Connecticut’s budget problems are just getting started

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How embarrassing and disgusting Connecticut’s financial crisis and chaos has become.

We have such weak leadership. The very little trust or respect I had for them to begin with is gone. They have no credibility left. I am neither a Democrat nor Republican, but the legislative Democratic Party’s super-majority has driven our state over the fiscal cliff.

And believe me folks, this is just getting started.

Today’s budget crisis is as structurally deep as the Grand Canyon. I have watched this closely since 1991. It is the result of financial negligence in every budget adopted over two decades. It is insane that our budget has increased 255 percent since 1991. How can a budget increase from $7.9 billion to $20 billion in a mere 23 years? And we haven’t even paid all our bills along the way.

To have $65 billion in unfunded liabilities, an amazing three and a half times our annual budget, and an increase of outstanding bonded debt from $9 billion to $21 billion since 1991 is criminal in my mind.

It is the result of electing submissive legislators who robotically act in unison, doing what they are told to keep their beloved Democratic party in power. As individuals, they display no guts. I don’t understand it one iota.

Politicians have different gray matter. It seems to be like a game for them. I believe there is a bit of egomaniac in them. When I see a Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, state “I really don’t know who xxx is. I assume that’s probably more his problem than mine….He may need to learn a little bit of Politics 101,” the arrogance appalls me.

I grew up loving baseball. I’m venturing a guess that a lot of politicians were miniature political junkies.

Now Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature are grappling to cut 1.5 percent of discretionary spending. And these cuts will be from mental health care, programs for people with disabilities and other social services, while completely sacred and off the table for spending cuts are “non-discretionary” spending on state employee salaries and best-in-the-nation benefits.

If the union’s had the slightest bit of class they would step to the plate and offer something. They are so selfish. If all the union members individually gave just a little, it would collectively be a lot. So much cash has been prioritized to personnel we now have to cut into services.

Yet unions will continue to posture and apply political pressure. They are fond of portraying themselves as victims, and claiming they are being targeted as scapegoats. And the legislature lovingly accommodated them. The quid pro quo of the Democratic Party and the state unions has put Connecticut in a sorry situation.

I don’t like John Rowland, but what he did was not even close to as damaging as this relationship. We can get rid of a Rowland, and continue on our way. What has occurred structurally financially will compromise our economic situation for a long time.

Being a CPA in public accounting all these years, I have had a front row seat. As the private sector folks struggle with layoffs, stagnant wages, fewer and much inferior benefits and higher taxes, the public sector employees believe they are entitled to benefits virtually unheard of in the private sector, increased wages, and job security.

And no matter how this budget is adopted and settles out, I guarantee you this is just getting started. There are going to be mushrooming deficits popping up along the way that will have to be cut from the very same discretionary spending pool.

I firmly believe we have passed the tipping point. I believe we’ve spent so recklessly the days of simply taking the prior budget and increasing it by an inflation factor to arrive at the new budget is over. A business would never be able to survive this way. The legislature has spent and spent with no accountability.

We now need to actually decrease the budget outright. But we have to do it the right way, and be smart about it. This will take legislators with competence and a backbone.

Alarmists will say it is impossible. That’s what everyone says when their piece of the pie is threatened. It is possible if we look at each area of spending and prioritize. And not only is it possible, it is absolutely critical we do it now. We are in desperate need to immediately fundamentally change how we spend our taxpayer money.

I believe Gov. Malloy was elected at an extremely critical point in our state’s history. We were already a very high cost state and ill-poised in this now seamless world economy. He not only failed to initiate a change, he has set us back hugely at an especially fast transformative economic period in time. The compound, ripple effect of his eight years in office, this lost time, will damage us for many, many years to come.

Jim Norris is a certified public accountant living in Tolland.

 

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