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OP-ED | Political Courage Needed to Effectively Tackle Deficit

by | Dec 26, 2014 11:48am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Labor, Opinion, Millennial Voices, State Budget, Pensions

No matter who is governor of Connecticut, the problem of projected state budget deficits likely will never be addressed in the long term. This problem is mainly an institutional one because a governor has more to gain politically by using budget gimmicks to address short-term deficits than by making the tough decisions that are necessary to address the problem in the long term.

Part of the problem is the fact that governors make certain campaign promises to get elected, which often tie their hands in any efforts to meaningfully address major budget issues.

When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, ran for governor in 2010, he would often criticize his predecessor, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, for agreeing to use budget gimmicks to take care of projected deficits. However, when Gov. Malloy faced a projected deficit earlier this year, he agreed to use some of the same budget gimmicks that he criticized his predecessor for using.

Last month, Gov. Malloy’s budget staff reported that the state faces a $100 million deficit in the current fiscal year and a $1.3 billion deficit in the next fiscal year. It is likely that the Governor will use similar gimmicks to address this large deficit.

Throughout this year’s gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Malloy kept insisting that there was not going to be a deficit for the current fiscal year. At one point, he even projected that the state would have a surplus for the current fiscal year. Less than a week after winning the election, Gov. Malloy’s budget staff announced that the state actually faces a deficit of $100 million for the current fiscal year.

If the timing for this announcement seems awfully convenient, there is a reason why. In 2012, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed a bill that pushed the due date for consensus revenue estimates from Oct. 15 to Nov. 10, which conveniently falls after Election Day.

Although the budget is typically proposed by the governor’s administration and ultimately changed and approved by the General Assembly, most of the blame for any issues, such as a deficit, is placed on the governor because he or she is the one official who represents the entire state. The General Assembly is made up of 187 members, who each represent a different portion of the state, so it is easy to pass the blame around.

In order to fix the problem of future deficits in the long term, Connecticut needs leaders with the political courage to fix the state’s fundamental budgetary issues without worrying about the political consequences. We need leaders like Rhode Island’s Governor-elect Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, who made tough but necessary choices during her tenure as state treasurer. In 2011, as treasurer, she proposed to the state legislature a sweeping pension reform plan that would raise the retirement age and put a freeze on cost-of-living adjustments until the health of the fund improved. The Rhode Island legislature implemented her plan, saving the state an estimated $4 billion.

Raimondo faced stiff criticism from public employee unions, who claimed that workers who had paid into the system for years would not receive the retirement they expected. She said she did not make her decision on an ideological basis, but rather realized that the pension system for public employees was simply unsustainable in the current economic climate. This type of change will not be easy to accomplish in Connecticut, where even Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley tried to pander to public employees, promising not to institute layoffs.

In order to accomplish the real change that is needed to effectively tackle the deficit, tough decisions are going to need to be made. These decisions likely will upset a major block of voters, but are going to be necessary to guarantee the fiscal health of the state. The crop of candidates in the recent election definitely did not seem to be up to the challenge. The only thing we can do is hope for a better choice of candidates in the next statewide election.

Will Hermann is a recent graduate of Trinity College who lives in Suffield and writes a blog at fromwhereisitct.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @wthermann.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(19) Archived Comments

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 26, 2014  4:41pm

Our Godfather deficit spending Governor Malloy showed no intention to tackle our budget deficit when he added fuel to the fire by paying off some 200 of his highest paid Democratic political appointees with $1.4 million dollars of Christmas pay-off raises which the state does not have in their treasury. Voters are responisble as they did not vote in a responsible businessman but a life-time politician that has converted himselt to being our Godfather governor of continual deficits, who has too much spending time remaining in office as a political disaster, aided by his Democratic controlled General assembly. Our Godfather governor is unfortunately our biggest detriment to a fiscally responsible state government in 2015.

posted by: MGKW | December 26, 2014  8:25pm

Good article…I voted for Malloy but he has to start to step on union toes for the good of the state. The Tenet deal that fell apart was just the latest example…he needed to get involved with the negotiations and the setting of conditions…this may be the last the state has a chance to save Waterbury and its medical infrastructure…let’s hope I am wrong.

posted by: shinningstars122 | December 27, 2014  10:35am


It is nice to see a Trinity college graduate reduce the the debate to the state budget woes to only the worn out Koch brother narrative of the evils of pensions.

Many state and teachers earned these pensions through years of loyal and professional service. As many folks will agree simply having a SS account barely cuts being above the poverty line in our country.

Plus there is much more to the $19 billion dollar budget than pensions.

All departments need to be run much more efficiently and always work for the tax payers to try to control expenses.

Granted I agree reforms are necessary,  just like there needs to be for Social Security, and an annual commitment from the Legislature.

If the leadership from both parties could agree on, lets say $200 million annually; which is only 10.5% of the that above mentioned budget number, this would be a huge step in the right direction to addressing this problem.

The Day of New London did a good objective piece on the issue, devoid of the typical partisan rhetoric.

The bottom line is America is aging and millions enter retirement every week.

As a society are we going to put more value on a drone and the war on terror and continued tax breaks for corporations and the plutocracy than on a retiree?

As a young person Mr. Hermann I would be very curious where you stand on those issues?

posted by: DanC | December 27, 2014  11:50am

Great article, I will forward it to my reps.

