Nitzy Cohen, Republican challenger for state representative
Those who know me know that I am a straight talker. So I am going to lay out for you the truth about the disease afflicting our state government -- fiscal insanity.
Disease diagnosis: A condition where our state is out of control and spends more and more each year. It spends far beyond its means, resulting in massive, ever-increasing budget deficits. Next year's deficit is projected to be $3.5 billion.
Symptoms: Delusional thinking with regard to the root causes of the illness, instead of recognizing and coming to grips with the problem (over spending). Engaging in self-destructive behaviors: increasing taxes, creating new taxes, excessive borrowing and placing oppressive regulatory burdens on the private sector. Utilization of fraudulent budgeting and accounting practices to hide irresponsible behavior. Reliance on "one-time" revenue sources as short term "fixes." Failure to deal with reality and maintaining a false hope that somehow "everything will be all right" if they keep doing the same thing. Believing that in a future year the economy of Connecticut will magically rebound and there will be overflowing revenues to continue funding the spending habit of the legislature.
Effects: Connecticut is going in the wrong direction and is a national leader in almost every negative indicator possible: Projected $3.5 billion deficit for next year and more in future years; the highest tax burden in the country; the highest per-capita debt burden in the country; Connecticut is No. 4 in new taxes; one of the most underfunded $50 billion pension plans in the country; one of the worst business climates in the country; a national leader in jobs lost and at the bottom in terms of jobs created; a leader in people fleeing for other states, particularly young people and seniors; and Connecticut's bond rating has been downgraded by all rating agencies.
Causes: Addiction of the state legislature to an ever-increasing need to spend more and more. No ability to "self-regulate behavior" as the legislature is "out of balance," with 114 Democrats and 37 Republicans -- a "supermajority." The governor has no veto power over bad budgets, bad policies and bad laws of the legislature. The legislative supermajority is subject to "negative influences" by the public sector unions to such a degree that the needs and desires of the unions now outweigh the interests of the citizens of the state. The legislature is "out of control."
Cure: The legislature must face reality and government must live within its means. There must be true "balanced" budgets, not the type that is $500 million in deficit the day they are passed. Honest Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and full accrual accounting must be utilized.
Prescription No. 1: Cuts in government spending must occur first. Connecticut must focus on providing what are the true essential functions of state government. This will necessarily include major reductions in government employees. Overly generous state employee healthcare programs need to be revamped and brought in line with the private sector.
Prescription No. 2: The entire state system of pensions and other employee retirement benefits needs to be re-evaluated. Major reforms need to be undertaken. The legislature has made promises to its union allies that are unaffordable and cannot be met. Serious consideration needs to be given to moving the entire retirement system from a defined benefits plan to a defined contributions plan.
Prescription No. 3: Reckless state borrowing must be brought under control. Operating costs cannot be funded with borrowing and future budgets cannot be met with more borrowing. We are drowning in a sea of debt and the debt service alone will soon drain the budget. Pork barrel legislative capital projects must end.
Prescription No. 4: Tax policy must change. New taxes and tax increases cannot continue. This is suicidal economic behavior that will further weaken our economy, drive companies out of Connecticut and be a disincentive to job growth and job creation. We need tax cuts and a consistent, believable tax policy which is pro-growth, that new companies and entrepreneurs can believe in.
Prescription No. 5: The entire business environment of Connecticut must change to be more "business friendly," starting with the hostile, anti-business stance of the union-dominated legislature. Right now we are considered one of the least business friendly states in the union. The overlapping, duplicative, burdensome business regulatory environment of Connecticut needs to examined and streamlined if we want business to come or expand.
Implementation: Turning Connecticut around is going to be hard work and will require dedicated legislators who understand the economic relationships between spending, taxes, business growth and job creation.
Citizens have to realize that our legislature is totally out of balance and needs major correction. A "supermajority" of one party results in bad policies and bad government, as the last four years will attest. American government works best when there is political balance.
Nitzy Cohen is a Republican candidate for state representative in the 136th district.