Can we have a little honesty about Connecticut’s state budget problems?

No, because – That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works! 

Rather than honestly confront the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget and the shortfall of more than $4.8 billion over the next three years, the two major party candidates for governor have decided to simply lie their way to Election Day in the hopes that voters will not discover the magnitude of the fiscal problems Connecticut will face over the next few years.

At last night’s candidate’s debate, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, knowing that he will actually be forced to cut services and increase taxes, chose to repeat his “read-my-lips” pledge by saying, “Let me be very clear, there will not be a deficit, nor will there be a tax increase.”

Meanwhile, Foley, the Republican nominee who didn’t even bother to show up for the candidate debate, has taken an equally disingenuous approach to the state budget.

The two major party candidates’ — “Budget deficit? What budget deficit?” – strategy was on full display this week as the CTNewsjunkie reported, “Malloy, Foley Both Promise To Hold Towns Harmless.”

So Malloy and Foley are telling voters they will be no tax increases, no significant cuts in state services, no cuts in education or municipal aid and no mass layoffs of state employees.

The incredible truth is that the only candidate being honest about Connecticut’s budget problem is petitioning candidate Joe Visconti who says he’ll slash the state budget until it balances.  It would be a hard, even impossible, strategy to achieve and the impact would be disastrous, but give Visconti an A+ for his honesty.

Readers who want to know the truth about Connecticut’s ongoing fiscal crisis should read the Wait, What? posts of September 3, 2014 (Foley and Malloy are just plain wrong on taxes) and September 16, 2014 (Why Malloy’s (and Foley’s) anti-tax pledge is anti-middle class.)

As noted in the September 3rd post,

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is fond of saying that he inherited a $3.7 billion budget deficit when he was sworn into office in January 2011.  (The number comes from reports produced by the Legislature’s independent Office of Fiscal Analysis).

The candidate who is sworn in as Governor of Connecticut in January 2015 will be facing a combined budget deficit of at least $4.8 billion over the next three years. YES – You read that number correctly.  Even after taking into consideration increased revenue from an “improving” economy, Connecticut state government will be $4.8 billion short of what is needed to maintain the present level of services and meet its present statutory obligations.

On the campaign trail, Malloy claims that there is “no deficit” in the future; these projections come from the same independent Office of Fiscal Analyses, the entity he quotes in his regular campaign stump speech.

The truth is that Connecticut continues to face a budget crisis, but rather than tell the truth about the fiscal house of cards that has been built up over the past two decades, the two major party candidates have made a calculated decision that politics trumps reality and that their best tactic is to mislead the voters in the hope that Connecticut citizens will remain docile, compliant and unaware of the fiscal crisis that will not only swallow up their economic stability but that of their children as well.

Malloy has based his campaign on a promise never to propose or accept any tax increase in a second term, while telling voters that he will not cut vital services and telling state employees that he will not need to discuss further concessions with their union leaders.

Tom Foley, in turn, has made an equally strong commitment to a “no tax” pledge” saying that he will honor the existing state employee agreement and that he will not use state employee layoffs to balance the state budget.

In a recent attempt to prove that Foley’s “no tax” pledge is bigger than Malloy’s “no tax pledge,” the Hartford Courant wrote that Foley and his running mate, Heather Somers have even launched a new online “No New Taxes Petition.”

The “I’m no tax, no I’m no tax” charade make Foley and Malloy the modern day equivalents of  Frick and Frack, the two Swiss skaters who rose to fame as original members of the Ice Follies,  doing ice skating tricks while wearing Lederhosen.

But if the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor succeed in ducking the real tax issue facing the state, the people of Connecticut, especially our middle income taxpayers, will be the true losers.

The truth is that most of the expenses related to the $4.8 billion projected budget deficit over the next three years must be paid.  Neither Malloy nor Foley can wish or lie the problem away.

For example, Governor Malloy’s irresponsible borrowing policies mean that the state MUST increase its debt service payments by at least $672 million dollars over the next three years and mandatory payments to the state employee and teacher pension and healthcare funds will account for an additional $620 million.

