Friday, February 27, 2009

Connecticut Needs Real Deficit Mitigation!

The recent session of the Connecticut General Assembly was an interesting experience for this freshman senator! Our agenda read "An Act Concerning Deficit Mitigation Measures for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2009" but it probably should have read "Let's claim we fixed our billion dollar budget deficit but really didn't."

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

Bill Nickerson - The Myth-Buster!

Former Senator Bill Nickerson's op-ed in the Sunday Hartford Courant is a must-read to understand our challenges with the state budget. Here are the four budget myths Bill busts wide open with my observations:

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:,0,4086481.story

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Stop the Red Ink

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.