I have been following the state’s budget crisis with a lot of interest, because I’m a state resident and taxpayer and I believe in getting something of value for the taxes that I pay. The current stalemate in the budget process in Hartford is wholly inexcusable. In thinking about this problem, I believe I have a solution which most voters would heartily approve.

The only accountability voters currently have over our elected leaders is at the ballot box, but that won’t happen until November 2018 – which is way too distant in the future to address the budget stalemate which affects every resident of this state now. To hold our elected leaders fully accountable for their actions when it comes to producing a timely state budget, I am proposing the following:

A piece of legislation needs to be drafted, approved and signed into law which mandates that if a budget is not produced and signed into law by the required deadline, every elected politician in the legislature, AND the governor, shall be subject to a fine of $250/day for every day that the budget is late. This penalty would apply to all seven days of the week, including any holidays.

Any proposed budgets produced by either party MUST be allowed to be brought up for a timely vote. One party, committee or individual would  not have the authority to block any proposed budget from consideration. The current blocking of a vote on one party’s proposed budget by the opposition party leader is juvenile and reprehensible behavior by a publicly elected official in the current crisis. It has happened during this budget session and the voters deserve much better from their elected representatives.

Also, any votes taken on proposed budgets must be roll call votes, not voice votes. And within 24 hours of any budget vote taken, legislators must personally explain on their legislative websites, their reason(s) for their YEA or NAY vote(s). We, the voters, need more accountability from our elected representatives and this will produce that objective.

By requiring a monetary penalty for failure to produce a budget on time, voters will have some immediate accountability from their elected official’s failure to perform as legally required. Additionally, the potential financial impact on legislators’ personal wallets will prod them to work together and more efficiently in the future. By including the Governor in this proposal he or she would also be incentivized to bring all parties together to create a budget document that is realistic, balanced, on time, and for the good of the all of the people of the state. An added bonus is that this plan would keep the legislature working on a budget instead of taking time off and doing nothing about the situation, as is happening now.

Craig Hoffman lives in Cheshire.

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