Gov.-elect Ned Lamont will take office in January and on February 6, about a month into his tenure, will present his budget proposal to the legislature and to the people of Connecticut. Except for a few carefully crafted messages during the campaign he didn’t tell us how he intends to address the state’s mounting financial issues, so we have few hints about what he will propose. He is, though, assembling a transition team to help him in this endeavor, getting input from current Gov. Dannel Malloy, and has invited people from all across the political spectrum to advance ideas. In short, he appears to be following in the noble tradition of reinventing the wheel.
That’s par for the course in our fair state. Governors and legislators, regardless of political persuasion, love a study. As long time local elected officials, we can understand the attraction. Nobody gets mad when an issue is dissected by experts. It’s when you actually try to do something that people get upset. Capitol bookshelves are littered with reports filled with recommendations never implemented.
This time we don’t need a new wheel. We already have a template for how to proceed: the report prepared by the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Growth. Formed in conjunction with the bipartisan budget the legislature adopted in October 2017, the Commission included business, government and education leaders who carefully studied Connecticut’s current situation, likely direction and ways to alter that for the better. In their report to the legislature last March they recommended a series of specific actions aimed at restoring and expanding our economy.
Is it perfect? No. But it gives us a road map, something to tweak and edit on our way to finding an admittedly long, winding and, yes, painful route out of the fiscal woods. That’s far better than starting over.
The state can also look to Connecticut’s regional organizations – like the Capital Region Council of Governments, of which we are members – and towns. They are willing and able partners and have the potential to offer government services regionally or locally more efficiently than the state can.
Recognize that there will have to be compromises and sacrifices by everyone: the governor, legislators, and all Connecticut residents. The right approach will likely be one that displeases everyone. And it will take time. We didn’t get into this fix overnight and we won’t get out of it quickly.
But we have to start somewhere.
We have enough study reports gathering dust. Don’t let the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Growth report be one of them. Use it as the basis to start our state on the road to fiscal health.
Stewart “Chip” Beckett III is Minority Leader of the Glastonbury Town Council, Jon Colman is a former member of the Bloomfield Town Council, and Dave Kilbon is former East Granby First Selectman and currently chairs the East Granby Board of Finance