CT Needs to Stop this Alarming Trend

The time was ripe to change the current course of our state and how we budget but in the end, the Governor and majority party did little to change, offering only a band aid solution when what the state needed was an organ transplant.

Look no further than the October 20th headline in the Hartford Courant, ‘Census: Thousands Of Connecticut Residents Moving To Other States, Fewer Moving In.’

We are at a true crossroads as a state, we continue to push residents out due to the high cost of living, the never-ending escalation of taxes (income, property and sales), lack of reliable transportation and the constant and dismissive way we treat Connecticut job creators in our state.

The current state budget, as we argued and debated back in June, was doomed from the start. This is what happens when one political party has complete control. Each time Republican lawmakers asked to have their voices heard we were dismissed out of hand. The majority Democrats did not want to hear our ideas or proposals. Therefore, the 1.4 million people (42%) who the minority represents in our state were shut out of the budget creation process.

The final product, which was rife with tax hikes, was touted as the panacea by Governor Malloy on May 31st.

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today… It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Then, in September, a mere two months into the fiscal year, which began on July 1, the Governor announced $103 million in emergency deficit reductions, which led to devastating cuts to our state hospitals, our developmentally disabled citizens, and cities and towns. What happened to the ‘brighter tomorrow’?

By November the problem ballooned, with the current deficit rising to over $350 million. After pressure from Republican lawmakers and tens of thousands of Connecticut citizens upset over Governor Malloy’s cuts aimed at hospitals, Medicaid and our most-vulnerable residents, he finally agreed to hold bi-partisan talks to address the problem.

Unfortunately, despite good-faith efforts from all sides, lawmakers were unable to agree on a path to fiscal sustainability. Republicans insisted the immediate deficit be addressed without raising taxes, AND that long-term structural changes be made now to the way core government functions and services are funded.

Some of the structural proposals we put forward and were voted down by the majority party included:

  •    Beginning in 2022, pension benefits shall no longer be a contractual right, but a statutory right
  •    Implementation of a constitutional spending cap
  •    Capping state bond allocations to $1.8 billion per year
  •    Create an efficiency planning committee to identify non-profit providers to assume some services currently managed by the state
  •    Conduct an in-depth review of each state appropriation to reduce duplication of services

The budget deficit mitigation plan the majority democrats passed on Tuesday did make changes to some of the business taxes imposed in the budget that caused companies like GE to want to move out of our state, and it restored some funding to hospitals. That’s the good news. But the bad news is it also cut the vocational-technical education system in the amount of $1.45 million and will further hurt our state’s ability to train the next generation of our trades’ workforce. Public safety funding was also cut which has the potential to impact law enforcement agencies across our state at a time of increased security concerns locally and nationally.

Ironically, it also raided another 35 million from the Special Transportation fund, after passing a constitutional “Lock Box” bill to protect transportation dollars from being used to fix deficits.  

As GE explained during a meeting we attended at their corporate headquarters in September, they are not looking for a “special deal.” GE and other businesses and hospitals in our state, are looking for a solid, predictable business policy. It’s about institutional and structural change not a six-month to one-year tax adjustment.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Why are people fleeing our beautiful state? Connecticut is squeezing out the younger generations due to the high cost of living and lack of tangible job opportunities. Connecticut’s economy isn’t attracting young families.

The Courant article on census data further tells the story of an aging Connecticut with retirees moving out if they have the means, while fewer young people are moving in.

With the migration of these young people out of Connecticut, the potential high wage jobs also disappear along with their taxable income. Unfortunately, the jobs in Connecticut that are available are lower wage jobs with less income to tax.

In other words, the Legislature is doing it wrong. We missed a major chance to transform Connecticut and pave the way for fiscal sustainability and the opportunity to grow. Connecticut citizens and businesses deserve better.  We’re hopeful the majority will cast aside the partisan politics for the upcoming 2016 legislative session and truly work with us to make long-term changes for Connecticut’s future.

State Reps. Laura Devlin & Brenda Kupchick.

State Reps. Laura Devlin & Brenda Kupchick.

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