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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

06/15/11 Tom Foley Blasts Reckless Connecticut Policy Direction in New London Day Op-Ed

Dear Greenwich Roundup-

Please read my Op-Ed piece below that ran in Sunday’s New London Day. I wrote it to clarify the policy disaster that happened during the recently ended legislative session in Hartford. The unfortunate result will be an acceleration of jobs and taxpayers leaving Connecticut. Please forward it to any friends whom are interested in knowing what is really going-on in Hartford.


June 12, 2011

Tom Foley: Outdated policies invite a Connecticut crash

The New London Day


When a test pilot takes an airplane on a risky test flight, it isn't legal to bring along passengers. Not so in Connecticut politics. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and our Democrat-controlled legislature recently passed a budget that is a reckless experiment equivalent to a test flight in a poorly designed airplane - with all of Connecticut's citizens aboard for the ride.

While the federal government and every other state recognizes the broadly held policy consensus that voters want to hold the line on taxes and reduce spending, Connecticut's political leadership is stuck in a retro-policy world reminiscent of the 1960s. During the legislative session 1960s-era dogma and political pay-offs triumphed over common sense and good policy. It isn't amusing watching Connecticut adopt policy more evocative of Havana or Caracas than Shanghai or Mumbai. We are moving backward rather than forward and Connecticut's citizens will pay a big price.

The world has come a long way since the 1960s. People actually believed then that more government would solve problems and steeply progressive income taxes would make a more equitable society. Most policymakers and voters now realize that there are limits to what government can do well and that, past a point, more government merely smothers private sector economic activity, slows income growth, and reduces private sector employment. Connecticut arrived at that point some time ago. We also now know that taxing people excessively doesn't make society more equitable, it just drives away ever-more mobile taxpayers and jobs, reducing everyone's income and opportunities.

Because politicians and voters in the 1960s believed we could tax and spend our way out of our problems, politicians saw no need to hide what they were up to. That is not the case today. Gov. Malloy and Democrats in the legislature deceptively describe their budget as "sharing sacrifice," "reducing spending," and wringing "give-backs" out of state workers. Baloney.

The facts are clear and simple. Spending in the general fund is budgeted to go up next fiscal year by over $450 million, an increase of 2.5 percent over this year. The governor's "deal" with state workers' unions includes no reduction in either the number of state workers or the overall cost of the state workforce. Gov. Malloy and the Democratic majority are closing this entire budget deficit with increased taxes amounting to more than $2.5 billion.

These big tax increases will raise Connecticut's already high cost of living. Most of the increase in taxes will fall on middle-income households. Connecticut households in 2013 will pay on average more than $2,000 more in state taxes than they did last year. With average household income at $68,000, Connecticut's middle-income families will have to again cut back spending to meet their heavy new tax burden, further hurting an already weak economy.

What will be the effect of this disastrous policy, other than the hardship and additional belt tightening imposed on Connecticut's citizens? The most damaging outcome will be an accelerating flight of our tax base and jobs. Connecticut is already unaffordable for many families and businesses. Rather than reducing the cost of living, the recently passed budget will both raise the cost of living and the cost of employing people. People and businesses that can leave the state will. Others who might have come here won't.

Connecticut has the worst job creation record in the nation. You would think that after their dismal performance creating jobs, our politicians would be reluctant to keep pursuing the same shopworn and ineffective policies. Instead, they are stepping even harder on the accelerator, like the impulsive gambler who after losing a lot of money just keeps doubling down on the same bet.

Connecticut is conspicuously alone in its "damn the torpedoes" strategy of raising taxes and doing nothing serious to rein-in spending. In New York, where Democrats also hold the governorship and control the legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to reduce spending next year by 5 percent, reduce the size of the state work force by more than 10,000 people, and not raise taxes.

Like a family that lived too well in the good times, Connecticut has to adjust to current economic reality. That is why when running for governor I pledged not to raise taxes and focus instead on wisely and equitably reducing spending. This policy direction doesn't originate in ideology or politics. It is simply the right thing to do and plain enough for political leaders on both sides of the aisle to recognize most everywhere, except in Connecticut.

The current administration's failure to recognize the need for a change in direction will only dig the state into a deeper hole.

The only good news in this confounding story is that voters seem to know they are being had. The deceptive messaging isn't working. Everything in Hartford seems too clever by half. Some think the budget doesn't reflect a policy at all, but rather an odd and un-Connecticut introduction of 1930s' style "take care of your friends" urban ward politics. Whatever it is, Connecticut isn't happy. A new poll found 71 percent of voters viewed Gov. Cuomo's policies favorably, while the most recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Gov. Malloy's rating in the mid-30s.

It isn't fair that this administration is taking Connecticut's citizens for a risky ride with discredited policies perpetrated by out-of-touch politicians. If you are planning to stick around for the test flight, I suggest you fasten your seatbelt. It is going to be a bumpy ride until our leaders get in tune with the 21st century - or voters replace them with leaders who are.

Tom Foley was the Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut in 2010.

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