Expanding Government When We Can Least Afford it

March 31, 2011

Each day the news is filled with stories surrounding Connecticut’s economy and what Governor Malloy and the legislature plan to do. Members of the General Assembly are currently constructing plans to take action on the state’s $6.2 billion deficit and to balance the state’s budget. While some hope to close this gap through reductions in the size and cost of government, others have a very different plan for our state’s families and businesses.

At a time when taxpayers can least afford it, a bill has been proposed that creates a new state agency. Senate Bill 1106, An Act Concerning the Establishment of the Department of Early Education and Child Development, would do exactly that. This legislation would establish a new agency with new employees and its own commissioner. While the goals of this agency are laudable and would indeed serve our state’s children, many of its proposed services are redundant with those already provided by existing state agencies. Connecticut simply cannot afford this, or any, expansion of government at this time.

How can we support increases in government, when the state and taxpayers cannot fund current spending levels for programs? Instead, members of the legislature should be looking to consolidate and cut the size of state agencies. By consolidating certain agencies, private contractors and businesses can take over those services and do a more efficient job at a lower cost. These types of actions are aimed at ensuring necessary programs while protecting taxpayers and balancing the state budget in a responsible way.

Senate Bill 1106 would also reach deeper into every taxpayer pocket because it allows for a group of private vendors to be unionized. Those vendors contracting with the state through ‘Care 4 Kids,’ would effectively become state employees. More state employees and more government expansion!

‘Care 4 Kids’ is a state subsidized program run by the Department of Social Services (DSS) to assist low-to-moderate income families in Connecticut with child care costs. Through the program, providers – who must be eligible relatives caring for children – receive a weekly reimbursement of between $116 and $304 per child.

If unionized, these ‘Care 4 Kids’ providers will be new state employees, would pay union dues, have negotiating rights, and receive state benefits and a pension. Most likely they would be represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). My concern here is that these child care providers are already on a limited budget and will be forced to use a portion of their weekly reimbursement to pay for union dues, meaning less money will be devoted to actually caring for children. Moreover, although union memberships are at a record low, looking to private care providers to bolster those numbers is not the solution.

Just as Connecticut cannot afford to establish a new state agency, the state cannot afford to take on more public employees. Both the governor and many in the legislature are seeking out concessions from our unions to help close the deficit, so expanding membership is simply not feasible.

Families and businesses across the state are cutting their own expenses to stay afloat, and our state needs to do the same. Senate Bill 1106 comes with too large a price tag and I will not ask taxpayers to cover the expense. As always, I will continue my work in passing good legislation to improve our quality of life.