COLUMN: Democrats have failed in their task of leading the legislature

COLUMN: Democrats have failed in their task of leading the legislature

Record-Journal


I’m not surprised, and frankly, anyone who casts even a casual glance at the legislature’s work won’t be either, that majority party Democrats have failed in their task of leading the legislature and only produced a budget plan after substantial media pressure and one day before the end of the fiscal year.

Every single legislator — 151 House members and 36 State Senators — knew how important tackling the deficit for the current fiscal year, and certainly the $5.1 billion projected deficit for the next biennium, would be, but Democrat leadership was either unwilling or unable to do their job and released their only proposed budget with one day to go, and far too late to be vetted and voted upon.

For the first time in modern history the legislature didn’t act on a budget before the end of the fiscal year. Democrats were unable to even produce a budget plan that could get through the Appropriations Committee, which they chair. Why?

Instead of facing these known important and challenging tasks, hours upon hours were spent debating nonsense that we never voted on, as well as feel good legislation for the sake of just feeling good.

It’s no wonder that many residents look to Hartford with disappointment, and in some cases anger, at its dysfunction.

I believe the budget should have been the first thing addressed this session, even before other bills were debated in either chamber. I also firmly believe the Democrats’ failure to lead is not indicative of the entire legislature.

In fact, House Republicans have produced three balanced, no-tax-increase, no-fee increase budgets that have been vetted by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA), yet because of party politics we have not been allowed to debate or vote on any of them. Republicans are ready to lead and have shown a willingness to make the difficult choices necessary to start turning this situation around.

Just last Tuesday we released our third budget that makes long-term structural changes to the way our state creates and implements a budget. The state’s dire financial situation means this budget proposal is full of tough choices and difficult cuts but that’s what it’s going to take to stop the hemorrhaging and get a handle on the ever-increasing pension and healthcare costs that have been crippling the state for years.

Our plan keeps middle-class taxes in check and includes planned phased-in tax exemptions for Social Security and pension income, reductions in the estate tax and places a cap on bond issuance of $1.3 billion annually, the same level of bonding as FY 13.

Our plan also includes a true Constitutional Spending Cap and eliminates the citizen’s election program that costs taxpayers millions of dollars to fund political campaigns, and pay for their stickers, buttons and negative campaign flyers.

Additionally, our plan keeps municipal funding at the same levels as the current year and increases education spending by adding another $20 million to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) fund.

By implementing a hiring freeze and limiting state agencies to one deputy commissioner, our plan reduces government bloat and shrinks the size of the state workforce without layoffs.

Many of the cost-savings in our plan come from tightening the state’s fiscal belt and bringing state employment more in line with the private sector.

We propose eliminating overtime pay from pension calculations to reduce “pension spiking” by employees in the last few years of their career, ending “longevity” bonus payments provided to some workers just because they’ve worked for the state for more than 10 years, increasing both prescription drug and doctor visit copays, and implementing tiered deductibles for health care coverage.

We also propose eliminating payments for union work done on state time by state employees, and eliminating the meal allowance some union members receive. Taxpayers should not be paying the salary, or for the lunches, of union stewards who are doing union work and not their assigned jobs with the state itself.

More detailed information on the House Republican plan is available at: http://www.cthousegop.com/budget/

Saturday was the start of the new fiscal year and the legislature essentially handed Governor Malloy the reins and said go forth as you wish. That is not what I was elected to do, it’s not something our residents deserve and it’s well past time for legislative leaders to either do their job or stand aside and allow those with a vision to take charge.

House Republicans have repeatedly shown we are ready and willing to make the tough choices to repair our state’s finances and lead the state into the future. Godspeed.

Craig C. Fishbein is a member of the Wallingford Town Council and a state representative (R-90).


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