How has ‘wealthy’ Connecticut run out of money?
As we head into summer, we also head into increasingly turbulent economic times. The sad economic reality is that Connecticut, the wealthiest state per capita, has been driven to near fiscal collapse by years of fiscal mismanagement in Hartford, and our loss of authority to Washington.
Indeed, as our state legislative session drew to a close this month, the Democratic majority found themselves locked in a room trying to fix the latest budget deficit for FY 16 (nearly $220 million in June alone), along with the $1 billion deficit for FY 17 starting on July 1, 2016. Late last week they emerged from their bunker, convened a special session, and passed an emergency budget fix on party line vote in the Senate (21-15), and a narrow 74-70 in the House.
This latest budget “fix” is based yet again on false assumptions, but because of the flight of our tax base, must now include drastic cuts to programs, schools and hospitals to fill the massive fiscal hole created by years of reckless tax and spending increases. Even worse, this budget ignores the structural changes proposed by Republicans year after year, and will thus fail to solve the state’s spending problem going forward. This was an election year budget, and a bad one at that.
Indeed, despite the state bringing in record receipts last year as derived from the majority’s massive tax increases in 2011 and 2013, we still ran deficits this fiscal year, and now face a $3 billion-plus budget deficit for the next budget cycle. More money than ever is coming into Hartford, but cuts to schools, hospitals and environmental programs are coming out.
When asked “How can this be?” our Democratic colleagues default to a pusillanimous cry of “a new economic reality” as they retreat back to their bunker in the hopes of weathering this storm past November. In the meantime, Connecticut’s economy is undeniably losing employers large and small, population young and old, and opportunities both traditional and new.
If the Democrats retain their 30-plus year majority past November, we will almost certainly see new tax hikes next year which will only exacerbate this collapse.
Not only are we going in the wrong direction in Hartford, we appear to be picking up speed.
Moreover, our federal officials have contributed to the problem and must thus share some of the blame. For years the federal government has essentially looted Connecticut of money and authority – with us giving nearly the most per capita to DC and getting back nearly the least – and thereafter forcing our state government to beg for some of our own money back via federal grants, laden with federal conditions, to fund our local needs.
We have now become dependent on a diminishing return of our own federal tax dollars to partially fund what should be addressed in Hartford and/or at the municipal level. Despite being the wealthiest state per capita, this ‘Feds Bleed us Dry, Hartford Wastes the Rest’ approach to governance has resulted in our schools, roads and social programs being perpetually broke and/or broken.
Luckily, the solution is both obvious and time-tested. We need to retake control over local dollars to fix our local problems. At the same time, our federal and state governments must cease taxing and burdening our shrinking private sector to pay for the reckless growth of a gluttonous and under-performing public sector.
This bottom–up approach to governance is not only more organic and responsive, it is reflective of our national identity. Contrarily, our Democratic leaders’ approach is an anachronistic legacy of the New Deal, big central government model. This may have worked 90 years ago, but today their approach is both regressive and self-destructive.
Simply put, we need a change in direction and leadership in Hartford/Washington to return promise and prosperity to our state, not more election year budgets draped in election year rhetoric.
State Rep. John Shaban represents the 135th District towns of Easton, Redding and Weston.
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