The largest priority for the 2011 Legislative Session

February 9, 2011

Opening day of the 2011 Legislative Session was full of celebration and new faces , but the heavy weight we all felt on our shoulders was the responsibility of tackling a $7.6 billion dollar deficit. One thing is clear – it is unsustainable .

How are we going to pay for obligations and still make the monthly bills ? It’s a question many families have been struggling with in their own households . In order to answer the question , let’s take a step a back and see how we got here .

The simplest explanation is our state has had a history of spending more than it makes . Instead of trying to cut our spending , we foolishly borrowed money against future earnings . It’s money that we may never see and shouldn’t count on . We may have closed the 2009-2010 budget , but at what cost ? We’ve drained our rainy day fund and we will not be seeing any more stimulus money from Washington . We need to act now and start acting responsibly . Our future is dependant upon the decisions we make during the next year.

How will we achieve fiscal responsibility ?

Part of responsible governing means living within yourmeans . According to the US Census Bureau and the CT Office of Policy and Management , Connecticut’s state government spending has grown 227 percent since 1980 , increasing from $ 4 , 400 per household to more than $ 10 , 000 per family .

Compounding that problem , according to the Legislative Commissioners Office , household incomes have stayed relatively flat , which means Connecticut families can’t afford this spending spree . One way to ease the burden would be to pass a taxpayer protection act . This type of act would require lawmakers to approve the statutory definitions needed to put in a constitutional spending cap .

In addition to a spending cap , we must only borrow what we can afford to pay back . Common sense dictates this restraint , as we consider our own lives . Do we take a vacation ? Can we afford a home improvement ? Your family makes hard decisions and government should do the same . We need to restrict bonding and keep debt service below 10 percent of our annual budget .

Along with these common sense ideas , there also needs to be accountability and oversight . Twice a year, state agencies should be audited to make sure programs are not being wasteful or inefficient . And there must be transparency in how we work out our budget .

I am pleased to hear the new governor express his support for General Accounting Principles , otherwise known as GAAP , the commonly accepted way of recording and reporting finances and budget information .

Lastly , we all trim our household budgets by trimming the unnecessary . It’s the old argument what is a “ want” and what is a “ need” ?

In government , I see an opportunity to take a hard look at what are called nuisance taxes . There are 347 of these taxes and fees , and if we can cut many of them , it will mean a significant savings to taxpayers . Eliminating 100 of those taxes would save taxpayers $ 9 million dollars a year.

We need to work together now and start acting responsibly . My grandchildren and yoursare counting on us .