Putting aside critically important issues like the increased costs for education, healthcare, transportation, support and services for citizens with developmental chalengees, our public colleges and universities and all the other areas of state expenditures, Malloy and Foley can pledge that they will not raise any taxes all they want, but the winner of the gubernatorial election will need to come up with $1.3 billion over the next three years just to pay the additional debt service on the state credit card and the minimum payments into the state pension and healthcare funds.

On top of which, while the “no tax” pledges sound good in a television ad, the major party candidates owe the voters a detailed list of where they are going to cut billions from the state budget and how they are going to sidestep having to sit down and talk with state employee unions about the financial crisis.

This isn’t a magic show.  It is an extremely serious decision about who will lead the state and how they will deal with the very real issue of increased taxes.

As taxpayers across Connecticut are aware…

When Malloy introduced his record-breaking tax increase in 2011, he increased the income tax rate for everyone except those making over $1 million a year.  He told a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly that he wasn’t increasing the income tax rate on the wealthy because he didn’t want to “punish success.”

As if Connecticut’s middle class and working families weren’t the ones who really deserved to be called successful.

Furthermore, a growing number of people are aware that in Connecticut, middle income families pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12% and the wealthy about 5-6%.

When Malloy and Foley say they will not support any increase in state taxes, what they ARE saying is that the full burden for maintaining our schools and other important local services will fall on Connecticut’s already overburdened local property taxpayers.

In fact, every time a Connecticut voter hears a gubernatorial candidate say they he will not support additional taxes, they should understand that he is saying that he will continue Malloy’s strategy of coddling the rich and dumping the burden on homeowners, car owners and those who pay property taxes through increased rent.

When it comes to the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, one truth stands out.

Foley and Malloy will use their television ads to claim that they won’t raise taxes.

But there should be a huge disclaimer on those ads that should read:

If this candidate wins, vital state services will be cut and Connecticut’s middle class will be facing massive local property tax increases or face unparalleled cuts to their local public schools.

And no voter, liberal, moderate or conservative, should cast their vote for either Malloy or Foley until each is willing to explain how they will actually deal with the fiscal realities that are facing Connecticut.

  • cindy

    This point is debatable regarding education funding:

    “It would be a hard, even impossible, strategy to achieve and the impact would be disastrous, but give Visconti an A+ for his honesty.”

    We need a little “three degrees of separation” rule…if the money goes through more than three steps before it gets to a child, the program/administrator/policy/mandate should go away. And only through faithful and dedicated local control, under the auspices of well-qualified and certified educators with a vested and honest interest in children can this happen.

    We need to get back to quality education and true accountability, not just siphoning funds to pay for useless mandates and over-compensated administrators.

    • CTedFromTheTrenches

      You are absolutely correct!

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Sorry……..the only thing not for sale in Connecticut is honesty.

  • buygoldandprosper

    Honestly, for sale, any political office in this state.

    I liked Joe’s idea of making Jon Education Commissioner. A natural appointment but Danny will depart Hartford leaving behind scorched earth. There will be nothing left but a giant pile of IOU’s.

    “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign says U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez is coming to Connecticut to talk up jobs.”
    Maybe they can stop by THE WORLDS LARGEST EMPTY TRADING FLOOR down in Stamford and try to add up how much money the state has poured into that place, and the boneyard across the street called RBS as well.

    • Philip Stull

      He fails to listen to the voters and instead thinks he knows what they think. Trouble for him is he did not know his constituency. Maybe a small part of his constituency, but a majority, I think not. He can spend $500K and he will still loose but just by more votes. Were is the panic button?

  • Mary Gallucci

    If you are going to be given to grade inflation, I’d have reservations about you as education commissioner.

    • msavage

      Mary, I’m curious as to what you are referring to here?

  • Jim Spellman

    Malloy must go .
    Joe can not win
    Vote for Tom – if you like him , great ; if you do not , it is easier to bite the inevitable bullet when you dislike the firer .
    Reunite , Reorganize , Rebuild , Reinvigorate for 2018 !

  • buygoldandprosper

    More about honesty and Connecticut politics, where every office is for sale:

    What is wrong with this state?
    Where are the people who are supposed to enforce the laws?
    Are there any laws left to enforce?