Thursday, January 8, 2009

Opening Day at the State Capitol

What an exciting day for a freshman in the Connecticut General Assembly! We chartered a coach and brought 42 family members, friends and supporters to the State Capitol in the middle of an ice storm early this morning. Everyone arrived safe and sound and I know several people who passed on the trip due to weather concerns kept us all in their prayers for a good day in Hartford.

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.