The 2016 Legislative Session began with the traditional opening day ceremonies on Feb. 3, with the governor presenting his annual State of the State Address.
Like the President’s State of the Union, a State of the State Address is more than a simple report on our fiscal and economic status. It is also an opportunity for the chief executive to make the case for his policies and to make the case for the direction he intends to lead us.
Indeed, Malloy’s political philosophy had been on full display during previous State of the State Addresses. He didn’t mince words about his desire to grow government, increase state spending (and taxes), and follow the Obama model of “fundamentally transforming America.”
The primary reason why I serve as our state representative is to stand as a bulwark against just such policies. I would like us to begin to restore America’s core principles of self-reliance and maximum liberty and opportunity for all.
I certainly respect his office and have offered the governor maximum courtesy regardless of the issue up for debate. However, I have rarely applauded during his previous addresses because of my sincere disagreement with the content.
This past time however, I found myself standing and applauding after the majority of statements in his speech. This address was very clearly unlike those he had delivered during his previous five years occupying the state’s highest office.
Many of my Republican colleagues also applauded enthusiastically as the governor spoke, even more so than the majority Democrats across the aisle. Afterwards, many stories were written about the governor finally seeing things our way.
He did in fact say many things I agree with, and his remarks were both surprising and encouraging. He called for a 5.75 percent cut across all agencies, said he refuses to entertain tax increases, and spoke to a need for the state to live within the constraints of our means. All music to my ears as a champion of fiscal restraint and smaller, less intrusive government.
I, and many others, felt this was a welcomed departure, and wondered aloud where this Gov. Malloy was years ago. Perhaps, he finally realizes that he cannot tax and spend our state back into prosperity.
This was very different than the past where we were fed empty platitudes about “shared sacrifice” being required for economic recovery. The result was two enormous tax increases which did nothing to offset budget deficits due to even larger increases in spending.
Indeed, Gov. Malloy presided over the two largest tax increases in the history of the state. The result has been the exodus of many productive citizens and notable enterprises, gone to well-run states that have restored their economic health. Connecticut has watched as other states that are more capably administered left us behind as they reclaimed their economic strength following the great recession. How did we arrive at this day, when Gov. Malloy delivered his revealing remarks?
For five years Gov. Malloy and majority Democrats in the legislature have stubbornly insisted that their higher taxes and targeted benefit packages of crony capitalism to special selected industries and businesses would lift us from our financial woes. They haven’t.
Instead, we have found ourselves in budget deficit after budget deficit. The governor and Democrats congratulated themselves after a special session meant to repair a hole in the budget last December, only to see our state finances once again plunged immediately back into deficit roughly a month later.
And now the governor has delivered his State of the State, offering a very different message. While I was pleased that the message signaled a change in course, conspicuously during a legislative election year, it did not tell an entirely positive story.
Another central part of the governor’s message was how we were living in a new economic reality, and that things would just never go back to the way they were before the great recession. What the governor was actually saying to us all was that since his earlier efforts to bring back the glory days through higher taxes and increased spending didn’t work, he has now surrendered to the notion that it just can’t be done.
It was very much like Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech, where Americans were told that we would just have to live with our diminished lot and move along. It wasn’t a turn toward fiscal responsibility. It was surrender.
This aspect of the governor’s address I found somewhat offensive. This state continues to be filled with hard working people who have the techniques, talent, skill and know-how to get ahead and make this state great once more. Connecticut belongs at the vanguard of financially strong states, not bringing up the rear. All they need is for our state and federal governments to get out of their way.
This session is sure to be an interesting one and you can be certain I will be reminding Gov. Malloy of what he has said and holding him accountable to make his actions match his words. For my part, I will continue working hard to free our economy from the restrictions government has placed on it, and to reverse years of terrible tax and spend policies that have weakened our powerful economy.
Rob Sampson is a Republican State Representative for the 80th assembly district, which includes Wolcott and Southington.