Monday, December 28, 2009
Your veto of the Democratic majority's recent deficit mitigation plan sheds light on the lame excuses of the Democratic leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly.
Where else can a budget deficit estimated between $337 million and $550 million be addressed by cutting expenditures a mere $12 million? Only in the Connecticut legislature - led by Democrats - Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Chris Donovan.
During our previous deficit mitigation deliberations I proposed doubling the Governor's statutory rescission authority. Governor Rell has proven she can make tough decisions during this budget crisis while the Democratic leaders in the legislature "kick the can down the road."
I applaud Governor Rell's proposal that a Governor's budget rescission authority be increased incrementally. This will allow the Governor to make the tough decisions the Democratic leaders are refusing to address.
The taxpayers of Connecticut demand their government live within a budget just like our residents must do with their home budgets. Let's see how fast the Democrats move this time...
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Following my holiday greetings this afternoon a prominent Democratic representative quipped to me, “I hope Santa Claus comes to the Capitol.” I guess that is our only hope to address our budget crisis in Connecticut at this point given the majority Democratic leaders’ unwillingness to make the tough decisions.
Governor Rell called the legislature into a special session today to address a $337 million deficit in our current state budget. The deficit number is a moving target as no economist can predict Connecticut’s tax revenues for 2009. What is clear to all budget hawks at the Capitol is the deficit is growing and we will fall off another financial cliff in the next biennium budget.
The Democrats convened the Senate and House this morning and promptly adjourned without any action on the budget deficit. The night before Speaker Donovan held a press conference showing us how their budget shell game will play out:
- Blame the Governor for everything
- Claim the Governor’s proposal will kill 5,000 jobs in the state using fuzzy math
- Claim we can “save” $100 million by postponing payments to the state employees’ pension plan at a time we are already billions of dollars short in payments
- Create another “Blue Ribbon Commission” to study municipal aid and waste participants’ time developing a report with good ideas and then ignore the report
Santa Claus is a mighty fine fellow but he is not bringing billions of dollars to Connecticut Democrats for Christmas. Speaker Donovan and Senate President Williams have proven they are unwilling to make the tough decisions Connecticut’s taxpayers are demanding – CUT SPENDING!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Fiscal Year 2010 deficit is already $624 million according to the State Comptroller’s November 2nd estimates! This fact was entirely predictable when the Democrats ignored the reality of the record recession and assumed unrealistic tax and casino revenues. Thankfully, Governor Rell is committed to calling legislators back to the Capitol to address the ongoing budget crisis.
The Democrats’ budget just kicked the can down the road by failing to make any meaningful spending cuts. The Democrats’ budget relied on one-shot gimmicks, Obamabucks and over a billion dollars of new debt to balance the budget.
Late last month, Moody’s Investor Service downgraded the credit rating on Connecticut government’s debt, sending off alarm bells in the credit market and diminishing the state’s ability to sell bonds. Moody’s cited the new state budget’s overreliance on revenue from one-time gimmicks, borrowing, and wealthy tax payers whose income levels remain volatile.
When will the Democrats in Connecticut see the light? Connecticut government spending outpaced our taxpayer resident’s income by 64% since 1987! Connecticut government spending grew at such a rapid pace in the last 22 years that it far exceeded the growth of income for the resident’s who fund the government with their taxes.
Early in the 2009 legislative session I was excited to be appointed to a new commission created to identify potential improvements and efficiencies of our state government operations. I felt my experience with this process in local government could lend a unique perspective to the Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes (guvspeak acronym is CEAO). Now if we could just convince the Democratic majority leadership to seriously consider reinventing Connecticut state government’s operations we might actually reduce spending!
Residents of Connecticut expect more from their elected officials. Unfortunately, the Democrats hold a super majority in the Connecticut legislature and they still have their heads in the sand!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I am pleased today to honor a community activist and author, Coach Doug Merrill. Coach Merrill is the founder of the Power UP Foundation which provides financial assistance to communities and programs promoting positive physical fitness and positive mental health. The Coach is in Hartford today on his way to Key West, Florida. He is participating in an historic run which began on October 4th in Boston and will end in April of 2010 in Key West, Florida. The run is part of an effort to raise $25 million for the Power UP Foundation.
Coach Merrill is author of the book “Fighting the Demon of Suicide.” The book is part of the inspiration for Coach Merrill’s run and focuses on conquering emotional stress and preventing the tragedy of suicide, particularly in youngsters. Coach Merrill has dedicated his life to this message as he resigned as a teacher and focuses solely on public speaking and writing. In the book Coach Merrill also outlines a ten-point plan on conquering mental illness and the “demons of mental depression.”
It is an honor for me to present this Governor’s Proclamation to Coach Merrill today. This historic run from Boston to Florida is a feat of tremendous strength, will and determination. His dedication to raising awareness, particularly in youngsters, about the need for positive mental health and fitness is a true inspiration and I wish him nothing but the best on the remainder of his journey.
During the six months of the run, Coach Merrill will run a ½ marathon (13.1 miles) each day. He will also stop along the way to speak with students at universities, colleges and high schools as well as community organizations to help promote positive mental health by improving physical activity. Programs across the country that promote positive mental and physical health would be eligible to apply for a grant from the foundation. The money that they would receive would assist their efforts to promote physical wellness.
