Unless you have been lucky enough to be on an extended vacation out of state, chances are you have heard about our state’s current budget crisis. Readers of this column are generally informed, so you probably know this is not a new thing. The State of Connecticut’s finances have been poorly managed for decades. When I was first elected in 2010 for instance, we were facing a multi-billion dollar deficit even at that time.
What is new, however, is the realization that the usual methods of quick fixes, shenanigans and tax increases are not going to work this time around.
In February, Gov. Dannel Malloy released his plan for the next two-year budget cycle. His proposal would push over $400 million in pension liability costs onto local governments, eliminate hospitals’ tax-exempt status and severely cut municipal aid to several towns, despite a call for $700 million in concessions from state employees.
Cuts to municipal and education aid would result in significant property tax hikes for residents. Healthcare prices would increase as hospitals are forced to compensate for the new property taxes.
Malloy, himself, author of the two largest tax increases in state history (just within the last six years) seems to now realize that raising taxes doesn’t necessarily yield more revenue. Connecticut taxpayers have been pushed to the brink, resulting in economic stagnation and a mass exodus of individuals and businesses choosing to flee the state.
Of course, this is something many of us have known for a long time. Our state government has grown to the point where it is no longer sustainable, and burdening towns with the possibility of property tax hikes is unspeakable. The recent tax hikes have forced people out of the state, and as they leave, they take that tax revenue with them. It’s time for a new direction.
To that end and in response to the Governor’s budget proposal, only the House and Senate Republicans have offered an alternative to date, something we have called “Confident Connecticut.” This budget proposal closes the current projected state deficit over the next two years without new taxes and without pushing state expenses onto towns, cities or hospitals.
It restores education funding via a new formula, does not borrow against the future, and provides for significant structural changes to state government designed to get us back on track for the long term. It also eliminates the ridiculous and political proposed hike in pistol permit fees and phases out the state income tax on pension and social security income, possibly getting us off the “worst state to retire” list.
For Wolcott and Southington residents, the municipal and education funding cuts that were in Gov. Malloy’s plan for 2018 would be eliminated and restored to FY 2017 levels allowing municipal leaders to restore their town and education budgets without raising local property taxes or damaging cuts to schools.
This budget is by no means perfect or without pain. It adopts many of the concessions offered in the Governor’s plan including cuts and consolidations to state programs and his commitment to reduce the cost of the state’s workforce. What it does not do is further burden hard working taxpayers and businesses. They are the engine to restart our economy and restore Connecticut’s greatness.
My job since we released our “Confident Connecticut” plan has been to promote it inside and outside of the Capitol. The majority party has yet to offer their budget plan and seems content with playing politics and running bills through the legislature designed to generate political hay for the next election, but not addressing our actual problems.
Earlier this session, I received the tremendous honor to be elected chairman to the legislature’s conservative caucus, a position of considerable influence and responsibility.
In this capacity, I have done my best to advocate for a return to common sense, constitutional principles, limited government, accountability for all elected officials, and as I have mentioned in my previous columns, a return to civility and respect in politics.
It’s a difficult time for legislators in Hartford who are faced with hard decisions and few pain-free choices to make. Budget talks will continue and there will be pressure on Republican leaders to acquiesce and join the Democrats in raising taxes.
I will do my best to use my position to encourage a commitment to face the state’s problems head on and build a good foundation for the future. I am doing my best to lead by example and show the way.
I want my constituents to know that I am committed to doing the right thing for the future of Connecticut. I renew my commitment not to support any new or increased taxes and will not vote for a budget that further burdens state residents now or in the future.
State Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Southington, Cheshire) represents the 80th assembly district.