Column: An Affordable CT is Possible [July 2022]

July 1, 2022
Column as it appeared in the CT Examiner:

When was the last time you completely filled your car’s gas tank? Or, bought everything on your grocery list? Not long ago, such expenditures were routine. But, in the summer of 2022, they have become major purchases that require planning, forcing many to shift their household budgets. The pain of inflation and rising gas prices have become all too real for Connecticut families and businesses. Many are incurring more debt or being forced to forego one necessity in place of the other. After two years of uncertainty with COVID-19, including lockdowns and shutdowns, we should be rejoicing and enjoying a beautiful spring with everything Connecticut has to offer. Unfortunately, it feels like just a different kind of lockdown.


Earlier this year, when we first saw inflation starting to impact residents, me and my Connecticut Republican colleagues sounded the alarm and called for the legislature to offer relief to working- and middle-class families. When the Democrats finally got around to passing their budget adjustment bill, we offered a much-needed amendment that would return $1.2 billion of the state’s surplus back to those who paid for it—Connecticut taxpayers—as a means of relief. Sadly, Majority Democrats voted no, and the plan failed on a party line.


And yes, you read that correctly. The state of Connecticut has a significant surplus. Believe me, I am just as shocked. Connecticut is locked in a battle with Illinois for the top spot for who has the worst run state finances in the whole country. Barring outside forces, the state would be facing huge deficits this year and panic would have already set in. But yes, there are indeed outside forces. The federal government has printed mountains of new dollars, diminishing the value of money and driving up inflation. Of course, much of those new dollars are ending up in blue states to help prop up failing and mismanaged progressive policies.


Add to the grants Connecticut has received from the federal government, additional tax receipts as a direct result of inflation (when things cost more, the tax goes up too) and voila, Connecticut’s state government can spend an additional $2 billion and still have money left over. Meanwhile, economic conditions for real people continue to deteriorate and the need for relief has never been greater.


The takeaway from all this is that Connecticut residents have been overtaxed – maybe now more than ever. Rising gas and electric prices and inflation are crippling our economy and our neighbors are hurting. I say the state should return the surplus to the taxpayers immediately.


Along with my Senate and House Republican colleagues, I have been calling for a special legislative session to bring $750 million in relief for Connecticut families. This relief would be immediate and apply to all residents. It would reduce the income tax, the sales tax, and other taxes that make food more expensive. It also provides immediate action on a primary cause for surging costs of all goods: transportation. We want to suspend the state’s diesel tax, which will rise to 49 cents per gallon in July. This tax will certainly be exacerbated by the Democrat-approved truck tax set to take effect January 1. These two taxes impact every good or service that is delivered by way of a truck in Connecticut. Suspending these taxes will allow you to keep more money in your pocket and create another firewall against surging inflation.


Note that our proposal does not alter the current budget or tap into the rainy-day fund. It allocates $2.85 billion in additional contributions to pay down on pension debt and maintains a record breaking $3.3 billion in the state budget reserve fund – the maximum amount allowed by law. In short, it is as responsible a plan as we can make it considering the majorities continued mismanagement of the state’s finances, and that ultimately, we need them to agree to a special session to make this happen.


Those that follow me know that I have never voted for a spending or tax increase since first elected and if I had a majority, I would be pushing for even greater spending and tax cuts, but this plan is what is both necessary and achievable right now. Connecticut families agree with our proposal and message and have been joining us across the state at rallies to say so.


I continue to urge Connecticut Democrats and the Governor to do right by Connecticut families and to join me in my effort to return excess collected taxes back to the people of Connecticut today.