I am pleased to report that Connecticut is focused on youth suicide prevention. The Connecticut Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Children and Families (DCF), Public Health, Education, and the Judicial Branch and the Connecticut State University System (CSU) are collaborating with the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC) to develop, implement, evaluate, and sustain statewide youth suicide prevention and early intervention.
Special thanks to our professionals that joined us today. Deanna Lia is the Director of Community Prevention and Early Intervention for Connecticut Department of Children and Families and chair of the Connecticut Youth Suicide Advisory Board. Carol Meredeth is Assistant Director for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Prevention & Health Promotion Unit and is part of the Connecticut Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative.
Follow Coach Merrill’s “Run to the Keys” at the Power UP Foundation’s website
Connecticut Youth Suicide Advisory Board
Connecticut Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative
Coach Doug Merrill (l) is greeted by Senator Michael McLachlan outside the Legislative Office Building following their press conference.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Only 24 days have passed since the Connecticut General Assembly passed a budget along party lines – a state budget that included the largest tax increase in the history of Connecticut. Only 24 days since the Democrats authorized a fortune in long-term borrowing to feed the daily operations of Connecticut state government. I proudly voted NO!
Millions of dollars in higher fees for Connecticut residents – only 24 days after their fees were raised to feed the government budget monster in Hartford.
Connecticut government spending outpaced our taxpayer resident’s income by 64% since 1987! Imagine that – Connecticut government spending grew at such a rapid pace in the last 22 years that it far exceeded the growth of income for the resident’s who fund the government with their taxes.
The Democrats’ budget anticipates tax revenue that is unlikely to materialize during this global recession. What does that mean – our state budget is likely already running in a deficit – less than three months into a two-year budget. The Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates 2012-2013 revenues will produce a deficit of over $6 BILLION!
The Democratic majority in Hartford is unwilling to prioritize and reduce spending in state government. The fiscal crisis in Connecticut is being exasperated by the Democratic majority as they continue “kicking the can down the road.”
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
President Obama gave his big health care speech to Congress tonight and said we shouldn't "kick the can further down the road." Amazing how he used the same metaphor to say we need the largest federal government expansion of our lifetime during the worst recession this country has experienced in a generation! Scary thought, Mr. President.
Health care in America needs fixing but not Obamacare, thank you. Not Connecticut Democrats' SustiNet plan, thank you.
When will the Democrats in Washington and Hartford stop slamming their brand of "health care reform" down our throats that is nothing more than expanding government? May I remind them government is broke(n)? May I remind them Americans are broke?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Governor Jodi Rell presented her fourth alternate budget proposal this morning that cuts spending by $520 million, eliminates the inheritance tax, reduces the sales tax from 6 percent to 5.5 percent and exempts small and medium-sized businesses from the temporary 10 percent corporate surcharge proposed in her last budget plan and the Democrats’ last plan.
Let’s see how the Democrats respond to this proposal. This Republican suggests we’re still not talking about substantive reform of government operations that will have a lasting impact on future tax policy in Connecticut.
Hidden in the supporting documents for the Governor’s announcement was a comparison of Connecticut state government spending versus the income of state residents. This document is the best argument in favor of spending cuts that I’ve seen in a long time!
Connecticut government spending outpaced our taxpayer resident’s income by 64% since 1987!
Imagine that – Connecticut government spending grew at such a rapid pace in the last 22 years that it far exceeded the growth of income for the resident’s who fund the government with their taxes.
I rest my case. No new taxes. Cut spending. Now!
Monday, August 24, 2009
The budget debate is occurring in the wrong place – the media. No sessions of the General Assembly have debated budget matters this month and the last dysfunctional meetings of the Appropriations and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees were held on July 30th with nothing accomplished.
A recent newspaper editorial criticized the governor for wasting gas travelling around the state for ceremonial bill signings. Perhaps the media should focus a bit more on the Democrat’s absurd road show.
Today, Speaker Chris Donovan is claiming with Governor Rell’s budget proposal, “we will see a lot of seniors losing teeth.” Bologna, Mr. Speaker!
Senate President Protempore Donald Williams suggested Governor Rell is a liar. He claims the Democratic supermajority has moved closer to the Governor’s proposed spending cuts but “we need to have her come just a little bit toward us.” Now there’s a classic shell game for you!
Obamabucks are the savior for many state budgets this year but Obama and the Democratic Congress send help with very deep hooks. Stimulus funding for education requires increased spending after the Obamabucks disappear. Stimulus funding for unemployment benefits requires increased benefits for recipients. Enhancements are “nice to have” but Connecticut’s taxpayers must pick up the increased costs when the Obamabucks disappear. Surely Obama can’t keep printing money when the federal deficit is in the stratosphere.
Only 21% of the Obamabucks coming to Connecticut are for infrastructure improvements – the real chance for jobs. The rest of the federal stimulus money is filling cavernous holes in the state budget and sustaining current levels of spending – preserving existing government jobs. This fact raises future deficits in Connecticut when the Obamabucks disappear. This is an example of politicians kicking the can down the road.
Our economy fell off a cliff last year and the federal government raced to the rescue. Obamabucks are a short-term fix with an exploding balloon note due at expiration. Even if the recession is ending next year, our state budget will fall off another cliff because we can’t replace the Obamabucks in 2011 with more taxes – especially if the Democrats in the legislature succeed in passing the largest tax increase in state history this year.
