Can You Feel The Political Winds Shifting?

July 15, 2015

Have you seen the headlines lately?

They aren’t a pretty sight.

Even those who do not follow state issues are opening their eyes.

  • A George Mason University report ranks Connecticut 47th in fiscal health. Why? Our unfunded pension liability is an unfathomable $76 billion. Yes, billion with a “b”.
  • Top corporations headquartered here are considering leaving Connecticut. Why? Gov. Malloy and majority Democrats just approved the second largest tax increase in history. Government spending is going up by an unsustainable 7 percent. This tax hike targets businesses right on the heels of the largest tax increase in state history. You surely remember that tax hike – it happened just four years ago.
  • In the state senate, the tax hikes passed by a razor-thin, 19 to 17 margin. The margin of passage in the House of Representatives was a handful of votes. Some common sense Democrats joined with Republicans in voting “no” after being overwhelmed with calls and emails from angry and attentive taxpayers. The outcome was close, but not enough.

My question to you is, “Have we reached a tipping point?”

The answer is a resounding “yes.”

  • The discontent is reminiscent of the year the income tax was enacted.
  • Major newspapers across Connecticut have commended Republicans for offering the most responsible budget alternative. Our plan contained no new taxes, protected services for our most vulnerable residents, and prioritized where your money is spent. Read it at
  • Town Hall Meetings were packed with more upset taxpayers than ever before.
  • My “no” vote on the budget bill generated enthusiastic responses from fed up taxpayers whom I had never heard from previously.

That frustration is justified, because you can expect the tax and spending hikes to continue in the near future. Gov. Malloy’s top budget advisor says Connecticut is in a “permanent fiscal crisis.” In a year’s time, we could face another huge budget deficit. We will remain in “crisis” mode as long as budgets are passed which do little to change the structure of how our state taxes and spends. For example:

  • In all, $301.4 million in tax cuts promised during the last year for low-income families will be taken away in this budget.
  • Money for roads, bridges and rail may not actually get to their intended places for years
  • Money that is supposed to be returned to towns through this budget may also never reach its destination.

Despite the governor’s “no new taxes” promise, this budget contains a variety of “creative” ways to take more money out of your pockets. Consider the following:

  • The sales tax exemption for clothing/footwear under $50 has been repealed, representing a $280 million tax hike over two years.
  • The sales tax holiday has been limited, imposing another tax hike on families.
  • The property tax credit has been reduced from $300 to $200. Two-thirds of state residents who currently use this credit have annual incomes of less than $75,000.

The budget was crafted by Democrats behind closed doors. Republican input was offered repeatedly, but was shut out. The taxpayers were left voiceless as a result.

That’s a real shame. Good policies happen when both parties work together. Just look at what we accomplished this session when we listened to each other:

  • A Long Island Sound Blue Plan creates a roadmap to preserve our environmental assets.
  • Minimum budget requirement legislation allows school districts that have lower enrollment to reduce their budgets accordingly.
  • The smarter balance tests in 11th grade will be replaced with a nationally-recognized college readiness assessment and a mastery test.
  • The law regarding concussion prevention in school athletics was strengthened.
  • The State Department of Education will now help parents and boards of education detect and intervene on behalf of students with dyslexia.
  • A new law stops someone who is convicted of elder abuse from inheriting anything from a deceased victim.
  • A new law protects consumers by banning variable rate electricity contracts.

If we can cooperate on these issues, we should be able to do so on the state budget.

So where do we go from here? After the last election, there was a dramatic increase in Republican-held seats in the state house and an important gain in the state senate. Next year, I hope voters will remember the tax hikes of 2015. Those who voted for this budget should be held accountable. After all, it’s your money.

The political winds in Connecticut are shifting. I can feel it, and I hope you can, too.

*Sen. Boucher represents the 26th Senatorial District, which includes Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton. On the web: .