If you have been following my previous columns, then you know that back in September, history was made in Connecticut’s General Assembly. For the first time in modern history, and perhaps ever, a minority party successfully passed their own budget proposal with members of the majority crossing over to provide bipartisan support. Both chambers of the state legislature finally passed a budget that, albeit not perfect, was fiscally responsible and would begin the process of implementing structural changes that Connecticut desperately needs.
The GOP plan accomplished a nearly impossible task. It balanced the state budget and erased a $3.5 billion deficit WITHOUT raising taxes or imposing new ones. It fully funded towns for education aid and included meaningful structural changes to state government. It also addressed labor costs despite the passage of the irresponsible SEBAC agreement crafted by the governor and approved by the majority party on a party line vote.
Assuming you read the papers, you probably know that Governor Malloy then vetoed this perfectly acceptable budget plan in favor of his executive order. As a result, towns and cities were left to suffer, fearing the potential of huge cuts in state aid that would upend their budgets and potentially force layoffs and property tax hikes.
Then on October 26, after months of negotiations, needless delays, and political posturing and foolishness, the General Assembly finally passed a state budget that was signed into law by the governor.
As I said the morning of the vote in my speech on the floor of the House, this budget was the result of that pressure and I felt that the desire to just “do something” got in the way of “doing something right and good.”
The document does accomplish some goals that Republicans, including me, have been fighting for, such as mandatory votes on labor contracts and a cap on future spending. Additionally, it successfully blocked some damaging tax proposals supported by the majority including increases on the sales and income taxes, and new proposals to tax restaurants, second homes and cell phones.
Many of the “good” components of this compromise budget branched from the Republican budget that passed in September. Unfortunately, it fails to go far enough to address the structural and long term financial problems we face as a state and because it also continues the failed approach of increased spending and taxes, I voted NO.
Sadly, this budget will not solve our problems and I fear that we will be back in no time addressing the same issues, along with continuing deficits and a lack of economic growth. The solutions necessary are much harder for many to face and until the state government has the courage to take the necessary actions, we will continue to falter.
We need to address structural problems, address out of control future pension obligations, and simply begin cutting spending and taxes.
I always describe our state budget as a collection of priorities and a blueprint for our future direction.
This budget cuts aid to education, to senior citizens, to the Medicare savings plan, and to town governments forcing them to raise property taxes. All this at the same time as it raises state income taxes, spends money on bailing out Hartford, and renovating the XL center. Those are priorities I cannot support. It also sends the worst possible message to those watching for Connecticut to bounce back.
To turn our state around, we need to make it clear to everyone – residents, businesses, seniors, college students, etc., that we intend to make it so you are not “better off” in South Carolina or Texas or Florida or even Massachusetts or New York – and that we are going to make Connecticut the smart decision no matter what your circumstances.
We must make Connecticut simply more competitive in all areas and this budget fails to make the difficult changes necessary or send the message that Connecticut is poised for recovery.
I want my constituents to know that I am proud to have kept my promise to never raise taxes, and to stand for the principles that have made America great – limited constitutional government, free markets, hard work, and personal responsibility, I and will continue to do so as long as I serve in office.
I urge you to watch my speech on the budget and to contact me anytime at www.repsampson.com.