State government cannot survive operating like it does today. The biggest disappointment during my first year as a legislator is the unwillingness of the Democratic supermajority to consider substantive, efficient reforms of government operations. The Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes should’ve met all summer to discuss reorganizing government while the Democratic leaders were on the road warning seniors about losing their teeth.
Connecticut is truly at a crossroads in this budget debate. We must make tough decisions now to prepare for the next cliff we face in two years. If we fail to act responsibly now the decisions in 2011 will be catastrophic to state government operations.
I urge my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle – Let’s not kick the can down the road.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Sure, I hang my U.S. Flag on the front porch every morning but that’s not the spirit I’m trying to describe. July 4th is Independence Day and I hope we’ll think for a moment what happened 233 years ago.
When he was president, Ronald Reagan wrote the following piece for Independence Day in 1981. Aide Michael Deaver later wrote: "This 4th of July message is the President's own words and written initially in his own hand."
What July Fourth Means to Me
“For one who was born and grew up in the small towns of the Midwest, there is a special kind of nostalgia about the Fourth of July.
I remember it as a day almost as long-anticipated as Christmas. This was helped along by the appearance in store windows of all kinds of fireworks and colorful posters advertising them with vivid pictures.
No later than the third of July – sometimes earlier – Dad would bring home what he felt he could afford to see go up in smoke and flame. We'd count and recount the number of firecrackers, display pieces and other things and go to bed determined to be up with the sun so as to offer the first, thunderous notice of the Fourth of July.
I'm afraid we didn't give too much thought to the meaning of the day. And, yes, there were tragic accidents to mar it, resulting from careless handling of the fireworks. I'm sure we're better off today with fireworks largely handled by professionals. Yet there was a thrill never to be forgotten in seeing a tin can blown 30 feet in the air by a giant "cracker" – giant meaning it was about 4 inches long. But enough of nostalgia.
Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth.
There is a legend about the day of our nation's birth in the little hall in Philadelphia, a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headsman's axe," and the issue remained in doubt.
The legend says that at that point a man rose and spoke. He is described as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice falling, he said, "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever."
He fell back exhausted. The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed that document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not to be found, nor could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.
Well, that is the legend. But we do know for certain that 56 men, a little band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.
What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.
John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year he lived in the forest and in caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton. Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.
But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, 3 million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, 227 million people with a pedigree that includes the bloodlines of all the world. In recent years, however, I've come to think of that day as more than just the birthday of a nation.
It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history.
Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.
We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Happy Fourth of July.”
President of the United States
Friday, June 26, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Public Act 09-02 spells out the charge of the commission:
“The Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes shall identify functional overlaps and other redundancies among state agencies and promote efficiency and accountability in state government by identifying ways to eliminate such overlaps and redundancies and by making such other recommendations as the commission deems appropriate, with the goal to reducing costs to the state and enhancing the quality and accessibility of state services.”
The CEAO membership is a diverse group with wide experience in government and business. Some members have participated in past government efficiency study efforts only to see the results of their work largely ignored.
I co-hosted a CEAO public hearing in Danbury where residents and business leaders shared testimony of common sense approaches to government efficiency – think like a business. What a novel idea!
I offered specific agency merger ideas for discussion by the commission but we have not met since April 24th for only our second meeting. Surely the co-chairs are anxious to offer sensible ideas for solving our budget crisis but it seems apparent the Democratic majority leadership is ignoring CEAO.
Budget rhetoric is abundant these days as the Democratic majority leadership drags their feet on the difficult decisions of this fiscal crisis. The major disappointment is we’re squandering an opportunity to truly reinvent Connecticut state government. Unfortunately, the Democrats in Hartford are focused on preserving powerful special interests and expanding rather than reducing state government.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I understand the lobbying laws in Connecticut are designed to carefully monitor professional lobbying activities – not the casual visitor to the State Capitol. Many organizations visit the Capitol to express their views on legislation but have no registered lobbyists. Is the Office of State Ethics suggesting organizers of every rally at the Capitol should register as a lobbyist?
I don’t see the connection of applying restrictions to a church organization using a website to communicate with their members and facilitate contacting their legislators. Once again, I see this activity as a First Amendment right.
I have grave concerns that our ethics statutes may be going too far in direct violation of the First Amendment. I have filed amendments on several bills at the Capitol to address these concerns. Hopefully, fellow legislators will agree that we must preserve church organizations' First Amendment rights and support changes to the lobbying laws.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Memorial Day in Danbury long before the parade each monument is visited by a color guard, rifle squad and dignitaries for a wreath-laying ceremony. Twelve locations around the city. I wish everyone could experience this early morning tribute.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
This morning was another special Memorial Day experience as I was invited to participate in the New Fairfield Veterans' ceremony. My assignment was to read perhaps one of the greatest speeches ever delivered - Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I am still trying to understand why Senator Williams and Senator Looney decided to spend so much of our precious time remaining in the legislative session debating a bill that is highly likely to face a veto from Governor Rell. In fact, the Governor has publicly stated she supports the death penalty - all but promising a veto. The Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto as many of their members support the death penalty.
