Sunday debate: The state budget State Sen. Andrew Roraback: Government’s disconnect with reality

May 15, 2011

By Senator Andrew Roraback
Op-Ed as it appeared in the Danbury News Times on May 15, 2011

During his February State of the State address, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy paraphrased poet Robert Frost and promised to “take the road less traveled” in addressing Connecticut’s fiscal crisis.

He certainly has.

At a time when almost every other state in the nation is recognizing that to lay the foundation for a prosperous future it is necessary to engage in the difficult work of reducing the size scope and cost of government, Gov. Malloy and the Democratic legislators who voted for his budget decided that the remedy to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis was to do the opposite.

Our new two-year $40.2 billion state budget actually increases government spending from $19.3 billion in 2011 to $20.3 billion in 2013, and pays for it with a $3.7 billion tax hike — the largest in Connecticut’s history.

The governor’s 214-page budget bill actually included an astonishing 81 sections dedicated to raising existing taxes and instituting a wide array of new taxes.

Among these are broad increases to income taxes, business taxes and sales taxes, along with the elimination of several sales tax exemptions.

The proposal includes:

  • higher income taxes;
  • a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 6.35 percent;
  • a 20 percent increase in the alcohol excise tax;
  • a reduction in the property tax credit from $500 to $300;
  • a 3 cent per gallon increase in the diesel fuel tax;
  • a 7 percent luxury tax on cars over $50,000, boats over $100,000, jewelry over $5,000, and clothing over $1,000;
  • a 20 percent surcharge on the corporation tax.

Also under the proposal, clothing and footwear under $50 will be taxed for the first time, as will prescription drugs, pet grooming services, yoga studios, automotive storage, limousine services, automotive towing services, manicures and pedicures, airport valet parking services, cosmetic surgery services, spa services and online purchases.

Regrettably, even with these taxes, the budget as passed still contained a $2 billion hole because it was passed in advance of the governor having achieved all of the labor concessions his plan relies on.

Never before have the financial pressures on the hard-working middle class families of Connecticut been greater.

The Legislature and the governor have turned a deaf ear to these realities by failing to insist on the deep and painful structural changes which would position our state to compete and grow jobs in the years ahead.

There can be no dispute that it would be bitter medicine for all of us and pain would be widespread if the legislature passed a budget which actually reduced state spending.

Such bitter medicine, however, would carry with it the promise of a healthy future.

Without this medicine, we run the real and substantial risk that our economic health will continue to fail, jobs will continue to leave, and young people will choose to not remain in our state as opportunities dwindle and costs rise.

Government cannot continue to capture an ever-growing share of the hard-earned proceeds of the labor of its citizens.

The path less taken must not be one which continues us on a road of unsustainable spending growth which will quickly lead us, if left unchecked, to an end point where we may well be unable to pay for the promises we have made as they come due.

State Sen. Andrew Roraback is the Deputy Minority Leader Pro Tempore and Minority Caucus chairman of the State Senate. A Republican, he is serving his sixth term representing the 15-town 30th District, which includes Brookfield, Kent, New Milford, Warren and Washington. Sen. Roraback voted against the budget.