I will not mince words. It is time to honestly confront the problems affecting our state. The majority leadership has left Connecticut in fiscal crisis, overburdening taxpayers and job creators to serve the interests of unionized state workers.
The administration’s historic, retroactive tax increases led only to successive billion-dollar deficits. Even before GE’s departure for Massachusetts, jobs and people were already fleeing the state. Between 2011 and 2014, Connecticut lost 44,000 jobs and $5 billion in taxable income. Between 2000 and 2014, 14% fewer companies filed state taxes, while debt payments and state compensation grew 174% over inflation. State employees receive 25%-46% more in total compensation than their private-sector counterparts. Bringing state compensation down to private-sector levels would save $1.4 to $2.5 billion a year.
The 2015-16 budget increased spending by $501.6 million while income tax receipts were $650 million below budget. The governor’s pledge to eliminate 2,500 state jobs by mid-June resulted in fewer than 1,100 layoffs to date. On Sept. 30, the Democratic state comptroller reported that Connecticut closed the fiscal year with a $170.4-million deficit, and a depleted Rainy Day Fund. When the 2014-15 and 2015-16 rainy day transfers are made, the reserve will have a relatively small balance of $235.6 million (1.3% versus towns with 9%-18% reserves).
Connecticut’s budget problems have been placed on hospitals, schools, community colleges, the disabled, and the mentally ill. Negotiating with state unions to restructure payments owed to the pension fund, the governor failed to ask for crucial structural changes. Yearly attempts by Republicans to offer alternative budgets have been rejected. Members were asked to vote for slapdash budgets with no advance notice of what they contained.
We must return the burden of our budget problems to the administration and the legislature where it belongs, and force the state’s leaders to action.
Senator Toni Boucher