The debate is entering the eighth hour and everyone has not spoken. The Senate Republicans have just called the first of twenty-two amendments filed on this bill. If each amendment is called and just thirty minutes is afforded for each one we will see the sunrise over the Capitol and still be debating a bill that is destined for death.
I have struggled with the debate of repealing the death penalty in the Judiciary Committee and the Senate floor. Proponents of repealing the death penalty offered compelling arguments - many questioning the costs of executing a murderer in Connecticut and the ability of the criminal justice system to convict a murderer beyond a reasonable doubt. I will not support repealing the death penalty.
Dr. William Petit and his sister, Johanna Chapman, have shared their views on the death penalty and convinced me. Dr. Petit's wife, Jennifer and daughters, Michaela and Hayley were murdered in a home invasion - a gruesome crime where Dr. Petit escaped the home with his life. Two recent parolees were charged the crimes after police witnessed them leaving the home.
William Petit and Johanna Chapman are carrying the message of their tragedy to the Connecticut General Assembly. Dr. Petit's and Ms. Chapman's testimony to the Judiciary Committee on March 4, 2009 was brave. He said, "If you allow murderers to live you are giving them more regard, more value than three women who never hurt a soul and played by all of society's rules for their short lives. My family got the death penalty and you want to give murderers life - that is NOT JUSTICE. Any penalty less than death for murder is unjust and trivialize the victim and the victim's family. It is immoral and unjust to all of us in our society."
My sentiment EXACTLY!
The Senate Republicans' Deficit Clock tracks the daily and fiscal year-to-date deficit. Three million dollars of red ink for today! That means the Democratic majority of the state legislature is burning up the limited time remaining in this legislative session without substantive deficit mitigation action. We should be talking about the financial crisis in Connecticut - not legislation that is destined for the trash heap.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
"Thank you to Audrey McIntyre and the team from the Connecticut House of Prayer for your work organizing our service today. Our state is fortunate to have such dedicated people of faith carrying the message “Our Saviour!”
Prayer is indeed America’s Hope! Psalm 33:22 "May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you."
I share a birthday with one of my favorite spiritual leaders of our lifetime – Pope John Paul II, who said, “We cannot live without hope. We have to have some purpose in life, some meaning to our existence. We have to aspire to something. Without hope, we begin to die.”
Pope John Paul II was one of the most prolific writers of the 20th Century. In a message to Catholic Charismatics in 1996, he said, “True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school, and in social and political involvement.”
This message reminds me that separation of church and state does not mean the Gospel is not welcome in the political process. Indeed, the First Amendment, approved in 1791, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Abraham Lincoln understood this perhaps better than any other president when he said, “It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
Faithful people of Connecticut have experienced great challenges watching the actions of legislators in this beautiful building. We have seen proposals which we’ve strongly disagreed with and some of us spoke out. I am grateful for those of you who contacted your legislators to express your displeasure. I am more concerned about the silence of many hundreds of thousands who quietly opposed legislation but did not contact their legislator.
The intense experiences as a freshman senator addressing legislation that threatened my Church and my faith led me to more intense prayer. I found myself regularly asking for friends and family to pray for me and my fellow legislators that we would have the wisdom to act responsibly during our deliberations.
I came across the Capitol Prayer Network in Minnesota – a group of nearly 5,000 people of faith praying for their legislators. Their group extended their border when I reached out to them and they were praying for us here in Connecticut.
Today I’d like to introduce an idea to you – the Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network. Several organizations, including the Connecticut House of Prayer, are providing prayer leadership in our state. Perhaps we can consider a sharper focus on regular prayer for our State Capitol – like the group in Minnesota and others who focus on the U.S. Capitol.
The Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network needs a pastoral leader and I pray that the Lord will direct someone to this ministry.
I am deeply humbled to join this esteemed group of faith leaders today. I am grateful to my Lord for His protection as His humble servant.
In closing, I refer to 1 Timothy 1:12 - “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.”
Thank you and God Bless the great State of Connecticut!"
Interested in joining the Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Our proposal balances a projected $8.1 billion deficit, streamlines state government and sustains existing state aid to local governments.
Families and businesses across Connecticut are painfully aware of the global economic crisis and have already made hard choices in their budgets. Today we learned the unemployment rate in Connecticut rose again to 141,900 residents without jobs!
How can the Democrats in the legislature justify proposing the largest tax increase in state history in the middle of this crisis?
Republicans have the answer – CUT SPENDING !!!
Granted, the 2008-2009 budget was crafted at a time when legislators had no clue the present economic disaster was ahead but the Democrats have their head in the sand thinking they can sustain state government’s current payroll when tax revenue is down 27% and dropping daily.
The Democrats proposed a huge increase in state income taxes, increases in sales taxes on over fifty categories of goods and services, increase corporate taxes by 30% and eliminate job creation tax credits, increase the death taxes by 30% and eliminate the property tax credit for homeowners. $3.3 billion in new taxes! A real nightmare during this bad economy and a good way to assure Connecticut is the last state to recover from this recession.
On Monday, legislative leaders from both parties begin serious budget negotiations with Governor Rell. We’ll soon find out who is running our state government – the elected officials or the state employee unions.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
My family income dropped substantially when I won a seat in the State Senate. My neighbors and friends are feeling the pinch of layoffs, salary and overtime cutbacks. Connecticut residents’ spending has come to a grinding halt but state government appears to be out of touch and can’t see beyond the Capitol.
