The fact is, the more we spend to run state government, the more we need to tax those who live and work here to pay for it. That is why we must cut back spending. Increasing taxes is the natural result of increasing government spending and in this financial climate it is unacceptable, unsustainable and frankly unbelievable.
During the campaign the Governor insisted that taxes would be a last resort – not a first response – to closing the projected $3.5 billion deficit. He said repeatedly he would reach into taxpayers’ pockets only after all other options – spending cuts, governmental consolidations, creating more efficiencies – had been undertaken. “Everything is on the table,’’ and “shared sacrifice,’’ became the watchwords of his transition into office. But he didn’t cut spending, he increased it.
According to state budget analysts, today (FY 2011) we spend $19.3 billion to run state government. Governor Malloy is proposing we spend $19.7 billion next year (FY 2012) and $20.2 billion the year after that (FY 2013). That is nearly a $1 billion increase in spending in two years.
Up until his budget was presented, Governor Malloy, Governor-Elect Malloy and Candidate Malloy tried to shape our expectations. He told us that Connecticut was in the worst financial shape since the great depression, our borrowing was out of control and state government was too big and too expensive. He told us to expect shared sacrifice and that raising taxes would be his last resort. Governor Malloy’s words were welcome. They were stated boldly and confidently. He shaped our expectations and those expectations were high. No more games, no more gimmicks, no more excuses. Unfortunately, cutting government spending is not high on his agenda.
The Governor does deserve credit for proposing an honest budget that does not use gimmicks or borrow to pay operating expenses. He asked for serious concessions from the state employees. He has also embraced the idea of consolidation by proposing to fold 81 state boards and commissions into 57. That said, it should be noted that unlike the tax increases he proposed, some of the concessions he has asked for, like the wage freeze, are temporary and will resume in two years. Further, when the Governor was asked how many less, of the approximately 45,000 state workers will we need under his budget, the answer was a mere 150. In fact, there is a singular closure of a state building: the two-person state police gambling oversight unit located in what was once the toll house off I-95 in Old Saybrook.
Beginning in early 2008 dire warnings of the massive fiscal problems ahead went unheeded by the majority party. Republicans offered several Common Sense solutions which fell on deaf ears. Since then, declining revenues were not met with offsetting spending cuts, but borrowing, reliance on federal money to balance the state budget and a $1.6 billion tax hike on employers and the wealthy.
On January 25th of this year, at the urging of the Governor, Republicans offered a comprehensive set of proposals and ideas to bridge the fiscal abyss we face as a state, including billions in savings from all public employees, union and non-union (cthouserules.com). We also proposed merging 43 agencies into 11 to save millions more, privatizing inefficient state services, rolling back spending to previous levels and selling off assets such as airports and other operations that costs taxpayers more money every year than they bring in.
All parties – taxpayers, labor unions, businesses and anyone else with a stake in fixing Connecticut’s broken bureaucracy – must share responsibility. Where this debate over the state’s finances winds up is anyone’s guess. But starting out with spending hikes built into the Governor’s bottom line does not make the task of getting out of the state’s fiscal mess any easier.
State Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., of Norwalk is the House Republican Leader