Reflecting on Opening Day

February 11, 2014

As I sat in the front row in the Hall of the House of Representatives listening to Governor Malloy give his State of the State address, I was struck by his comments concerning critics and bad news.

During Governor Malloy’s address he stated, “We hear plenty of critics now.” He also said repeatedly that, “We should not listen,” to those critics. Obviously, everyone always wants to hear good news, and we never want to hear about the bad. However, when we talk about government, politics and society we have to be realistic. We cannot ignore the bad news. We cannot ignore our critics.

No one wants to be a Debbie Downer, especially not at the start of a new legislative session. But, we also have to recognize the reality of our state’s financial situation – a reality full of many challenges.

While the immediate horizon looks promising, it’s what’s on the other side of the hill that is scary. Of course, I am talking about our state’s projected deficit beginning in FY 2016 and the state of jobs across Connecticut.

In just one year, we can expect to see a budget deficit of well over $2 billion. Additionally, we have a 7.4 percent unemployment rate and there are currently 23,500 less residents employed now than when Governor Malloy took office in January 2011. Although Connecticut gained jobs over the past three years, we are still way behind in the number of lost jobs; and the net result is negative.

With these numbers, plus the reputation as an unfriendly state to do business in and a proposal by the governor to initiate the highest minimum wage in the country, I do not know how our economy can endure.

I attended several economic summits prior to the start of the legislative session and the consensus I heard is that our economy is improving at a snail’s pace. We will see positive growth, “As long as the legislature doesn’t screw it up,” as one economist said. How’s that for a pep talk?

The governor’s State of the State address highlighted many initiatives that sounded great, but one serious question remains. How are we going to pay for it all?

We cannot continue making promises and bilking Connecticut taxpayers to grow the size of government. We are the most indebted state in the nation, which is not something to be proud of.

To quote the governor, “We have to live within our means.” The proposals outlined by the governor could not possibly all fall within our means. Rather, they will stretch us to a breaking point.

My words are not intended to hurt, but rather to help. Criticism and different perspectives should always be welcomed by our leaders. Whether or not you agree with someone, opposing input should be respected in all walks of life.

When I receive dissenting opinions from readers of my weekly columns, I truly try to see things from the perspectives that you share with me, and I grow from these dialogues. I believe that criticisms should not be ignored, but rather used to better yourself, strengthen your arguments and shape your decisions.

And sometimes we have to acknowledge the bad news to make good news a reality.