In Connecticut, the hard choices are always a year away

ryan-and-fisher-300x180Every other week, John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Joshua Fisher, former Darien Times editor, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest.

Fisher: Maybe it’s the bleakness of the weather — or the state’s affairs — but February has just dragged on for those of us trying to pay attention to how Hartford is running our once strong state deeper and deeper into debt.

Ryan: Is this another way of you saying that your favorite columnist has been — regrettably — on target on predicting Connecticut’s fiscal woes? Of course, we don’t have much good news to share this week.

Fisher: Please, John, do us a favor and at least give us some good news before we get to the doom and gloom that is the Nutmeg State government.

Ryan: When our award winning editor asks, he receives. For those who are of the opinion that your state government has a difficult time making anyone happy, note this recent entry from the Connecticut Post: “Worms, salamanders hit the road” (Feb. 24).

Fisher: Well that’s good news for the worms and salamanders. But will the government be creating tolls for the creatures of Connecticut or just for us humans? You have been telling us for sometime that tolls are on the way back to our highways.

Ryan: This is not hard to predict. See “As Interstates Decay, Feds Loosening Policy on New Tolls” (, Feb. 22) and also “Toll Debate: Skeptics Warn Revenue Won’t Be Safe From Politicians” (, Feb. 26).

Unfortunately, more traffic congestion — and the other negatives that come with tolls, along with the money out of your pocket — is now inevitable.

Fisher: Didn’t Gov. Malloy promise no new taxes and no tax increases?

Ryan: Do you also believe in the Tooth Fairy? The legislature is already reviewing a long list of “tax revenue” items to consider, see “Malloy’s ‘no tax increase’ budget sparks ideas to raise revenue” (, Feb. 25).

The only question is can the Constitution State lengthen its lead as the last state each year to reach Tax Freedom Day?

Fisher: While Gov. Malloy might pretend it isn’t, raising fees and creating tolls is another form of a tax increase. And if tolls happen, let’s expect that money to not just go toward roads and bridges. The governor has been robbing from the state transportation fund since he took office to pay off other state departments — while commuters still are riding nearly 40-year-old trains that were supposed to be replaced years ago.

So how much worse can the state’s fiscal situation get?

Ryan: Unfortunately, the media can note the aura of fiscal carnage in the State Capitol, but is not good at figuring out the real, horrifying details. For instance, state government and its assorted entities are very good at spending your tax dollars on employees, see the recent Yankee Institute’s article, on the 1,223 state employees who earn more than the governor’s $150,000 salary (, Feb. 19.).

Have you seen in the media that (despite the recent rounds of “deficit mitigation legislation”) that the state’s deficit is now projected at $2.5 billion in fiscal-years 2014 and 2015? And of course, the latest budget proposal proposes to bond another $750 million to meet expenses, and move hundreds of millions of dollars around to avoid the state’s spending cap.

Fisher: The governor keeps saying that he and the state government are making hard choices. But to a simple newspaper editor such as myself it appears that our government is making everything but the hard choices.

Like we’ve said many times in this column: thanks to how Hartford is run, the only growing business in Connecticut is state government.

It could make you wonder if the reason why the governor hasn’t actually made the state workers take cuts — much the way the private sector has to deal with for the past six years — is so they can keep voting for him.

As usual, the talented Chris Powell writes it better than I can. See: “Governor is in command of issues but not of state” (, Feb. 26).

But enough about Hartford. What’s going on in the crown jewel for news in Connecticut: Bridgeport?

Ryan: Obviously Connecticut’s “big cities” are following the model of their parent, the state. See: “City Council borrows $110M to pay bills” (, Feb. 26).

Why shouldn’t they go further into debt when Gov. Malloy proposes a spending increase of 9% when we are already in such a dire fiscal mess?

Fisher: It’s too bad that in 2014, we’ll have to rely on the Connecticut Republican Party to come up with a formidable opponent for Malloy. Coming up with good Republican candidates is something the state has not done in a decade.

Where’s a third party when we really need it?

John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Fairfield County law firm Russo & Assoc., and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative — and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.

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