Two words for the Connecticut General Assembly – CUT SPENDING!
Sorry, three words – NOW!
As I sit in the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee meeting this afternoon I am wondering how smart people can realistically propose a smoke and mirrors budget. Although the Democrats’ proposal adopts some of Governor Rell’s responsible spending cuts they have totally lost touch with reality. Here’s their proposal to eliminate the tsunami deficit in state government:
“Revenue Increases” (tax increases) – 37%
“Federal Stimulus” (temporary Obamabucks) – 17%
“Rainy Day Fund” (the state savings account) – 19%
“Spending Reductions” (to be identified at a later date…) – 27%
That’s right – only 27% of the $8.7 billion budget deficit is addressed with spending cuts!
So what happens when the “Rainy Day Fund” runs out? What happens when the Obamabucks disappear? What happens is the Connecticut government budget falls off another cliff!
The Democrats’ budget proposal is not about responsibility – it is about passing the buck for another day. If state government does not immediately address a bloated budget that we can no longer afford then our state will take many more years to climb out of this recession.
Try explaining this budget proposal to a student in their first year of accounting. The student will say you’ve failed the audit test!
I am hopeful the rhetoric rolling through the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee this afternoon will subside and we legislators can get down to business and act responsibly. Connecticut residents expect us to make hard decisions about our budget just like they’re doing in their own homes.
Connecticut residents are not balancing their home budgets by sticking their heads in the sand – they’re living within their means in this tough economy. Connecticut state government must do the same.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I feel bad for the clerk and staff of the Judiciary Committee.
Last week the committee staff got hammered trying to process thousands of emails and phone calls from outraged Catholics and First Amendment rights advocates when their bosses - the co-chairs - began a frontal assault on the Catholic Church. This week the co-chairs decided to take on the right-to-life advocates and the calls and emails started flowing into the Capitol again.
Can someone in the Connecticut Democratic Party tell Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor that we have a budget crisis and we need to focus on balancing the budget - not waste tremendous state resources on personal vendettas?
If you see a big bottle of Irish Cream on the counter in the Judiciary Committee I didn't deliver it (violates the volumes of rules here) but the staff sure deserves an Irish Coffee for St. Patrick's Day!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thousands of Catholics and defenders of religious freedom arrived at the Capitol this morning and the atrium of the Legislative Office Building was buzzing with excitement. The group moved to the Capitol lawn for a rally with prayers, song and speeches from Catholic Church leaders. The bishops of Connecticut offered their prayers and wisdom followed by religious freedoms history lessons Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus and Monsignor Stephen DiGiovanni of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford.
The history lessons reminded us of the persecution of Catholics in our state and how religious freedoms developed here slowly. Connecticut adopted existing religious corporate governance laws to reverse the inequality afforded the Catholic faith.
I still get chills thinking about thousands of faithful singing America the Beautiful and God Bless America! I think we sort of floated a few feet above the Capitol lawn at the conclusion of the rally.
Off to the Legislative Republicans’ Informational Forum (hastily arranged after the Judiciary Committee co-chairs cancelled the real public hearing on SB1098) where expert witnesses opened the discussion with fascinating descriptions of SB1098 being “a solution in search of a problem.” Attorney Michael Shea, an expert on Connecticut’s existing religious corporation statutes, clearly stated the laws governing the Connecticut Roman Catholic Church and other denominations are “constitutional precisely because they respect, and do not interfere with, the internal governance structures of the churches to which they apply.” Exactly.
Senator John McKinney suggested Attorney General Blumenthal could avoid wasting his enormous legal resources on a requested opinion and just read Attorney Shea’s brief. As you read earlier in this blog, Blumenthal is questioning the constitutionality of existing state statutes in effect for fifty to one-hundred-forty-three years! Hopefully, A.G. Blumenthal will let his 300 lawyers work on something else and defer to an expert here – just read the Shea brief. Case closed!
I am headed back to the forum where people across the great state of Connecticut are sharing their wisdom about religious freedoms. Some have said this is a gray day at the Capitol. On the contrary, I think the faithful have shed bright light on the darkness brought on by Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor.
So Donovan is the Democratic Party's fire chief now. He thinks Republican lawmakers should not host an informal hearing to allow Catholics to speak their mind now that the Democrats started this major conflaguration and abruptly cancelled a formal hearing on SB1098.
Donovan responded to news the Catholics are still rallying at the Capitol today by saying, "we join them in opposing this bill..." Oh really, Fire Chief Donovan, where was your Speaker's fire hose when this fire was kindling in the back room of the Judiciary Committee? Representative Lawlor is your appointment as co-chair of the committee and your responsibility.
Fire Chief Donovan's comments raises another big question about the Democrats' out-of-control legislative leadership this session. Where is Senate President Donald Williams? He appointed Senator McDonald (the Democrats' apparent leader on SB1098) the other Democratic co-chair of Judiciary. Does this mean Williams is out of touch with his appointee's incendiary politics?
