Frantz: A cycle of poor policy choices

May 13, 2014

Hearst Newspapers

The people of Connecticut deserve better than what has happened to our state’s fiscal condition. Recent news of the depleted surplus and passage of a misleading budget is both disturbing and reflective of our unhealthy fiscal management. Poor decisions have lasting impacts.

As of April 1, state officials predicted Connecticut would have a surplus of more than $500 million this year. But, today we now know the truth. Surplus predictions have plummeted to less than $50 million and our fiscal future looks grim.

Consensus revenue, released by Connecticut’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), has fallen dramatically, leaving the state with a projected FY2014 surplus of only $43.4 million. This is a reduction of $461.5 million from the January consensus estimates.

The sharp decrease in the projected surplus highlights the poor planning and wishful thinking that went into the governor’s budget. Unfortunately, these overly optimistic forecasts remain in the 2015 budget passed by the General Assembly last weekend.

If all the gimmicks, one-time revenue sources and bonding were removed from the current budget the state would see an even more overwhelming and debilitating deficit of almost $1 billion. The deceptive math and egregious misrepresentations used to balance the budget create an illusion of fiscal stability that has been overly celebrated. As real numbers materialize, we see the truth. Connecticut is in trouble, and the majority party’s approach to the budget was less than viable.

In addition to the loss of revenue this year, the budget passed by the General Assembly this week creates a two-year deficit of nearly $3 billion through 2017. It also continues to utilize gimmicks, moves expenditures off the books to artificially reduce expenses, and contains $27.1 million in additional fund sweeps including raids to the Special Transportation Fund. On top of increased spending, it delays important tax breaks including the sales and use tax exemption for clothing and footwear under $50.

It is devastating to see these numbers, yet not surprising. We are stuck in a cycle of poor policy choices. Budget predictions were so off this year because people refused to see the truth. Unemployment is high, the economy is weak and tax revenues are down. The budget approved for next year only continues to mislead the taxpayers and citizens of Connecticut.

Legislators have a responsibility to make decisions that will protect the people of Connecticut today, tomorrow and for years to come. The majority party failed to meet that responsibility by passing a budget that puts the state on a path that will cause significant deficits in coming years. I urge all lawmakers to recognize these truths. We cannot base future budgets on wishful thinking; and we must be realistic to be effective.
Sen. L. Scott Frantz ( represents the 36th Senatorial District, which includes Greenwich, New Canaan and Stamford.