As our state lawmakers wrench their shoulders, patting themselves on the back for finally writing a budget (four months late), let’s stop for a moment. Put down the champagne and let’s ask ourselves: What really happened here? The past months of budget negotiations may have been bi-partisan, but they have been far from transparent. This budget was baked by a handful of politicians, far from public view. Not even Gov. Dannel Malloy was clued in on the details.
This is an op-ed by Greg Ehlers, the GOP challenger who ran against state Sen. Bob Duff in the 25th district in 2016:
Every family who lives in Bob Duff’s district and every business operating in Fairfield County needs to be aware of what their elected state senator just did to threaten their livelihoods this week. The labor contract agreement that just passed and will now become law is another in a long line of sweetheart deals with unions negotiated by Governor Malloy that has prolonged the fiscal crisis and created the poor economic climate our families and businesses suffer in every day. It should no longer be a surprise to anyone in Connecticut that our state remains mired in a devastating fiscal crisis that has resulted from a cycle of spending money we don’t have, raising taxes to cover the differences, and then suffering the consequences of taxpayers leaving for more tax-friendly states — this cycle has been repeated for decades and has stunted economic growth in this state. If you closely observe this economically disastrous cycle, you will notice one troubling fact about Connecticut’s government that has given wake to years of awful budgets — the basic fact that state government is just too expensive. In particular, state employees receive benefits so luxurious, and so unprecedented, that as bureaucracy balloons and employees retire it has brought the state to the brink of insolvency.
State Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican who represents most of Darien in the state House of Representatives, sent out this message on Tuesday to her constituents about the state’s new agreement with public employee unions just approved by the state Senate (following her statement is a shorter one from state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff):
I am following up on my email to you all last week on the pending SEBAC (State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition) agreement and vote. With deep disappointment and equal dismay, I report to you that the State Senate approved this agreement to unionized state employee contracts yesterday. The vote was along party lines, with all 18 Democrat Senators in favor, and all 18 Republican Senators opposed. The tie was broken in favor of the agreement by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. I applaud Governor Malloy initiating negotiations with the state unions and respect that there are some positive provisions in the new agreement. Though a good start, ultimately this deal does not address the severity of our fiscal situation as much as it should. I opposed it when it came for a vote before the House last week.
This statement by state Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican representing most of Darien and Rowayton in the 141st state House of Representatives District, was emailed to her constituents on Wednesday:
Our Connecticut State Legislature is poised to make a truly historic choice: either dig our state out of a $5 billion biennial fiscal abyss responsibly or, once again, allow the state unions to reap asymmetrical benefits that significantly exceed both the private sector workforce and state employees from any other state in the country. One of the most critical opportunities to change our state’s fiscal trajectory is here right now, with the renegotiation of our state union workers contract. The state legislature has the responsibility of setting sound fiscal policy to help grow our state’s economy and stimulate equitable employment opportunities for all workers within Connecticut; not just reward those in state unions. There are currently 45,000 state union employees (and 45,000 retirees) representing 2.4 percent of the entire Connecticut workforce. These union members serve within the departments of education, transportation, public safety, health, social services, consumer protection and motor vehicles et al., as well as staff all six constitutional offices.
State Rep. Terrie Wood issued this statement to constituents on Friday, when the Legislature’s regular session ended without a budget:
The 2017 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned without an agreement being reached on a state budget. There remains a $5.1 billion projected budget deficit for the next biennium. We are now convened in a special session, and we are at a point where the governor has issued his first executive order to run the state in the absence of a budget. Unlike the federal government, there is no shutdown of state government when such an impasse occurs. However, power shifts to the governor for the operation of the state, and spending is restricted to expenditures that are necessary to the operation of state government. This has happened before — as recently as 2009 when Governor Jodi Rell had to run the state’s expenses for two months until a budget was finally authorized.
Whether you measure it by tax rate, property taxes paid or even by property taxes on motor vehicles, Connecticut ranks No. 4 for property taxes among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a financial service website. WalletHub, a website that offers readers information on credit scores and credit reports, ranked only New Jersey, Illinois and New Hampshire (in that order) above Connecticut as having larger typical property tax rates. The report comes at a time when the state’s fiscal woes have led Gov. Dannel Malloy to propose measures that would lead to higher property taxes in the state. (You can see the WalletHub report and all of its interactive charts here.
The Darien League of Women Voters recently hosted a “legislative coffee” with state senators and representatives who represent the town. The organization provided this summary of what the lawmakers talked about:
The Darien League of Women Voters held its annual legislative coffee with state legislators on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the home of Joyce and Mike Critelli. All members of the delegation representing Darien were present including: Sen. and Majority Leader Bob Duff; Sen. and Deputy President Pro Tempore Carlo Leone; state Rep. William Tong and Rep. Terrie Wood. The legislators fielded many questions and comments raised by the audience of over 30 members and guests.