Years of fiscal mismanagement hit home in Connecticut

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As expected, the state’s continuing budget crisis is starting to play out in brutal detail. Indeed, the governor’s latest budget proposal has people from all walks of life alarmed –- and it should.

Of course Gov. Dannel Malloy’s latest proposal is not the final budget, but merely the latest volley in a “hot potato” budget dance that has become increasingly difficult to manage as the state’s fiscal collapse continues.

Indeed, after the governor’s first budget draft in February, which proposed program cuts and some modest tax and fee increases, the Appropriations and Finance Committees adjusted the proposal to restore most cuts, but still failed to address this year’s growing deficit — now over $900 million.

In fact, the majority Democrats came up over $300 million short, and a whiff of yet another round of massive tax hikes began to spread.

In the meantime, the state’s fiscal condition has worsened. The governor thus pitched his latest draft last Tuesday, proposing more program cuts and layoffs, and $43 million in cuts to our Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding mechanism – with towns like ours getting all of our ECS funding taken.

The ball is back with the legislature, and so it will continue into May and perhaps beyond.

In response, many towns are already making plans to lay off teachers. Likewise, the additional municipal cuts being proposed will, if adopted, need to be “balanced out” by higher property taxes. Simply put, it’s a mess.

Of course, the current crisis derives not from some “new economic reality,” but from years of fiscal mismanagement by the majority Democrats. We have grown our public-sector at the expense of the private sector, chasing away our tax base and our employers.

Six years ago we could have walked down the proverbial “fire escape” by reducing the size and burn rate of our government in a responsible manner. Because we did not, we are forced to jump from a burning building.

Regardless, the House and Senate Republican caucuses will again propose balanced budget alternatives that, if adopted, will dig us out of this current financial crisis through fiscal discipline in the years ahead.

No matter what happens, though, everyone from the neediest to the wealthiest is going to suffer.

Talk is cheap, but funding schools, infrastructure and needed programs is not. With the right policies and the right leadership, we may yet recover from the current self-inflicted crisis.

Stay tuned.

State Rep. John Shaban represents the 135th District towns of Easton, Redding and Weston.

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