Commentary: The state’s priorities need to be reordered

Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Southington, Wolcott)

Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Southington, Wolcott)

Over the past couple of months, I have heard from a great many of my constituents concerning Gov. Dannel Malloy’s decision to dramatically reduce state Medicaid reimbursements to our state’s already struggling hospitals. In recent years, the hospitals seem to be the Malloy administration’s go-to source for dollars when their poor budgeting results in repeated shortfalls.

One of his top officials was even quoted saying, “Why do people rob banks? That’s where the money is,” when asked by one of my Republican colleagues why the hospitals seem to be repeatedly asked to pay more and more taxes.

I have responded to many of you who have written me personally, but I thought there has been so much discussion and confusion on the subject that I should write about it.

First, I would say that I would normally applaud any act by our governor or legislature that results in a reduction in state spending. I firmly believe that excessive taxation and an increasingly punitive and uncertain business environment created by government overreach have stifled our economy and are at the heart of our failure as a state to leave the recession behind and get our workforce moving again.

The issue here, as I have said so many times before, is priorities. I must sound like a broken record to those of you who follow my comments and actions at the Capitol. However, if you do, then you know that I consider my primary duty is to inform my constituents so they can better hold our state government accountable to us all.

I share the immense concern and distress over the governor’s latest action to cut Medicaid reimbursements to our hospitals. This action threatens the state’s most vulnerable populations of seniors, children and those with mental health needs and ultimately puts a strain on hospitals that might put some right out of business.

For an administration that claims to be leading the way on reducing crime, particularly deadly shootings, it’s shocking that expenditures that might address mental health would be on the chopping block. Of course, that’s no doubt because it doesn’t fit their anti-freedom gun control agenda.

Make no mistake that these cuts will also impact our communities in other ways, potentially lead to layoffs, and even more economic malaise. Our hospitals are constantly being asked to do more and more with less. I think it’s time our state and federal governments tried that themselves.

I should note that the governor, just as I am writing this, issued a release that he plans to set up a small account designed to reallocate a token amount of these lost funds for the state’s smaller hospitals—a clear indication of bad priorities and an inadequate understanding of the problem and its consequences.

I have been a strong supporter of Connecticut’s hospitals in recent years, in fact opposing all of the other cuts that already have occurred, and I will continue to do so. I am proud to have been one of only two members of the House of Representatives to oppose the first round of hospital cuts in 2013.

I voted against the Governor’s budget and also the budget implementation package offered during the special session. The current state budget is misguided and irresponsible on every level. It does significant damage to our financial future, to the taxpayers of our state and—even before this latest move—does significant damage to our hospitals. I could not come close to supporting it.

Without rehashing the entire budget battle from last year, I think it’s important to note that my Republican colleagues and I put forth a balanced budget that did not raise taxes—and possibly even more important—was based on realistic income and expense projections that would have avoided the current chaos of deficits and shortfalls. All of which were predicted by myself and others even before the budget we are living under was adopted in the dead of night by the slimmest of margins, if you don’t mind me taking the liberty of saying so.

I did my level best at the time to be sure that these concerns were heard by the majority party leaders and that they were fully aware of the implications of enacting these policy provisions. I also encouraged a review of the impact to our state’s hospitals and the alternative proposals the hospitals themselves worked to produce.

The truth is we absolutely need to cut spending on the state level. It’s negatively impacting jobs and businesses and tax payers are suffering. However, those cuts need to be made responsibly and in other areas—not to our struggling hospitals that are critical to communities across our state.

I have joined my colleagues in a call for the governor to reverse this decision and have added my name to the petition signed by members of the House of Representatives demanding a special session to address this issue. I am not certain that will be the answer as we will be calling back the same legislators who enacted this horrible budget and associated bad decisions to begin with. However, I am hopeful that a rigorous and public debate will force a more positive result.

Going forward, I promise to continue to work towards realigning our priorities so that we can retain what is important and eliminate what is not. I am committed to getting us on solid financial ground and will be sure to make sure your voice is heard here at the Capitol.

My hope is that at some future point, the voice of common sense will prevail and we will able to take back our state from the special interests, responsibly reign in spending and concentrate on properly funding the items that truly need it.

As always, I welcome your input, visit me at www.repsampson.com.

Opinion by State Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Southington).

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