I am hopeful the Democratic majority in the legislature sees this as a turning point to focus on the economic crisis we face in Connecticut. Stop fighting the Catholic Church and proposing the closure of university campuses and get to work on the real problem at hand - we have a state budget meltdown and we need real leadership to keep the ship of state sailing through this economic storm.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
As Republican legislators and I stood in a press conference at Noon today criticizing their attack on the Church and religious freedoms in Connecticut, McDonald and Lawlor cancelled the Judiciary Committee meeting public hearing scheduled for tomorrow. They issued a statement, "… it would serve no useful purpose to have a conversation about changing the laws that govern existing Roman Catholic corporations until we know if any of these existing laws are constitutional."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was waiting outside the Republican press conference to chime in on the constitutional question. The Judiciary co-chairs asked for his opinion and promised to host a forum of legal scholars and all religious denominations to discuss the current law after the current legislative session. Now they want the Catholic Church to defend the laws on the books since 1866!
Ironically, McDonald and Lawlor requested the “proponents” of the bill (they forget this is their initiative) to meet with church leaders privately “to see if they can come to a resolution on their own.” Imagine actually having conversation before proposing legislation? Had the co-chairs done their homework they would have found their proposal is widely unpopular, clearly unconstitutional and a clear attack on the Roman Catholic Church of Connecticut.
Catholic faithful from across Connecticut are still travelling to Hartford on Wednesday for a rally at Noon. Parishes were mobilized over the weekend to bring thousands of outraged Catholics to the public hearing on SB1098 to send a message to Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor - Stop interfering with the Catholic Church's First Amendment rights!
This fight is not over. Catholics should call their legislators to let them know they oppose SB1098 and the misguided judgment of Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor to interfere in the Catholic Church's business.
You may locate your Senator and Representative at the following address:
Stay tuned for reports of the Catholic rally at the Capitol.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
First we have an over-reaching attempt to codify the Connecticut Supreme Court's Kerrigan decision legalizing gay marriage - Senate Bill 899 - and now we have a bizarre attack of First Amendment rights against the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut - Senate Bill 1098.
I'm going to focus on Senate Bill 1098 -- "An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Institutions." The stated purpose of this bill is "to revise the corporate governance provisions applicable to the Roman Catholic Church and provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations." The real purpose of this bill is payback to the bishops and pastors of the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut for opposing gay marriage.
Unfortunately, I think some well-intentioned, unhappy Catholics from Darien are being used as pawns by Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor in a thinly-veiled attack on the Church.
This legislation seeks to eliminate bishops and pastors from all financial decisions of the Church. Currently, local parish corporations are governed by the bishop, diocesan administrator, pastor and two lay trustees as required in Canon Law. Senate Bill 1098 will change this to an elected board of directors of seven to thirteen lay members and will exclude the bishop and pastor. The pastor of the parish corporation will report to the board of directors.
This proposal turns the Catholic Church of Connecticut into a congregational church structure. The proponents claim this is necessary because of financial impropriety of two pastors from Darien and Greenwich in the past several years. McDonald and Lawlor claim the parishioners approached them for assistance making changes to the Catholic Church to hold the bishops accountable for their decisions.
Some would say this is an incredibly bold move by McDonald and Lawlor but the constitutional scholars say their proposal is a clear attack on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Connecticut Catholics are outraged by the proposal and are likely to fill the halls of the State Capitol and the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, March 11th for the Judiciary Committee's public hearing on the bill.
I suspect this public hearing will be more like a zoo with the tone of an inquisition. Chances are the topics for discussion on Wednesday will go far beyond the bill proposed. I fear that we'll be hearing all kinds of attacks on the bishops, pastors and priests of the Catholic Church.
I pray fervently that we can dispense with this brutal attack on the Roman Catholic Church very quickly. Catholics don't deserve this attack and the proponents of this bill will hopefully hear this message loud and clear.
You can read about S.B. 1098 here: http://cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=1098&which_year=2009
You can reach members of the Judiciary Committee here: http://cga.ct.gov/jud/
Friday, February 27, 2009
We have a big budget deficit in Connecticut. Various government officials disagree on the amount so for means of discussion here I'll use the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis' deficit estimate in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2009 is one-billion-three-hundred-fifty-three-million dollars. $1,353,000,000
Senate Republicans introduced a deficit mitigation proposal on February 11th. Governor Rell introduced her third deficit mitigation proposal on February 19th. We waited until hours before our February 25th session for details of the Democratic leader's proposal. That's part of the game here at the Capitol - keep as many people in the dark until it's time to release the info. Forget open discussion and the opportunity to analyze a proposal.
The Democrat's plan claimed to erase $1.217 billion, or 90 percent, of the projected $1.353 billion budget deficit. The major problem with the Democrat's claim is that 23% of their deficit mitigation plan is not real.
Here is the real story of cost savings or new taxes in the plan that are a part of their shell game:
$220,000,000 - "off-budget" account sweeps to be identified at a later date
$22,000,000 - state employee retirement incentive plan with no implementation
$3,800,000 - expanded bottle bill that can never be implemented by April 1st
$28,000,000 - eliminate local bridge fund with projects are under construction
$5,000,000 - unidentified contract cancellations
$278,800,000 - Total of Democrats' claimed savings that are not real
So what happens if the Democrats' claimed savings don't materialize? Well, they're running out the clock on this fiscal year and if we hit June 30th without REAL ANSWERS to our budget deficit the "Rainy Day Fund" is automatically tapped to cover the shell game.
The people of Connecticut don't run their businesses or family budgets this way and they expect their legislators to be responsible in their actions on the state budget.
