In an unexpected appearance at Wednesday’s Connecticut Business & Industry Association event, Gov. M. Jodi Rell urged business leaders to support her plan to create a new commission to look at restructuring state government.
“We have to get our spending under control because we don’t have the money, but getting our state government to do something about it, is frankly a constantly frustrating battle of wills,” Rell said.
“I proposed a new way of dealing with the budget and I called for a budget cutting panel based on what many of us know as the BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment) Commission,” Rell said. “To take the politics out of the equation.”
Rell admitted that when she first proposed this some political pundits rolled their eyes and others said she’s just kicking it down the road. She said those political pundits and columnists are missing the point.
She said when the BRAC Commission was formed to close military bases they knew Congress would be unable to handle the task of deciding which bases should close.
“There was no horse trading, no log rolling, no powerful members calling in the favors and it worked,” Rell said.
She said it will also work in changing the discussion on the state budget and help take politics out of the equation.
“We have a state government unable to make the decisions required to make itself affordable,” Rell said. “It may be the only way for us to make real changes to a state budget.”
The changes proposed by the 24-member commission would have a greater and lasting impact than any deficit mitigation plan or any two-year budget that could ever be offer, Rell said.
John Rathgeber, CEO and President of CBIA, said Rell’s proposed commission deserves the support of the General Assembly. He urged business leaders to talk to their legislators about the commission.
“We need to take seriously this concept,” Rathgeber said. “The proposal deserves serious consideration.”
Rathgeber’s colleague Joe Brennan said CBIA supports the idea because “we need to do something different to break the logjam.” He said it’s the uncertainty of Connecticut’s long term policies and budget priorities that is driving business out of the state.
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman also addressed to packed room of business leaders Wednesday and talked about the fiscal outlook for the state.
She said the budget deficit for this fiscal year remains around $515 million. She said she doesn’t expect that number to change much on March 1 when she releases her latest projections.
“There are no magic bullets to solve the problem,” Wyman said.
There are three ways to solve the budget crisis: spending cuts, borrowing, or tax increases.
“We need structural changes,” Wyman said before promoting her idea to take any surplus money on a monthly basis and deposit it in the Rainy Day Fund.
She said she hasn’t asked Rell yet what she will propose as part of her budget mitigation plan due by March 3, but the “rumors are they will take some of the money from the Rainy Day Fund they planned to use in the second year of the biennium.”
When asked what this will mean, Wyman said it means there will be more holes to fill in the following fiscal year.
On Tuesday, Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said he’s not concerned with taking money from the Rainy Day Fund and moving it up to cover the deficit in 2010 as long as the cuts are being made in the 2011 budget. He said it’s difficult when you’re down to the last four months of the fiscal year to make any cuts to the current budget.