With all of the problems facing Connecticut right now, one clearly separates itself from all the rest; our leadership problem. The lack of leadership shown by the super-majority legislative Democrats has been unfortunate and is our biggest problem because it is the source of our second biggest problem; the state budget deficit which continues to grow by $1.7 million every day.

Rewind to July 2008 when the deficit estimate was $150 million. Despite Republican calls to deal with the problem immediately, Democrats chose to do nothing and by November the deficit estimate had climbed to $392 million.

At the beginning of this calendar year, the Democrats put forward some token mitigation packages to chip away at a deficit with minor tweaks to the state budget, all the while legislative Republicans called on the super-majority Democrats to address the root problem by restructuring state government and make significant cuts to the outrageous state spending. Our pleas fell on deaf ears which resulted in Fiscal Year 2009 ending in June with the state then facing a $950 million budget deficit.

The story ends, or so the Democrat's leadership would like you to believe, with a so-called balanced budget they passed in September which they claim only raises taxes on the state's wealthiest individuals while maintaining services and cuts the sales tax by 0.5 percent. What they don't want you to know is that the budget also raises taxes on the state's largest employers, borrows in excess of $1.3 billion without any significant reductions in state spending.

Now due to their poor leadership, we are merely a month or two into life under the Democrats' budget and Comptroller Nancy Wyman (D) projects the deficit for this fiscal year to be $624 million and growing by an estimated $1.7 million each day. The budget is filled with one-shot revenues, like the $1 billion rainy day fund being emptied and the use of $1.4 billion stimulus dollars we can't count on next year, there by creating a massive structural hole in our budget going forward.

Moody's Investment Services downgraded Connecticut's bond rating outlook in response to the Democrats' excessive borrowing and the tax increases. A record 9,545 businesses closed in the first nine months of 2009, unemployment stands at 8.4 percent and the state reported losing 6,600 jobs in September alone. With less businesses paying into the Unemployment Compensation Fund, the fund is now insolvent forcing the state to borrow a billion dollars to pay out unemployment benefits. Beyond 2010 we will have to pay the federal government 4.6 percent on this borrowed money.

Enough is enough.

The do-nothing Democrats, a 114--37 House majority, have passed the buck long enough. Connecticut is in a state budget crisis, the likes of which I have not seen in my 17 years in the General Assembly. This is not news yet the lack of action over the past year makes it seem the super-majority Democrats have not gotten the crisis memo. It is time for them to step up to the plate and make the tough decisions that the people of Connecticut elected them to make or move out of the way and let those of us who are willing to lead do so.

A recent study by the Yankee Institute showed during the period of 1971--2008 state expenditures rose from almost $4 billion to $14 billion (adjusted for inflation) while Connecticut's population remained flat with around 3.2 million residents. This data concludes Connecticut can no longer afford the government it has build because the state lacks enough employed taxpayers to pay for it. We need serious reform.

So Connecticut has a budget problem, no question about it. But it is our state's leadership problem that has extended the budget problem into the indefinite future. The Democrat leadership has already taxed all they can tax and borrowed all they can borrow. The band-aids and one shot revenues have been exhausted. Now I call on them to come into special session, get to the root of the problem by restructuring state government and start redesigning our state's governmental structure. This cannot wait as it is clear things are continuing to get worse by the week. The time for leadership is now.

I know many Democratic legislators honestly want to solve the catastrophic fiscal problem we face. Now is the time for then to speak out and make their voices heard. Together we can protect our citizen from the coming economic pain.

State Rep. John E. Stripp represents the 135th District, which includes Easton, Redding and Weston.