March 15th is the business tax deadline in Connecticut and April 15th is the individual deadline. Most estimates anticipate further erosion of anticipated state tax revenue. That means Governor Rell and the General Assembly must agree on Deficit Mitigation Plan #4 before June 30th.
Governor Rell and my Senate Republican colleagues have consistently offered responsible deficit mitigation proposals and each time the majority Democrats have fallen short in addressing our fiscal crisis. How can we possibly get through a $6 billion to $9 billion deficit in the upcoming budget deliberations if we can't accomplish realistic savings in the current year?
I hope Deficit Mitigation Plan #4 will correct the Democrats' $278,800,000 shell game and preserve our Rainy Day Fund for the tsunami on the horizon.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Myth No. 1: "The General Assembly is equipped to deal with current deficits because it has cut the budget before."
The General Assembly is constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves on this subject.
Myth No. 2: "The state constitutional cap on budget increases is a mere guideline."
The General Assembly is constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves on this subject.
Myth No. 3: "Each year government programs are rigorously evaluated by the legislature with unworthy ones reduced or eliminated and effective ones expanded."
Now there's a novel idea for government to adopt common best practices!
Myth No. 4: "Connecticut has a non-progressive income tax which is unfair because middle-income earners are overtaxed and the rich don't pay their fair share."
Really? I thought a little over one-percent of Connecticut residents paid half of the total income tax.
Please read Bill Nickerson's op-ed here:
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Time flies at the State Capitol and the red ink in state government keeps flowing! The non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis released updated deficit projections for FY 2009-2011. They are now projecting a current year deficit of $1.35 billion. At current levels of spending the 2010 deficit is $3.97 billion and the 2011 deficit will be $4.71 billion.
Politicians in Hartford talk about millions and billions of dollars with such ease it is scary. Let me try to put this into perspective. The projected 2011 budget deficit for the State of Connecticut is roughly the same amount of money it costs to run the entire government and public schools in the city of Danbury for TWENTY-THREE YEARS!
How did we get here? Some would say a freshman senator is not qualified to answer that question but the answer is clear – the state income tax.
State government in Connecticut was “rescued” by the state income tax in 1991 and quickly became intoxicated by the huge revenue growth the new tax brought to state government.
The collapse of Wall Street took many of our high-roller taxpayers down with it and along with them the state income tax revenue the Hartford behemoth needs to survive. Now we have veteran lawmakers saying we have to work together through this tough time.
What the Democrats are really saying is we need a millionaire’s tax. Now there’s a brilliant idea – the millionaires who lost huge chunks of their assets and in many cases most of their income can rescue us again! The moving vans must be crowding the streets of Greenwich loading up for the trip to new homes in the south.
We can’t tax our way out of this recession – especially when our state government is still intoxicated. Now is the time for right-sizing government and finding greater efficiencies to deliver the important core services we provide.
Our deliberations in the General Assembly should focus on the following key points:
1. Identify and preserve key state services
2. Assist newly unemployed residents
3. Assist state businesses to weather this financial crisis and keep their employees working
4. No borrowing to cover current red ink
5. No tax increases
The decisions we legislators make on the 2009 deficit mitigation and the 2010-2011 budget will greatly impact how quickly Connecticut can recover from this recession. Irresponsible, short-term fixes will only prolong the agony for our economy.
Now is the time for bold decisions at the State Capitol.
Scroll down to see the Connecticut government deficit clock.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
As ranking member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, I’m spending a lot of my time studying proposals referred to us. Our co-chairs, Senator Gayle Slossberg and Representative James Spallone bring a new tone of leadership to GAE that I hope will be productive and bi-partisan.
One of the bills I proposed will make changes to the Public Campaign Finance laws by closing loopholes in grants provided to candidates in a primary. Currently a candidate facing nominal opposition in a primary qualifies for a $35,000 grant – the same amount if they faced a viable, qualified primary opponent. Candidates in the general election cycle with this scenario would qualify for reduced grant funding. My proposal will fix this inequity of the current rules and save taxpayer’s money.
Given the nature of the budget crisis in Connecticut, I anticipate GAE will have a busy agenda studying government re-organization proposals. Clearly if the General Assembly is to succeed in addressing our multi-billion dollar deficit we must truly reinvent how Connecticut government operates.
I am busy reading the reams of reports and proposals on this topic discussed over the past twenty years. This is not the time to create another task force to study our government – this is the time to make the tough decisions to right-size our government in order to retain our core services.
The Transportation Committee got off to a start with a bang by hearing testimony from a disgruntled former employee of DMV claiming Commissioner Robert Ward should resign for his handling of the driving school mess. On the contrary, it seems Commissioner Ward is moving deliberately and effectively to fix these problems but he apparently was not consulting with the disgruntled former employee on his decisions and actions.
I must admit I was not prepared for the hardball played during the Judiciary Committee’s judicial reappointment deliberations last week. A big envelope marked confidential arrived on my desk shortly before the meeting. An association of criminal defense lawyers had assembled “comments” from their members regarding judges scheduled for reappointment. Most of the comments were anonymous although the association president assured the committee they came from lawyers. The thick document seemed more like an anonymous witch hunt to me as two female judges seemed to be the lawyer’s target with strong accusations of every flavor.
