OP-ED | The Land of Steady Habits Is Maxed Out
The same-old, one-size fits all approach to governing has landed our state in a perennial black hole of fiscal recklessness.
The result of this political banter pits unionized state employees against maxed-out taxpayers who simply cannot afford to live here anymore. To put an end to this, we must honor commitments made to unionized state-employees, while addressing future promises and controlling costs for non-union employees.
Connecticut’s pension fund remains one of the most underfunded in the nation, and our appetite for borrowing on the state’s credit card remains insatiable. The blame does not lie solely in union contracts negotiated some 20 years ago; it also lies in the failure of politicians and their political appointees to lead by example. When a politically active lawyer was nominated for a judgeship, serving only a few years and receiving a full pension, the public reacted with shock and the legislature was embarrassed into taking some form of action to save face.
Recently, the Senate Democratic caucus went to great lengths to conceal for the better part of a year the medical condition of state Sen. Andrew Maynard, who recently announced he wouldn’t seek re-election following a traumatic brain injury. Maynard hasn’t given an interview to a reporter since a fall at his home back in 2014. Maynard served just long enough to collect health and pension benefits for the rest of his life.
Our fiscal problems stem from a moral deficit of entitlement that is omnipresent in the halls of our State Capitol. The political elite view very rich pension and healthcare benefits not as a privilege, but as a fundamental right. How can we expect the Hartford bureaucrats to make the tough decisions when they play by their own set of rules?
When I ran for State Treasurer in 2014, I called for the creation of an incentivized defined contribution plan retirement program for non-union state employees, similar to those most Connecticut residents contribute to through their employers. My plan required that all constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, agency heads and political appointees participate in the defined contribution plan after July 1, 2015. This would allow the state to make good on its contractual commitments while at the same time reducing unfunded liabilities.
As First Selectman of Trumbull, I cut my own salary, refused a pension, and created a defined contribution plan for non-union employees. I also eliminated free healthcare for political appointees. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, if you are going to ask for shared sacrifice, why don’t you refuse your pension from Connecticut and go into a defined contribution plan to lead by example? It’s only fair that if the governor is going to ask for “shared sacrifice” as he has so often done, that he put his money where his mouth is and make the first move.
With only a few months to tackle mounting financial shortfalls, I urge political leaders in Hartford to take a different approach. Connecticut is relying on you to find solutions, and that should start with your own “shared sacrifice”.
Timothy Herbst is the first selectman of Trumbull.
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