Though State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-28) said he believes Gov. Dannel Malloy is “sincere and honest” with , he doesn’t think that proposal helps Connecticut move in “the right direction.”
“Do I think he taxes too much and cuts too little—yes,” McKinney said. “There’s always more you can cut. The question is whether it’s the right policy or not.”
McKinney, who represents Easton, part of Weston, Newtown and Fairfield, and State Rep. John Shaban (R-135), who represents Weston, Easton and part of Redding held a budget forum at in Easton Tuesday night. About 50 of their constituents came out to hear the two politicians’ takes on Malloy’s budget and the state of Connecticut. Both and have held other forums recently to hear other constituents' concerns.
McKinney opened the evening with a PowerPoint presentation. He said that in 1987, the state spent $1,509 per person. Now, it spends $5,364 per person.
“Essentially our population in Connecticut since 1987 has remained flat, yet our spending has somewhat exploded,” McKinney said.
Everyone is aware of the economic climate the state and country has been facing over the last few years. McKinney said while the private sector has shrunk, the public sector has thrived.
“We’ve had one of the worst economies over the past couple of years,” he said. “Over 100,000 people have lost their jobs in the private sector in the state of Connecticut. Government has not shed a job. In fact it’s increased. I believe if we’re going to right our economy and get our state going in the right direction, [we need to] decreas[e] the size and scope of government.”
McKinney offered some ideas of ways in which the size of government could be reduced and millions of dollars could be saved. For example, rather than having government agencies perform the same work that nonprofit organizations do, the state should disassemble its own agencies and instead adequately fund these nonprofits, which generally operate more efficiently at cheaper costs (see attached video).
Connecticut’s debt, coupled together with its unfunded pension liability, the pension liability it has for teachers and contributions the state needs to make for other post-employment benefits, presents a dismal outlook for the state’s future.
“Add all that debt together, divide by every man, woman and child in the state of Connecticut,” McKinney said. “Connecticut has the highest debt per capita in the whole country.”
A man in the audience asked how to get the state to focus on its more than three million residents, rather than the special interests of a group of 45,000 — the approximate size of the state workforce — for instance. Shaban said it’s all about who is elected to represent the people in Hartford, and in order to get “people who think like you do” elected, people have to start conversations and write letters to the editor to get their voices heard throughout their communities.
“Changing perceptions or ideas is usually the first step to changing who’s getting elected,” Shaban said.
Though Malloy’s budget has been written about as one which decreases spending, Shaban pointed out that the amount of money Malloy plans to spend increases in both of the next two years.
“They’re [just] cutting the rate of the growth of the spending,” he said.
McKinney said some of the opposition has criticized his calling Malloy’s $1.9-billion in proposed tax increases the “largest tax increase in state history” as a partisan attack.
“You can certainly read that as being a partisan statement, but I also need you to know it’s a factually [true] statement,” he said. “It’s largely tax increases across the board — [an] increase in income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, corporate tax — all the way down the line.”
Another citizen asked whether the size of the elected body in Hartford could be reduced. Shaban said there’s about 200 elected officials, compared to 45,000 state workers.
“We don’t need less people, we need better people,” McKinney said.
So what’s next? McKinney said Malloy — who’s working on another budget proposal as well — wants to pass a budget by May 6. If June 30 comes and no budget's been adopted, McKinney said the state can only spend the revenue it expects to bring in — $16.5 billion — which is “not such a bad thing,” compared to the $18.3 billion the governor proposed spending in fiscal year 2012.
“This is the beginning of the process,” Shaban said. “The good news is we’re at the beginning. The bad news is we’re outnumbered.”