Republican legislators share bleak forecast for state budget deficit

January 29, 2016

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press

Republican legislators share bleak forecast for state budget deficit

BRISTOL — Republican lawmakers outlined a bleak economic state forecast for the next four years, and in particular the upcoming budget year, at Thursday night’s town hall meeting at the city’s public library.

About 40 people showed up, mostly listening as state Sen. Henri Martin, and Reps. Cara Pavalock and Whit Betts forecast an upcoming deficit that gets worse.

According to the panelists, who cited an Office of Fiscal Analysis report, 2017 will see a $552 million deficit, followed by $1.72 billion in 2018 and climbing to $2.21 billion by 2020.

“My goal is to keep people informed, to talk about the budget in a way they can relate,” Pavalock said before starting the meeting. “And, find out what they have to say.”

The event was billed as a town hall meeting, for residents to raise concerns, however, less than a handful of attendees managed to get questions or comments in front of the three panelists, who agreed the looming deficits are going to fall in taxpayers’ wallets.

The 2016-17 budget and the current $72 million that still needs to be cut from this year’s current budget will be in the forefront of Wednesday’s opening legislative session, and Betts said that’s the only thing that should be on the agenda until it’s finished.

“I have always said I don’t want to be governor, but right now I do,” Betts said. “I’d say right now we are only doing the budget and we are only doing that right now. Then we’d get it to the towns and municipalities by April, so they can do their budgets and I’d re-sign by Memorial Day.”

Though, Betts said he was joking, there was little levity Thursday night, as residents raised concerns about overstaffed government, pensions and bickering parties.

“With the trend that’s going on, I think it’s just going to get worse and turn into a multi-year crisis,” Betts said, citing loss of oil revenue with falling gas prices, the stock market’s poor showings and “income. It’s long believed that those with all the money support the government, but they’re leaving. They’ve lost confidence in our legislature, our general assembly and our credibility. We all agree we’re spending way too much, far more than we’re getting in and that hurts our credibility.”

Choruses of “I don’t blame ‘em” and “watch ‘em go”, resounded through the meeting room after Betts statement.

Martin said he was disappointed during the last budget cycle when he said Republicans were left out of crucial parts of the process.

“I thought we were going to cross party lines, but they didn’t want to work with us,” he said. “I hope we’re invited to the table this time.”

Resident Ron Giddix, suggested that the size of government be reduced, “can’t you offer to do that?”

Martin responded by saying that one of the best solutions he thinks would be to examine communities and states where economic growth is moving forward.

“We need to look at those that have less government. They often have the lowest taxes and less regulatory statutes and policies. That’s the formula,” he said.

“We have to have a spending cap,” Betts said to applause. “We can only spend what we have.”