Sen. Kelly: The speech the Democrats would not let me make [Shelton Herald]

June 16, 2015

Editorial as it appeared in the Shelton Herald

Imagine a state budget that lives within its means and sets a framework for fiscal responsibility, more jobs and doesn’t impose new taxes; that makes a billion dollar investment in transportation each year for the next 30 years without tolls.

Imagine a budget that repeals the income tax on pension income under $75,000; that doesn’t shred the safety net, and encourages aging in place to save money.

Imagine a budget that puts the public interest before the special interest; a budget that is honest, compassionate and fair.

The Republican Blueprint for Prosperity did just that. It showed that there is a better way for government to meet its core responsibilities and it did so without new taxes.

The Blueprint for Prosperity created a framework for a stable and consistent tax base. It made a commitment to maintain and operate a transportation infrastructure for the 21st Century.

It kept the social safety net in place, protected our seniors, and repealed the income tax on pension income of less than $75,000.

It was a budget we could afford and one that kept and created jobs to put Connecticut back to work. But our budget was totally ignored, called “bogus” and shut out of the process.

Retroactive $2b tax increase

The result is a $2 billion retroactive tax increase Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic leaders negotiated in secret. Now, the Democrats own it.

Since this governor took office in 2011 your taxes have been hiked $11 billion. Instead of tax cuts, this budget kills jobs. Recently, Sikorsky cut 1,400 good-paying jobs — 180 of them in Connecticut alone — and GE, Aetna and Travelers are all threatening to leave and take their jobs with them.

Malloy’s budget shreds the safety net and places seniors at risk in their homes, and raises taxes aimed squarely at the middle class.

Four years ago we heard the governor explain that we could not cut nor tax our way out of the budget mess he confronted. He coined the “shared sacrifice” partnership with taxpayers and government stakeholders to get through that problem.

As a result, the taxpayers were handed the state’s largest tax increase. An increase each and every one of us has paid.

(Editor’s note: By “government stakeholders,” Kelly is referring to state employees.)

Not sharing in the sacrifice

But not all stakeholders have kept their promise and fulfilled their “shared sacrifice” pledge. As a result, those stakeholders have shortchanged the state budget by almost 25% of their pledge — amounting to more than $250 million in each of the last four years.

That’s a billion dollar gift to those stakeholders. Image if you didn’t pay 25% of your state income tax each year? You would be subject to interest, penalties, a lien on your property and wages would be attached.

The governor’s administration would be on you like a dog on the meat wagon to get the income tax owed. But when it comes to his stakeholders, well that is a different story.

He says it would be “unfair” to go back to that special interest and ask them to honor their broken pledge. I disagree.

I believe it is unfair to go back to honest taxpayers who have kept their pledge to pay the largest tax increase in our history and say you haven’t given enough. I cannot. I will not harm middle-class taxpayers.

‘Nothing left to tax’

Judges and managers get 3% increases, the governor’s staff got raises to the tune of $1 million, and Malloy proposes to hire 135 more state employees — as if the taxpayer can afford the one’s we have.

Wherever I go, people express outrage about taxes and the high cost of living in Connecticut, whether it’s a discussion with employees at the Big Y deli, or the Stratford resident along the Memorial Day parade route who showed me his empty pockets and said, “I have nothing left to tax.”

Middle-income family and working poor taxpayers are not ATM machines. Our families are struggling, trying to pay bills, meet mortgage payments, get to work on time and raise children.

But it is getting more and more difficult. They are crying uncle — “enough with the taxes!”

Spending cap avoided, and more debt

Here we are four years later, $11 billion in new taxes, spending unabated and now a redefined spending cap — yes, Malloy is not honoring that promise either — so government can spend even more.

Sadly, there is already a projected shortfall, $1.6 billion deficit in the next two-year budget. I would never ask my children to pay my household budget. But that is what the majority party and this governor is doing when it puts more debt on the future.

I cannot and I will not support a budget that doesn’t honor the state’s constitutional spending cap nor live within its means. The rest of Connecticut families must stay with in a household budget. Why shouldn’t state government?

State Sen. Kevin Kelly is a Republican in his third term representing the 21st District, which includes all of Shelton as well as parts of Monroe, Seymour and Stratford. He lives in Stratford and is an attorney.

According to Kelly, Democratic leadership in the Senate sought to limit debate when there was nearly an hour left in the legislative session on June 3. Had debate continued, Kelly said, he would have been able to voice his district’s views on this budget.