As I lingered over the Wall Street Journal this past Saturday, Jan. 27, an editorial entitled Connecticut S.O.S. caught my eye. This piece called to task Governor Malloy and the legislative Democrats for their mishandling of our state budget and their “eyes-closed” allegiance to state union bosses. The last line reads, ‘Connecticut voters are just beginning to understand the damage done by two terms of Gov. Malloy.’ I thought to myself, “Connecticut…We’re better than this!”
While daunting, I believe we can return our state to the fiscal prosperity of past years. According to our Dept. of Labor, we’ve recovered only seventy-six percent of jobs lost in the 2008 recession…the only state to not fully regain jobs lost. In fact, our state ranks last or near the bottom on economic health indicators in nearly every study.
Our projected budget deficit ($244 million) is an ongoing challenge with revenues continuing to spiral down and expenses on the rise. Per the WSJ, ‘state lawmakers have little flexibility to cut spending since Mr. Malloy extended collective bargaining agreements through 2027 despite receiving few concessions from the government unions. As such, we must seek more balance with our state employee unions by establishing benefits that more closely align with the private sector and other states.
Last year’s legislative session went months past the June 7 end date…stretching to Oct. 26 before a veto-proof budget was signed into law. While not perfect, this budget does have reforms and long-sought-after initiatives that offer some reason for optimism.
- Spending and bonding caps. The spending cap was overwhelmingly first approved by voters in 1992, but was never formally implemented until this year.
- Commission on fiscal stability and economic growth. Fourteen experienced business leaders will make recommendations to the legislature by March 1.
- Connecticut estate tax exemption. The current $2 million exemption will increase to the federal level over three years. Data proves that we have a net out-migration of folks and small businesses leaving because of our burdensome taxation policies. This reality has a very real impact on net revenue. We simply must remain competitive with other states.
In this past session, I personally introduced a number of bills that are now law, including the estate tax legislation outlined above and these below.
- Dyslexia legislation. We now require additional training/experience for special education teachers to assist the approximately twenty percent of students that have dyslexia/language related learning disabilities. As our school districts still struggle with early identification and also proper remediation, this is absolutely the right thing to do.
- Opioid crisis legislation. The bill this year includes a provision requiring a prescribing practitioner to discuss with minors and adults the risks associated with opioid drug use. Seventy-five percent of those who become addicted to opioids or heroin start with a doctor’s prescription.
Next session, we must keep our focus on addressing the truths in the WSJ editorial and rebuild Connecticut’s economy. As we head into the legislative short session (Feb. 7 to May 9), Gov. Malloy has proposed a tax on tires, increase in the gas tax and highway tolls. In the current toll proposal, there would be 12 locations with electronic tolling from Greenwich to West Haven alone. We hear that shifting teacher pension contributions to the local municipalities will be back on the table. Instead, I believe our way out of this constant fiscal instability is to look at how we grow our economy by creating a state where job creators want to come and stay. More taxation for one of the highest tax states already will surely complicate our road to recovery.
Finally, we compete with 49 other states in our union. I take great pride in Connecticut, and know you do, as well. I know we are far better than our current fiscal situation. It’s critical that I hear from you how proposed legislation may affect you. I’d like to thank the many people that have reached out to me regarding their key issues this last session. A special thank you to Jayme Stevenson, Joe Pankowski, Taylor Carter, Pat Rogers, Spike Reed, Bert von Stuelpnagel and Bruce McGuire who took time to come to Hartford to testify on legislation.
I’ve posted an online survey (repterriewood.com) for your thoughts on these and other issues. To stay up to date on pending legislation, please sign up for my email blast (online, 860-240-8737 or [email protected]) and follow me on Facebook. The Connecticut Mirror is another well-regarded source for news in our state Capitol, published daily at ctmirror.org. Looking forward to hearing from you!