubtedly, many people wonder how we can have a budget surplus now while projecting a budget deficit for the near future. According to information from Governor M. Jodi Rell’s office, a gradual improvement in the state’s economy, higher than expected tax revenues and the imposition of tight fiscal controls allowed the state close out the last budget year in the black. Still, even with the surplus, the state must still borrow money to balance this year’s budget. The good news is that the surplus allows the state to borrow less money than we expected to need.

Connecticut is facing many important challenges. How we respond will shape the future of our state for many years to come. As always, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue, and the many others, that are important to our state. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or via e-mail to [email protected].

Senator Rob Kane represents the 32nd Senatorial District, which includes the communities of Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Middlebury, Oxford, Seymour, Southbury, Thomaston, Roxbury, Watertown and Woodbury.