Boucher: We have to know our competition to fight back
I attended a meeting in Norwalk where Florida Gov. Rick Scott tried to entice Connecticut business to “give up” and move to the Sunshine State. Bart Shuldman of TransAct Technologies in Norwalk invited all of the local legislative representatives to hear Gov. Scott’s pitch and I’m disappointed that more did not attend.
I’ve always believed that you need to know who your competition is and what they are saying so you can learn to fight back. Our competition right now is Texas and Florida. These are states with no income tax, no inheritance tax, low costs, and low regulation. Connecticut needs to wake up.
Bart Shuldman was on the state committee to study how to define and implement the state spending cap. He is someone who wants the state of Connecticut to succeed. He has been sounding the alarm bell for a long time that we have to change state tax policies and regulations or we are going to continue to lose residents and businesses.
It time to stop putting our heads in the sand and look at the reality of the fiscal situation our state is in. We need to develop proposals that take on states like Florida and Texas that are poaching our businesses and residents. Florida is doing this by largest amount.
This is Connecticut’s fiscal reality.
Right now, fixed costs make up two-thirds of the state budget. These are debt service, state employee pensions, and medical costs that continue to grow by $1 billion a year.
Our state’s governor has proposed dealing with a looming two-year deficit of more than $5 billion by:
Achieving $700 million in labor concessions that extend the state employee union contracts to 2022.
Budget cuts of $300 million.
Tax increases of $300 million.
Forcing towns to pay $400 million for the state teachers retirement pensions.
This plan just scratches the surface of what needs to be done and will not get the state out of trouble. It is also sending the state's obligations down to our towns and further raises the highest-in-the-country property taxes and exacerbates the flow of homeowners to states like Florida.
When it comes to state employee pensions, Connecticut is in a death spiral. We have the distinction of having the most underfunded pension in the U.S. Gov. Malloy’s deal earlier this year on the pensions increases their costs by $12 billion over the next 30 years. This does not include the other post-retirement costs the state is on the hook for.
Recent downgrades of Connecticut’s bond rating means it’s going to cost more to borrow money.
As a result, Gov. Scott came to Connecticut and tried to make some very enticing overtures to people in the audience. I was there because it was very important to listen carefully so we can prevent Florida from draining our highest revenue producers.
So, we asked Gov. Scott what he did to make Florida such a desirable state for business, because that did not used to be the case.
He said he concentrated on the state budget, job creation, and education. He turned his state around, he said, by doing the opposite of what Connecticut’s governor is doing.
Gov. Scott went through Florida’s budget with a fine-tooth comb and cut programs where the state was not getting a return on its investment. He cut taxes and reduced regulations. He talked to businesses to ask what they needed. With additional people moving into the state by the droves, it generated higher sales taxes to pay for the programs the state needs.
Connecticut legislators should take this message to heart and fight back to return our state to the place that people are moving into instead of moving out of.
That’s my focus and why I continue to be a strong advocate for the state of Connecticut. It’s a state I love. It’s a state you love.
The Republican alternative budget proposal moves Connecticut in a new direction that will help us beat Florida at its own game. Let’s pass that budget so we can fight back and help our state change for the better.