Senator Witkos Launches “Tell the Truth” Campaign

July 15, 2013

Campaign to Provide Public with More Complete Understanding of Current Issues Facing Connecticut

Hartford – State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton) launched the “Tell the Truth” campaign to combat misleading and distorted claims currently circulating in news coverage. This initiative is intended to push back on a series of statements from the Governor’s office, the legislative majority office and other agencies/associations that do not tell the whole story and to provide members of the public with a more complete understanding about the complex issues facing the state of Connecticut.

Three recent examples of misinformation that Senator Witkos is focusing on:

1. Changes to State’s Contribution for Retired Teachers’ Healthcare Fund

Another case of misinformation comes from the Connecticut Education Association (CEA). A recent memo was sent to teachers regarding a change in the state’s contribution for the retired teachers’ health insurance fund. Normally, this cost is covered in thirds – one third by the state, one third by the Teachers Retirement Board Health Fund and the last third by the individual retired teacher.

The memo encouraged teachers to contact legislators who voted for restoring the state’s portion of the health care and directed them to a vote tally on the Connecticut General Assembly website. What the CEA didn’t tell their members was that the provision changing the state’s contribution was part of the entire budget package and not a stand-alone appropriation.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth points out that the Governor initially proposed not funding the state’s share of these expenses for the next two years. That means the state’s funding would have gone from 33% to 0%.

The final budget that passed in the Senate and House included funding to pay 25% of these costs, which is less than the normal 33% but also better than the Governor’s proposal of 0%.

Republicans voted against the budget as a whole, not this provision in particular. In fact, Republicans introduced an amendment (LCO# 8690) which would have increased the amount for retired teachers’ healthcare expenses back to the full 33%. Unfortunately, our proposal was defeated by a party line vote.

Our state made a promise to our teachers, and I intend on making sure we keep that promise.

2. Inheriting Budget Deficits from Previous Republican Administrations

Governor Malloy has repeatedly claimed that he inherited budget deficits from previous administrations, and they are to blame for the fiscal woes of the state.

Let’s be clear on just what Governor Malloy inherited and from whom. The year was 2009, and it was August 31st – two months past the new fiscal year. Governor Rell was running the state on Executive Contingency Orders, which is the term used to define how the state operates when there is no budget in place. Democrats were demanding additional spending and tax increases while Governor Rell and Republicans supported a cut in government spending.

Ultimately, the Democrats in Hartford passed a budget that increased spending, raised taxes, counted on one time revenues and assumptions that we (the Republicans) knew would never materialize. The budget passed both chambers on a party line vote – Democrats voting for it while Republicans voted against it. Unfortunately, rather than vetoing this poorly crafted budget, Governor Rell allowed it to become law without her signature.

As the saying goes, the chickens came home to roost. The predicted budget fell flat, resulting in a deficit of $6.2 billion.

When Governor Malloy took office in January 2011, there was much hope that he could return the state’s budget from a deficit to a surplus and follow through with Executive Order #1 which he announced in his first address to the General Assembly – that being the introduction of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Remember the Governor promised a “shared sacrifice” budget where there would be a mix of budget cuts, state employee concessions and tax increases. Ultimately there were not budget cuts (spending increased over 7%). The Governor promised $8.3 billion in concessions from state employees through the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) agreement.

When all was said and done, the concessions amounted to $3.5 billion in savings – less than half that was originally estimated by his administration. Lastly, the Governor proposed and the Democrats voted for (and once again not a single Republican supported) a $3.8 billion tax increase, the single largest increase in the history of the state of Connecticut.

Two years later, the Governor is now preceded by his own two-year budget, and he must take responsibility for the state fiscal situation.

According to recent figures, the state budget is currently experiencing a surplus due to one-time revenue sources related to the January 1st federal fiscal cliff.

However, the outlook for the next two years is much grimmer. In fact, the projected deficit is expected to total $1.3 billion during this time.

3. Gas Tax Increase

Republican legislators from across the state gathered signatures for a petition to stop increases in the state gas tax and diesel fuel tax scheduled for July 1st.

First introduced in 1980 by Democratic Governor Ella Grasso, the gas tax has increased from 2 percent to now 8.1 percent.

Instead of stopping the gas tax increase, Governor Malloy and the Democrats respond by saying that many of the Republicans gathering signatures also supported gas tax legislation in 2005.

I was one of the legislators that supported the major transportation legislation that focused on purchasing 342 new Metro-North rail cars that was accompanied by an increase in the gross receipts tax 8 years into the future. Negotiations on the budget for that year also provided a no tax increase general fund budget. Mass transit was a major focus of the special session, including $485 million in bonding for rail-related improvements. At the time, the average cost of gas at ‘retail’ was $2.40 (spiked average due to Hurricane Katrina).

At that time, the gas tax revenues were dedicated to the Special Transportation Fund for an extremely important task: maintaining and repairing our roads and bridges.

During the Malloy administration, the Special Transportation Fund has been raided repeatedly to grow government bureaucracy. In fact, more than $109 million will be transferred from the STF to the General Fund over the next two years.

Republican legislators have been laser focused on the gas tax issue for several years. Knowing that tax increases depress the economy instead of growing it, Republicans have been working to repeal the gas tax increase.

In 2008, Governor Rell and the legislature eliminated a 0.5 percent increase which serves as an example of what could have happened if Governor Malloy and the legislative majority were serious about limiting the impact on Connecticut motorists.

In 2012, Republican Senator Len Suzio from Meriden led a successful campaign with the help of Connecticut citizens across the state to place a ‘cap’ of $3.00 on the price of a gallon of wholesale gasoline that will be taxed. This would not have been possible without the support of citizens across our state reaching out to legislative leaders (Democrats) demanding that the taxing of hard working, middle class families must stop.

This year, a Republican amendment (LCO# 8651) which was introduced during debate of the budget was unfortunately defeated along party lines. Republicans supported the removal of the increase while Democrats supported the increase in the gas tax.

We had the money to maintain our roads and bridges. Governor Malloy raided the fund and intends to cover the debt by raising our taxes. This is outrageous and I stand firmly against it.