Following a late-night marathon Judiciary Committee meeting, Judge Swords received a majority vote in favor of her reappointment. The following day she sailed through the House with 2-to-1 in favor. Late that night it appeared her luck had run out in the Senate and that her reappointment was doomed. The floor debate was spirited and sometimes disappointing. A tie vote 18-18 (I voted yes for ‘The Hammer’) was broken by Lt. Governor Fedele in Judge Swords favor. Bravo!
I think we all have lessons to learn from Judge Sword’s reappointment confirmation. I agree with President Pro Tempore Donald Williams comments during the Senate debate – let’s not start a new judicial selection process that includes anonymous testimony! If an association of lawyers would like to comment on a judicial nomination then please do – and sign your name.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
A special cousin, Dave Deakin, joined us at the Capitol today. I always refer to Dave as my favorite Democrat next to my grandfather Gus Deakin – the former Town Clerk of Danbury. Dave was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his swearing-in to the Connecticut House of Representatives where he served with distinction. Dave went on to serve as first selectman of Bethel and Deputy Commissioner of Housing before his retirement. Dave Deakin is a “gentleman’s gentleman” and all of us in politics today should aspire to match the calm demeanor, good nature and wisdom of this fine Connecticut public servant.
I am pleased that my three spiritual advisors were all present today. Father Albert Audette is a dear friend and confidant who always finds time for me when I call. Pastor Gary Baldelli, ignoring his limitations, wheeled his chair into his van and drove himself to the Capitol to attend the ceremony. Brother Benjamin Arde won the prize (I still have to find an appropriate one) for travelling the furthest – coming all the way from Cape Town, South Africa. May God Bless these spectacular gentlemen for their ministries and their dedication to carrying the message. I am blessed to have their friendship and their prayers.
I felt a deep sense of humility taking the Oath of Office in the Connecticut State Senate this morning. After many years of public and community service the time had come to take on new challenges. I look forward to the days ahead and pray for the wisdom to offer substantive solutions to the grave fiscal crisis we face in Connecticut.
Senate Republicans offered amendments to the Senate Rules calling for streamlining the legislative process in Connecticut and insisting on transparency. Eliminating legislative committees (and the dozens of staff and resources) sends a strong message to the residents of Connecticut that state government is serious about cutting spending just like families are struggling with today. Eliminating the late night deliberations that produce monumental legislation without public hearings is another good idea that was summarily dismissed by Senate Democrats.
Senate President Donald Williams defended the Democrats’ rejection of our proposals by claiming the Connecticut Legislature needs S-P-E-C-F-I-C-I-T-Y! Senator Williams insists that our endless list of legislative committees is somehow good for Connecticut. Sending a proposed bill to an endless list of legislative committees for review is exactly why we should eliminate some of these committees. Not only did the Democrats reject a good streamlining proposal – they want to expand the committees!
Republican Senator Kevin Witkos offered a classic response to Senator Williams call for “all hands on deck... for all of us to work together” by saying, “aye-aye Captain - reporting for duty with bold ideas.” How can we possibly address the difficult challenges ahead of shrinking Connecticut’s government if the Democrats propose expanding government on opening day?
Governor Rell, in her State of the State speech, reminded legislators that families across Connecticut are cutting costs, businesses are cutting costs and government must do the same. Government cannot be something that just grows and grows every year like we’ve seen in the past.
The largest growth of jobs in Connecticut since the adoption of the state income tax in 1991 is in the government sector. Imagine that – we develop an income tax to fill a budget hole (roughly 1/6 the deficit of 2009-2011) and all we’ve done is grow the government with the extra money from the income tax.
Now we must shrink the government to balance the budget.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I followed my two Republican predecessors’ careers in the Connecticut State Senate over the past fourteen years so some of my comments may reflect on Mark Nielsen and David Cappiello’s terms. I am glad David will remain with the Senate Republican Caucus as a policy advisor.
The Connecticut General Assembly session opens on Wednesday, January 7th. The incoming State Senate has five freshmen – four Republicans - Kevin Witkos, Toni Boucher, Scott Frantz and me - and one Democrat – Anthony Musto. Three of us are new legislators while Kevin Witkos and Toni Boucher join the Senate after distinguished careers in the State House.
My professional experiences in financial services and municipal government administration bring a unique perspective to the extreme challenges we face in the state legislature this year. All of our budget deliberations must assume the current revenue streams are dry and find less expensive alternatives to deliver core state government services.
Only a small number of current legislators were on hand for the last major budget crisis in 1991 that created the state income tax. State government’s reliance on the income tax has grown in leaps and bounds since then.
With dramatic reductions in tax revenue due to the Wall Street mess we are now faced with difficult decisions – do we reduce state spending to match the belt-tightening in homes across Connecticut or keep operating a bloated government with dozens of new tax increases?
Connecticut legislators have a good opportunity this year to make bold decisions to transform our government into a 21st Century model of efficiency. Bold decisions require action – not blue ribbon commissions and task forces. Let us dust off the dozens of studies and reports, look at the best practices of every state government and develop a plan for 2009.
This Wednesday I’ll be joined by friends and family as I take the oath of office. Check back for my report on the opening day experience.
May God Bless Governor Rell, my fellow legislators and I with the strength and wisdom we’ll need to make the right decisions.