Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lesser's Budget Claims Rebutted

Just the other day, I got an email from State Rep. Matt Lesser claiming that the bi-partisan budget recently passed and sent to Gov. Malloy included $1.8 billion in new revenue, tax increases on the middle class and the working poor, higher car taxes (the state doesn't tax cars, municipalities do) and a new tax on teachers. And as may be expected, he claims that "our" taxes will go to pay for tax cuts to the rich.

I asked State Rep. Rob Sampson to chime in. Here is his rebuttal:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your email. I always appreciate hearing from you. Lesser is exaggerating and twisting.

From what I am told, this change increases the amount of the teacher’s contribution to their own pension from 6% to 7% then 8% the following year. This is less than the national average and the state’s taxpayers are still picking up the balance of 92% of it. The point about the money going into the general fund is just part of the process. The state will still contribute the entirety of its portion in to the pension fund.

The problem is that there is only so much money to go around. I am not saying I am in favor of this provision. In fact, there are plenty of things I do not like in this budget. It was not a joyous occasion to be involved in helping to craft a document that has to make up an enormous deficit of $5.1B. That is a huge percentage of the total budget and unbelievably difficult choices had to be made. After the labor deal passed in August, we were in an even more difficult place since that makes up 40% of the total budget but the savings in the deal certainly didn’t make up 40% of the problem.

I don’t begrudge anyone and I certainly admire teachers. However, I think he would have a hard time convincing the general public that this something sacred since almost no one in the private sector has anyone paying any part of their pension, let alone most of it, if they even had one.

Also note that this budget FULLY FUNDS education to the towns for the next two years. The Governor and the Democrats plan would have resulted in millions of dollars and cuts to education resulting in teachers being laid off etc.

In each budget cycle I have worked on an alternative to the Governor’s outrageous spending and taxing plans and offered a complete and responsible budget that would take us on a better path. Sadly, those alternatives were ignored by the majority. We knew that would be the case but we did the work anyway. The choices made in those alternative budgets have never been easy. After all, think about how much nicer it is to tell everyone who comes to you as a state legislator that you are fully funding them!! Sadly, we are in a position where that can no longer happen. It’s also why the Democrats have been unable to even put a budget together at all!

Lesser can try but it's just not fair to blame those of us who took the time and courage to come up with a plan to fix the problem. As I said, this document is absolutely not perfect. I didn’t get to have my way in all cases and there are indeed things that I hate contained within it. However, it is responsible and it does the things I needed it to do. It stops the wild spending. It doesn’t further burden middle class taxpayers who are leaving our state in droves. It fully funds education aid to the towns so they are not forced to raise property taxes. Yes, it cuts things – some things I don’t want to cut but for a budget to pass, it needs 76 votes in the House and 19 in the Senate. This is the only document that I think manages to accomplish that by virtue of each of us having to acknowledge what is good and bad and make a decision.

My hope is that this budget survives the Governor and allows our economy to recover and we can go back to having the ability to restore many of the cuts that were necessary.


Rob SampsonState Representative

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