A Call for Bright Ideas

November 24, 2015

By State Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton), Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore

No single person owns a monopoly on good ideas.

We each have different experiences and different viewpoints that shape the way we see the world and solve problems.

So when it comes to solving the state’s mounting budget problems, I believe every person should have an opportunity to share their ideas for bettering our state.

It’s encouraging that Democrats and the governor have finally invited Republicans into budget negotiations to help fix the mess created by single party rule. As lawmakers and state leaders are now considering many different ways to close the immediate shortfall of at least $350 million and make long-term budget changes to address future deficits, I’m also asking all people to share their own thoughts and make their voices heard by submitting their ideas through my website:survey.senatorwitkos.com.

As the governor’s own budget chief said, our state is in a “permanent state of fiscal crisis.” That admission is brutally honest, and it reflects the sad reality of our state’s finances, marred by short-sighted budgeting.

As the Speaker of the House himself confessed, “decisions are made that are sometimes not well-thought out and not fully vetted” when it comes to budgeting. He also said “mistakes” were made in the Democrats’ budget that passed this year because lawmakers did not fully understand the impact of their policy decisions in the real world. Republicans and moderate Democrats understood. That’s why they voted against the budget. However, enough Democrats voted for it to become law and now face the scrutiny of the minority party being right. But today, that’s in the past. Today we need to listen to people who have to deal with the effects of state budgets on a daily basis and who look at policies through a different lens.

We also cannot simply solve this year’s budget deficit and say our work is finished.

We are already seeing the effects of revenue deterioration on next year’s budget, which is at least $550 million in the hole next year, and the 2018/2019 biennium shows a shortfall of at least $3.6 billion.

These deficits come at a time when the state is also shifting massive operating expenses to bonding, increasing state debt, and moving expenses outside of the General Fund to make budgets balance on paper.

The perpetual cycle of unpredictability and instability is why we need long-term substantive structural changes to the way our state spends, taxes and prioritizes – exactly what Republicans are fighting for in budget negotiations.

We need to not only look for waste, but also look at policies that empower people to find success. It’s not enough to just cut spending if we are not giving people the tools they need to grow jobs, access education, survive without state assistance, and contribute to our economy.

Some people have already shared their thoughts with lawmakers. For example, families of children who rely on services provided by the Department of Developmental Services made their voices heard at a recent public hearing at the Capitol, speaking out against the governor’s budget cuts to services for those with disabilities. They emphasized that it’s not always a question of choosing between revenues and services as they called for lawmakers to look at operations within DDS to find overtime savings and to identify inefficiencies, things they say should be done before cutting services for those most in need.

Today I ask you to join the conversation. Where do you see waste? Where should state government look for savings? And what programs would help people climb out of a hole and find success?

Connecticut is at a crossroads. Either we change direction to pursue a brighter future, or we remain trapped in a cycle of increasing taxes or cutting services. I’m advocating for change, and I think everyone can contribute to building a new path to a better future for our state.

Please share your ideas at survey.senatorwitkos.com.