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 27, 2014  2:53pm

@HGKW: As you voted for Malloy you helped elect our political Godfather Governor Malloy who has and is proving that he has absolutely no political courage to tackle the deficit but is adding fuel to our deficit bond-fire by passing out to his Democratic political appointees payola Christmas raises with money we don’t have. Be serious, he will never step on the union toes that elected him. You, along too many voters, voted for the wrong person, for the wrong reasons. We are now stuck with this spend and tax politician for a long time, and he shows no reluctance to stop his “Wild Dan Deficit Spending.”

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | December 28, 2014  10:51am

Love that C-clamp.
Mr. Hermann: Define “gimmick.”

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | December 28, 2014  12:20pm

“Raimondo‚Äôs Top Hedge Fund is Being Investigated by Feds”

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 28, 2014  12:44pm

@Will Herman: Your great article brings out the fact that there is no Political Courage Leadership in the state to Effectively Tackle the Deficit due to bad Election Day choices made by our voters.  We did it to ourselves. We still have the same people in office that created our acute deficit mode. We are still at the mercy of the bad fiscal judgement of the Malloy administration.

posted by: Jaykle | December 28, 2014  7:28pm

Please explain why budget gimmicks that are abstract are bad and welching on the pensions real people depend on is good?
Take a look at the ruin that the Republican agenda has caused in Kansas and get back to me.

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 29, 2014  11:15am

@Jaykie: As a loyal Democrat why travel to Kansas when you are covering up the ruin that the Democratic fiscal agenda has caused and is still causing in Connecticut?  You are not excusing the $1.4 million dollar political deficit spending Christmas gift raises made to Malloy’s highest paiid political appointees.  This spending madness did not happen in Kansas.

posted by: Jaykle | December 29, 2014  5:42pm

1.4 million dollars??? OMG!!!
You realize we spend something like $36,000 million dollars a year, right?
My guess is you aren’t affected by the state welching on these pension agreements.
I can only assume, based on your eagerness, that you welch on your own personal obligations.

posted by: MGKW | December 30, 2014  10:00am

Tom Foley was as inept a politician as they come…I attended one of the debates…I would not trust the man as far as making better decisions…if the Repubs can put up a candidate then can “walk and chew gum” I will consider otherwise don’t act like the grand poba of politics…the devil you know vs the devil you don’t.

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 30, 2014  4:38pm

@Jaykie: with a “loose spsnding cannon” like Godfather Gov. Malloy in office, all taxpayers have to watch their spending obligations as he is not watching over state fiscal deficit spending at all. Dannel is the culprit, but yoo won’t touch Democratic deficit spending prosperity. It’s easier for you to blame Tom Foley, as you cannot defend Malloy, “who could not realistically qualify to shine
Foley’s shoes.”

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 30, 2014  9:17pm

@MGKW: More deception on your part. Foley was never an elected politician so how can you give him a bitter-oats-tag as an inept politician? Your problem is not Tom Foley. Your smokescreen for the true lifetime inept politician. 
Dannel Malloy is amusing, You trust Malloy, even though he, not Foley. is making the bad decisions. Nice try but you can’t blame Foley for Malloy’s demise.

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 31, 2014  11:45am

“Malloy appears spineless’ in confronting our budget deficit by continuing his deficit spending in granting pay raises to his highest paid political appointees. Beside hurting taxpayer’s some lower echelon state employees will undoubtedly see their hours cut or face lay-offs to pay for Godfather Gov. Malloy’s errant $1.4 million dollar power-play.






























































































$1.4 million dollar power-play.

posted by: SocialButterfly | December 31, 2014  2:49pm

@MGKW;  You almost sound like Art Vandelay in writing “if the Repubs can put up a candidate who can walk and chew gum I will consider otherwise.” Although Art never boosted Foley, he clamed he was a Republican, where you appear to be a die-hard Democratic Malloy supporter.

posted by: ASTANVET | January 1, 2015  9:17am

Slow the bus down people - lots of attacks and snarky responses.  I think we can all agree that we have a spending problem.  If we can agree on that, we have to evaluate the essential functions of government, and the choice that we need to make.  Either Raise taxes to the spending levels we are currently at, or reduce spending and eliminate programs, shrink agencies, freeze salaries - etc.  It’s not a KOCH brothers boogie man thing, it’s not a Sorosian conspiracy.  It’s just math and (as the author spoke of) political will.  It takes that political will to tell someone who is on a useless commission (we have many) that those commissions serve no purpose except to some politically correct wonk.  It takes will to tell UCONN that they are fat and bloated and they will be shrinking their budget.  Same to towns, same to unions… how about we examine the State Police retirement system?  Let them debate what is or is not important, but lets at least come to the table agreeing we have a problem.

posted by: CTS | January 1, 2015  12:47pm

The true institutional problem is the Democrat run General Assembly’s refusal to address out of control spending, and make appropriate cuts.  They are comfortable only with gimmicks and higher taxes, and lack the courage to do the job that needs to be done.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | January 1, 2015  5:53pm

The size of CT State government grows…Growing State government consumes more and more of its citizen’s resources…State Government consuming more and more of its citizen’s resources sucks money out of the private sector, lowering the standard of living for the state’s citizens; taxes and state debt grows…revenue collection becomes more aggressive.  People and businesses flee Connecticut’s tax and regulatory tyranny for more sane states.  The state’s tax base declines. The state’s growing appetite for revenue becomes unsustainable and the State collapses.
Malloy and his toadies have bet the farm…YOUR FARM…that the State’s economy will rebound with such strength that the above scenario will not become reality. Aint gonna happen.


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