When you max out your credit cards and start raiding your emergency fund to pay last month’s overdue bills, most financial experts would advise that it’s time to change your spending habits and cut back when necessary. That’s precisely what the bipartisan budget passed Friday night by state legislators in Connecticut does. The budget backed by the state GOP caucuses and a few brave Democrats in both chambers finally rights the fiscal ship in Hartford and forces the state to live within its means without raising taxes one cent.&
Governor Dan Malloy has vowed a veto because the proposed budget offends his union allies by requiring commonsense changes to their taxpayer-funded gold-plated pensions and health-care plans.
For the governor and his union-allied legislative leaders, who had to paper over the deficit, the remaining $3.5 billion to cover the budget gap could come from only two sources — higher taxes or fewer services (e.g., road repairs and schools). They chose both!
Malloy insists on hiking taxes and fees on the Nutmeg State’s beleaguered taxpayers to the tune of $1.5 billion. In raising taxes on everything from fantasy sports to cell phones, he and the Democratic bosses in Hartford chose to soak hard-working taxpayers instead of making hard choices.
To protect their union friends, Malloy, house speaker Joe Aresimowicz (himself on the union payroll), and the Democratic bosses refused to make the structural changes that are necessary to avert fiscal disaster. Instead, they chose to slash the state-budget items for Connecticut’s most vulnerable, including education money for public safety, the poorest schools, and financial assistance and child care for the neediest residents of the Nutmeg State.
The bipartisan budget restores much of this funding in a responsible way while making reasonable changes to state-employee union benefits. But if nothing changes, as Malloy and company insist it must not, union pensions, salaries, and health care will devour more and more of the state’s budget, to the detriment of taxpayers and the needy alike.
Connecticut’s payments would balloon over the long term as the pension liability and employee salaries soar over the coming decades — making it harder for the state to pay off the growing bill.
Like the bad mortgages that brought on the housing crisis, the state’s payments would balloon over the long term as the pension liability and employee salaries soar over the coming decades — making it harder for the state to pay off the growing bill. Current estimates have the pension-payment figure increasing sixfold in 15 years. Generations of Connecticut taxpayers to come will eventually face a day of reckoning for today’s short-sighted decisions.
The unions knew they would face pressure to share in the sacrifice, so they ran a series of a slick movie-trailer-like attack ads on fiscal conservatives in the state legislature. It was only a preview for the horror show coming for the state’s taxpayers, who are already some of the highest-taxed in the country, paying on average more than one out of every ten bucks they earn to Hartford or local governments. Increasing the tax burden on workers and job-creators, as the unions and their elected allies propose, will only accelerate the death spiral of workers and businesses running for the exits, further shrinking the state’s tax base and revenue sources.
Since every dollar that the state pays its employees is a dollar less for schools and roads, these lavish salaries and benefits are crowding out essential government services. Almost 40 percent of state spending goes to personnel already, and that figure is likely to climb dramatically under this bad deal. (Another 11 percent goes to debt servicing — much of which is more borrowing to finance employee costs.)
Make no mistake: Connecticut is extremely generous with its employees, who earn 42 percent more on average than the average private-sector worker in the state — the highest disparity in the country. It’s time Connecticut taxpayers and the state’s most vulnerable saw some shared sacrifice from the state-employee unions, too.
Connecticut can’t afford to kick the can further down the road, and Governor Malloy should immediately sign the bipartisan and responsible budget as passed. It returns the state to fiscal health. It’s high time Hartford got serious about its finances, and this budget is a good start.