Guest Editorial / State Sen. Toni Boucher
Published 11:44 am, Saturday, September 7, 2013
Connecticut is in serious trouble.
You can't pick up a newspaper without reading another negative headline about our state's dire economic condition. Connecticut has the heaviest tax burden in the country, one of the least friendly business climates, the nation's highest per capita debt, dangerously unfunded pension liabilities and the dubious distinction of being the worst state for retirement.
Connecticut was once one of the most prosperous states. It was the envy of the nation for its low taxes that attracted people and jobs, for its excellent schools, and for its breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and quality of life. Now, thanks to the irresponsible policies of one-party rule, Connecticut has fallen to the bottom of every economic ranking, and our economy itself -- the only one in the country that's shrinking -- ranks dead last.
Connecticut has become unaffordable. People fear they no longer have a future here. Punitive taxes on everything, persistently high unemployment, and the lack of any hope for a turnaround in Connecticut's economy are driving people and businesses away.
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Instead of government working for the taxpayer, the taxpayer is now working for the government. Connecticut residents have to work from Jan. 1 until May 13 just to pay their taxes before taking a penny home. We must wait longer than people in any other state to get the government out of our wallets.
Yet the Malloy administration seems to think that taxpayers' wallets are bottomless and that government has an unlimited license to spend.
In 2011, when the state was deep in recession and facing a $3.5 billion deficit, the administration proposed a $1 billion spending increase, along with the largest tax hike in state history. The governor also negotiated four years of job protection and a multi-year extension of benefits for public unions. Then in 2013, when people and businesses were still reeling from more than 70 new taxes totaling $3.7 billion, the majority party increased spending by nearly 10 percent and paid for it with even more new taxes and borrowing. Meanwhile, only 42 percent of Connecticut's pension obligations are now funded, while the standard for a healthy ratio is 80 percent.
Policies that make no structural budget changes guarantee rolling deficits and pile up future debt, jeopardizing the state's ability to pay for services or pensions. This is not sustainable. People and businesses can't keep cutting back while the government keeps spending their money and valuable services deteriorate.
The administration insists that Connecticut is open for business and that jobs are its highest priority, but the facts tell us otherwise. While the country's unemployment rate is falling, Connecticut's is hovering over 8 percent.
Instead of lowering regulatory hurdles and overall costs for all businesses, the Malloy administration's economic development policy comes down to one thing: spending. There's more than $2 billion for job creation in the current budget. Paying individual companies, many of them large corporations, to buy jobs isn't working. To create jobs, businesses need to make a profit, not one-time handouts.
We must expand the tax base instead of the taxes. Until we do, Connecticut will not be competitive with other states.
Finally, the administration doesn't respect the people it represents. The governor consistently says one thing and does another. He promised no more borrowing to pay operating expenses, and then the majority party borrowed $750 million to balance the budget. He promised $1.6 billion in savings from union negotiations, but they haven't materialized. The majority party raided funds dedicated to transportation and energy services. The governor pledged no new taxes, and then the majority's budget hit everyone in Connecticut with a record 16 percent increase in the gasoline tax. No wonder the public has lost its trust in government. They have had enough.
We must raise the standard of government in Hartford. This means not spending more than taxpayers can afford and not borrowing more than the state can pay back. It means not overpromising benefits to state unions just to build short-term loyalty at the ballot box.
It means giving taxpayers a full accounting of how the state is investing their money. It means respecting all constituents by making sure their elected representatives have a seat at the table. Above all, it means governing with integrity, ethics, and principles, putting the best interests of the public first.
Connecticut needs leaders who will put the overall good of the state before special interests. Leaders who understand both how government works and how businesses function. Leaders who can work with both side of the political aisle to make difficult decisions. Leaders who can put Connecticut's financial house in order so that jobs are plentiful again and families can feel secure.
It's urgent. Connecticut's future is at stake.
Toni Boucher is a State Senator representing the 26th District and has formed an exploratory committee for the opportunity to run for governor.