COMMENTARY: Southington legislator says structural changes needed to address state’s budget woes

COMMENTARY: Southington legislator says structural changes needed to address state’s budget woes

Record-Journal
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State Rep. John Fusco on the first day of the legislative session on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. | Mike Savino, Record-Journal

Connecticut is in the worst fiscal position I can recall and it’s not looking like it will improve anytime soon as Democrat legislators continue their struggle to produce a state budget that will win approval from their colleagues, including the governor. Despite soundbites of cooperation and their willingness to entertain all ideas, House Democrats have consistently refused to consider outside proposals, and twice voted down amendments to debate a Republican-prepared budget.

As the legislative session progressed, House Republicans offered four balanced, vetted, no-tax-increase budget plans only to have those documents summarily rejected by Democrat leaders. Now, as the end of August comes to a close, cities and towns, school districts, program managers for intellectually and developmentally disabled residents, and others wait for the ax to drop and learn how draconian the “inevitable” budget cuts and tax increases will be. Inevitable is a word I’ve heard repeatedly from my colleagues across the aisle, especially concerning tax increases.

I refuse to believe tax increases are good for the economy of our state; I refuse to believe tax increases must be inevitable, and I will not vote in favor of any tax increase.

Democrat leaders also said they had to “e-cert” (emergency certify) the SEBAC vote that locked up great benefits and pay for unionized state employees until 2027 because it will save the state billions of dollars despite contrary opinions and proposals to show those savings could be achieved another way. State employees are not the cause of the current fiscal mess, but to rush employment protection bills through the legislature to the detriment of the rest of our state is not a viable answer. These are the same politicians that call tax increases inevitable. Why the rush to protect state union employees when there was no budget plan in place and the projected savings were never vetted by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis?

A little more than a week ago, Governor Malloy unveiled his latest plan to help shore up the state’s finances by dumping a massive portion of the burden onto towns and local property owners with proposed cuts to education funding. Under this plan, Southington’s education budget would be eviscerated by a 100 percent cut in state funding, or a loss of $20,268,059! That loss means substantially increased taxes on the local level or severe cuts to staff or programs and services provided by dedicated teachers and school faculty. Governor Malloy will pull the rug out from under our kids while making sure funding won’t be cut to a few specific areas of the state, which are, in essence, the largest cities.

Connecticut does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, and raising taxes, again, is not going to save our state as no amount of tax revenue will ever be enough for those who refuse to acknowledge this simple fact. In the past 6 years we’ve been saddled with the two largest tax increases in state history, yet here we are struggling to control the largest deficit in memory — $5.1 billion — and our state still hasn’t recovered from the recession.

Our state is in a very precarious position and it will not get better until we make long-term structural changes to the way government operates. For the past 40 years, failed leadership led us down this path and it’s time to do what’s right for the citizens of our great state. Punishing school children and already struggling taxpayers is not the answer.

Republican John Fusco represents the 81st district of Southington.


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