Sen. Sampson questions Governor Lamont and Democrats on fiscal mismanagement.

July 2, 2020

HARTFORD- Tuesday, July 1 marked the beginning of the new fiscal year and the effectual date of a 5.5% wage increase for state employees. Sen. Sampson offered the following statement.  

This is another case of majority democrats’ inability to see the forest through the trees.  Refusing to confront the state employee union about forgoing their contracted raises to slow our fiscal freefall during a statewide pandemic is incredibly telling on how little reform we can expect during the upcoming budget discussions.

This health pandemic has caused a fiscal crisis in Connecticut.  We are only starting to realize the incredible magnitude of what is coming over the next years and decades.

Every single aspect of the state budget MUST be in consideration when trying to mitigate the coming shortfall.  The legislature and the governor must pivot away from routine practices and start reassessing allocations and priorities to bring about real solutions.

Fiscal year 2020 was already $444 million short and only included the impacts of Covid-19 for the last quarter, forcing us to tap into the rainy day fund.  It is alarming that Governor Lamont had no hesitation spending almost the same amount – about $353 million for the biennium – on raises for state employees on the FIRST DAY of fiscal year 2021.

Since the beginning of March, I have been flooded by calls and emails from CT residents who are struggling because of the business closures and job changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It seems grossly unfair that state employees, most of whom have been sheltering at home with no change to their income or benefits, are now being given a pay raise.

Tough conversations and union contracts are not valid excuses when we are in a state of emergency.  The March 11 declarations made tectonic shifts in Connecticut’s government processes.  It is cowardly that the majority party cannot have a frank conversation with the heads of the state employee bargaining unit.

I have been speaking up since the COVID-19 pandemic began to express my concern that the state workforce is still getting paid full pay and benefits – and having their pensions funded with no layoffs whatsoever when the Governor has declared many businesses shuttered and eliminated the ability for many to earn a paycheck.  The raises are just an added insult.

I sent a letter to the Governor back when all this began to let him know that if he thinks it falls to him to declare various individuals as essential vs non-essential that he should be applying that to the state workforce first.

That said, I have nothing against state employees. They work hard like everyone else.  However, it is just patently unfair to make taxpayers pay for their raises under the current circumstances. No one is scapegoating dedicated public service workers – and no one should be scapegoating our wealthiest residents or corporations either.  Taxing people more will simply not work.  More and more people will just leave our state and worsen the problems we have.

The Governor and Democrats are clever at pitting state employees against those of us who are asking for fiscal sanity.  However, they should know that we are not focusing on them as individuals.  We are rather questioning the policies that have led to our state being so mismanaged financially – the ones created by Governors Malloy and Lamont in particular.   We should be prioritizing and right sizing – and also rewarding the hard-working valuable state workers we need.

The state was facing a terrible fiscal crisis before all this began. The actions taken by this administration are only amplifying the damage exponentially.

I have spent my entire service in the legislature arguing for a new direction, based in smarter priorities and fiscal prudence – above all shrinking government and cutting spending and taxes!  The only way forward for Connecticut is a growing economy.  That can only happen if we have an attractive environment for people to live, work, and retire here.  That is what I am committed to.

At some point this state will capsize financially trying to weather all the demands of special interest.

The changes we make now will bring a more stable financial future.  I hope when we reconvene to discuss budget adjustments that the entire legislature shares my mindset: we must be willing to consider any mechanism necessary to bring Connecticut out of financial ruin.