Fasano, Klarides Op-ed: Republicans outline ‘Blueprint for Prosperity’

May 12, 2015

Op-ed by State Senator Len Fasano and State Representative Themis Klarides, featured in Stamford Advocate

The core obligation of state government is to help people access the tools they need to succeed in life and to help support and protect the most vulnerable.

Under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut has failed to meet that obligation.

This year the governor proposed a budget that institutes draconian cuts to core social services, weakens our business environment, and hurts families across the state. The governor has given us a budget that’s out of balance and that exceeds the state spending cap. It is a budget the state legislature legally cannot vote on, even if we wanted to.

The governor is checked out of Connecticut. And in his absence, Republicans are stepping up to take the lead. We recently unveiled our Blueprint for Prosperity, a two-year budget plan that not only balances and is under the spending cap, it also includes real tax relief and restores millions of dollars in funding for core social services.

Republicans often are accused of “not caring” about the middle and working class. But Republicans in Connecticut have a new message to share: we do care, and we put people before politics.

Our plan restores more than $18 million for mental health care and treatment that the governor plans to underfund. We set aside $15 million to help alleviate the wait list for services for the developmentally disabled. We restore funding to senior care programs including Alzheimer’s respite care and nursing home personal needs allowances. We reduce burdens on our local hospitals. And we allow 12,000 low-income residents who cannot afford care through the state health exchange to keep their current health insurance that Governor Malloy plans to cut.

We also provide tax relief to help people keep more of their hard earned money in their own pockets. We restore the sales tax exemption on clothing and shoes under $50 to help families pay for everyday needs and children’s clothing. We restore an income tax exemption for single filers that the governor cuts. We phase out the income tax on pensions under $100,000 to help retirees in a state where expenses are exceptionally high for seniors. We also support employers by eliminating the governor’s proposed cap on tax credits that help local businesses, eliminating the corporate tax surcharge and eliminating the business entity tax.

Our plan rejects the governor’s cuts to state parks, libraries, local tourism venues, the resident state trooper program, affordable housing, youth centers and programs, veterans’ funeral honors, as well as farmland, open space and historic preservation.

We also fund the Connecticut Republican’s 30-year transportation plan for the state of Connecticut that dedicates $67 billion to transportation projects, without relying on any new taxes or tolls.

So how do we get there?

We reprioritize spending, we propose long-term solutions to cut waste, and we ask the governor to live up to the “shared sacrifice” promises he made to find labor savings when he instituted a historic tax hike on the people of Connecticut. We also lay out a long-term plan to reduce state overtime expenses and run our state more efficiently. We are not asking for excessive or unrealistic concessions. We are asking to hold the governor to his promise and to set a new path for state savings. A one-year wage freeze for state employees in exchange for vital social services represents the prioritization and hard choices Connecticut needs to make in a time of financial crisis.

Republican and Democrat legislators agree that the governor’s proposed budget is unacceptable. Republicans have taken the lead to lay out a plan that is honest, realistic and farseeing. We are also open to collaboration and hope that in a time of fiscal crisis, legislators on both sides of the aisle can come together and stand up to the governor’s poor leadership.

A strong state is one that is accountable to the current generation and to future generations. And if we want to fix our budget today and create a better future for tomorrow, we have to change the way Connecticut operates. We have to run government more efficiently so that taxpayer funds can go where they need to — to help people. We also welcome working together, with both Republicans and Democrats, to reach this shared goal. We all want to achieve prosperity for everyone, and our Blueprint is a step in the right direction.

Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven) is the Republican leader of the state Senate. Representative Themis Klarides (R-Derby) is the Republican leader of the state House of Representatives. The Blueprint for Prosperity was proposed jointly by both Senate & House caucuses.