Last week, the governor’s office announced and the legislature approved cuts totaling $78 million. Even though I believe this is only a Band-Aid to a structural problem our state government faces, it is a better way to resolve our deficit woes without going after our hard-working taxpayers once again. This deficit mitigation plan only addresses this fiscal year’s current gap. What has to be addressed before the conclusion of this session is the $900 million deficit we are facing in the year ahead.
As stated, our state has a structural problem with spending. A majority of this problem stems from the majority party struggling to effectively work and negotiate with unions to create deals that are truly in the best interest of the people of Connecticut. Going forward, we need to find savings in this realm in order to take the burden off our taxpayers and cease cutting from our essential services, such as mental health and our hospitals, which have unjustifiably been hit the hardest.
In order to effectively do this, we need to restructure long-term benefits for state employees, get the legislature to approve collective bargaining contracts with unions, and support the vital social services that enrich the quality of life for all Connecticut residents.
In a session where deliberations are culminated around opioid addiction, our business climate, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and “second chances,” how can we make cuts to the funding that would provide relief towards the issues that are clearly of the utmost concern to our constituents?
Implementing these changes that I and many of my colleagues have recommended is essential to putting our state’s financial status back in order. This is imperative because of our current economic climate; Connecticut reinstated fewer than 74 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. What’s worse, the vast majority of these jobs are lower-paying than the jobs lost.
House and Senate Republicans joined together recently to offer an alternative for closing the deficit in the final months of this year’s operating budget. I support this package which would restore the $140 million in funding to state hospitals and utilize two-day unpaid furloughs to state workers and modifications of future benefits as an alternative to mass layoffs of employees. This plan also calls for a 10 percent cut to the pay of state legislators, an elimination of legislator franked mail privileges, reductions in legislative expenditures, and a $100,000 budget reduction to each of the four legislative caucuses.
My colleagues and I proposed the extensive long-term structural changes that will result in savings in future years; including capping state bonding to reduce debt, and requiring that all labor contracts get approval from the General Assembly.
I hope this plan gets the support it deserves in restoring our state back to financial prosperity.
State Rep. Stephen Harding represents the 107th House District covering the municipalities of Bethel, Brookfield and Danbury.