Connecticut: A blue state drowning in red ink  

To those who think that Connecticut is not drowning in red ink, think again. Connecticut has only $10.1 billion of liquid assets available to pay debts totaling $72.2 billion.

To fill this financial hole, each taxpayer would need to send $48,600 to the state.  Connecticut ranks 49th out of 50 in fiscal health according to the Truth in Accounting’s state data lab report.

The news is grim and comes just five months after a new two-year budget passed on a Democratic party line vote that raised taxes by $1.3 billion and canceled previously approved tax cuts worth close to $500 million.

We are now facing a $370 million deficit this year, over $550 million deficit next year, and the 2018/2019 biennium shows Connecticut $3.6 billion in the hole.

Historic tax increases in 2011 and 2015 produced further deficits, not surpluses as expected.

Why? Unrelenting spending, underfunding pensions, excessive borrowing and bonding, and higher wages cost the taxpayers more than double the revenues generated.

Exacerbating the problem is Connecticut’s highest-in-the-nation tax burden, which has caused residents and businesses to flee, leaving fewer taxpayers to shoulder the heavy debt burden.

As the governor signed his new budget, he said, “I’m very proud to pass the budget as amended.” But now even the governor’s budget chief has admitted that Connecticut is in a “permanent deficit crisis.”

At first they blamed Wall Street returns, energy sector problems, Europe, and China. However, other states are confronting these same challenges and are growing, adding jobs and prospering. These states are the beneficiaries of former Connecticut residents and businesses who were forced to move out by our bad budgets, punishing taxes, and regulatory overreach.

The reality of Connecticut’s financial crisis can no longer be denied. In fact, things have worsened to a point where the governor and the majority party are no longer shutting the door on the numerous Republican alternative proposals offered over the last six years.

The governor and Democrats are finally allowing the minority party into the negotiating room. Both parties are now working on a deficit mitigation plan with the understanding that all parties are bringing good faith proposals to the table.

The governor has proposed cuts to social services, education and municipal aid. But one-time fixes are not enough to get our fiscal house in order. Structural changes are needed to avoid future shortfalls and restore predictability and sustainability.

We are proposing long-term changes such as changes to healthcare premium sharing, defined benefit/defined contribution plans, an increase in pension contributions, overtime reform, the establishment of an efficiency planning committee, a cap on the amount of money the state can bond, and a reduction in raises for state employees.

Our plan addresses the current deficit without cutting funding for hospitals, Medicaid, those with developmental disabilities, or substance abuse treatment programs. It also includes tax changes to improve the state’s anti-business environment, including eliminating Unitary Combined Reporting.

While it is unclear what will happen once negotiators emerge from their closed-door negotiations, it is clear that a bipartisan, long-term solution is required to solve the budget crisis and put  Connecticut in the black and back on track again.