State misled by Gov. Lamont [Rep-Am Editorial] 

August 1, 2019

Editorial as it appeared in the Republican-American

Connecticut Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden made an interesting announcement July 25. Mr. Wooden “celebrated his first successful bond refinancing that will save Connecticut taxpayers $42.9 million (in interest costs) over the next 10 years,” CT News Junkie reported July 29. The news was cheered by Gov. Ned Lamont, in a July 26 news-media release about this and other fiscal and economic issues.

State Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, also welcomed Mr. Wooden’s announcement, but took issue with Gov. Lamont’s news-media release, characterizing it as “misleading.” Sen. Fasano made many valid points against the governor. Connecticut remains fundamentally troubled.

Among other things, Sen. Fasano knocked Gov. Lamont for stating that Connecticut’s 2019-21 budget, which the Democratic governor and the Democratic legislative majorities approved in June, is responsible for the balance of the state’s rainy day fund approaching a record high. Mr. Wooden had asserted the balance played a role in the refinancing.

Sen. Fasano correctly noted the balance – which is set to hit $2 billion, as the Republican-American reported July 2 – largely is a result of the 2017 budget act approved by then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

It mandated that certain excess income-tax payments be deposited in the rainy day fund. This provision, more than anything else, led to the balance’s increase, according to a July 1 News Junkie story.

 Sen. Fasano also noted that Gov. Lamont’s news-media release cited as examples of good public policy the 2019-21 budget, as well as minimum-wage and paid family-and-medical-leave mandates recently approved by the governor and Democratic legislators.

 In reality, the budget papers over Connecticut’s fundamental problem: state government’s unsustainable personnel costs. It also has its share of wasteful spending and reliance on gimmickry.

The unpleasant aspects are not entirely Gov. Lamont’s fault, but the budget falls well short of the governor’s rosy picture.

Meanwhile, the mandates stand to cause further trouble in a state that has had its share of economic problems.

Citing U.S. Department of Commerce data, the Republican-American reported July 26 that in the first quarter of 2019, Connecticut’s economy grew by an annualized rate of 2.2% of gross domestic product – as compared with the 2.5% average for New England and the 3.1% average for the United States as a whole.

Needless to say, Connecticut is not the booming state Gov. Lamont would have everyone believe it is. The governor’s policies do not stand to change the equation, and Sen. Fasano is right to call attention to this.

That’s not to say the senator is entirely pure: for instance, the 2017 budget act he touts also had formidable flaws.

Still, when all things are considered, Sen. Fasano is more in touch with Connecticut’s economic and fiscal realities than Gov. Lamont is.