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Editorial: Arrogance, Disdain, and an Unprecedented Failure to Lead

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July 7, 2017Rep. Richard A. Smith

As the calendar turned from June to July last week, the Legislature, controlled by Democrats, failed to accomplish the single most important job it had this session – drafting, negotiating, and calling the legislature back into session to debate, and eventually vote on a two-year state budget. Instead, the Democratic leadership ignored the zero-tax increase balanced budget prepared by the Republicans and chose to relinquish its duty to the governor, who now must run the state by executive order – a chilling proposition for towns, school districts, and core government services.

Most years, debate about the state budget is largely parlor talk among Hartford insiders; the average hard-working taxpayer would need a heavily translated version of the financial jargon and political intricacies to understand the process.

However, when General Electric announced its unprecedented departure from its longtime Fairfield headquarters for a move to Massachusetts citing the fiscal mismanagement and crippling anti-business policies included in the 2015 biennial budget, Connecticut residents began to pay closer attention.  That was on the heels of report after report confirming the extent of Connecticut’s debt and our own Comptroller admitting Connecticut remains in a state of “permanent fiscal crisis.”  Now, after being in Connecticut for more than 150 years, Aetna has, after witnessing firsthand the failure of this majority party leadership and their doomed fiscal policies, joined the exodus and decided to relocate its headquarters to New York.

Our local businesses and families have also experienced the harmful effects of depleted revenue receipts, an unequal Education Cost Sharing formula, and unfunded pension liabilities as the fiscal mismanagement directly affects their jobs, their children’s educations, and their life savings.

It comes as no surprise that the Office of Fiscal Analysis reported income tax revenue is down $1.1 billion and sales and corporate taxes are projected to fall by $450 million. Meanwhile, pension contributions to state employees have doubled since 2010 while most state employees pay little or no deductible and a $15 co-pay for health care.

As a member of the House Republican caucus, I am proud that we presented a fully vetted budget that funds core services and closed the deficit without increasing taxes.  Since the unaffordable cost of state government is among the main reasons Connecticut cannot pay its bills, we proposed streamlining state government and saving money by asking for real concessions from our state workforce comparable to private sector jobs.  As a state, we can no longer afford the onerous benefits demanded by and given to public employee unions, which they have received because the majority party refuses to allow their contracts to be voted on by the legislature. By rule enacted by the majority, union contracts negotiated by the governor become law unless voted on by the Legislature within thirty days.

Democrats displayed a shocking lack of leadership in this process from day one.  Being the majority party in the House, they control major legislative committees by majority rule and control the agenda on the floor of the House.  Rather than roll up their sleeves and get to work, they failed to produce a budget by the Appropriations Committee deadline in March and stubbornly refused at any point to consider any portion of the budget that Republicans crafted.  This year’s session concluded at midnight on June 7th without even a discussion on the most critical issue we had to face. A special session on the taxpayer’s dime was then planned for June 29th to vote on a budget just in time for the June 30th deadline. There was only one problem. The Democrats did not have a budget prepared to vote on and refused to call the Republican budget.

Folks, let’s make no mistake about this, the Speaker of the House and Democratic leadership failed Connecticut families and businesses by ignoring the issue that has become the top priority for state government: Connecticut’s economy.  Whether it’s sheer arrogance or just a general disdain for taxpayers, failure of this magnitude is utterly beyond comprehension. Clearly, it is time for a change in the leadership of this state. Until that happens, you can expect more of the same, including higher taxes and more residents and businesses leaving Connecticut, despite the best efforts of myself and the minority party in the legislature.

Rep. Smith Discusses State Issues with Constituents at a Town Hall Forum in New Fairfield

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NEW FAIRFIELD  State Representative Richard Smith (R-108 listened to the questions and concerns of constituents in New Fairfield alongside State Senator Michael McLachlan (R-24) at a well-attended town hall meeting they hosted on Tuesday night.

The legislators engaged in a productive discussion at the New Fairfield Senior Center with area residents wanting a chance to hear from their elected officials on how their lives would be affected by pressing state political topics. Eager to listen to what issues mattered most to their constituents, Rep. Smith and Sen. McLachlan answered dozens of questions over the course of the hour and a half event. After the conclusion of the forum, they remained to answer questions from those who did not have a chance to ask them during the town hall.  

Rep. Smith Urges Action on Resolving State Budget Crisis

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Encourages Democratic Colleagues to Consider Republican Proposal

HARTFORD State Representative Richard Smith (R-108) joined the House Republican caucus in calling for an up-or-down vote Thursday in the House on the balanced, no-tax increase budget proposed by Republicans – the third version produced by the caucus – noting the Democrats failed to produce a single complete proposal.

“This is truly unprecedented,” said Rep. Smith. “As I have mentioned, the legislature’s only obligation this year was to pass a two-year budget. It is the first time in recent history that there will not be a state budget before the end of the fiscal year because of an abject failure of the majority party to even produce a comprehensive budget package – let alone call one for a vote. Democrats control both the Senate and the House, yet they are unwilling to make the necessary changes to turn this state around. Republicans are asking our local Democratic colleagues to join us in supporting a budget that will start that process.”

Legislative Republicans proposed a full balanced budget this spring and then revised that proposal last month to account for a dramatic drop in revenue receipts. Democrats did not even produce a plan by the time the legislative committees reached their deadlines later in the spring and still refuse to call the Republican budget for a vote.  If no budget is passed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, the governor will run the state on a series of continuing resolutions.

Smith considered this prospect distressing and warned that a prolonged budget struggle will result in huge problems for towns and cities that count on state revenue to help run local government. Those most at risk and in need of social services will also be affected.

“It is unacceptable for Democratic leadership to abandon their responsibilities by refusing to act,” said Rep. Smith.  “The Democrats need to face the true economic realities of Connecticut and call a responsible budget for a vote.”

You Are Invited to a Town Hall in New Fairfield

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NEW FAIRFIELD – State Representative Rich Smith (R-108)and State Senator Michael McLachlan (R-24) are holding a town hall meeting in New Fairfield in order to discuss pieces of legislation that passed this year and other issues pertaining to the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session.  See below for further details.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak with Rep. Smith may contact him at richard.smith@housegop.ct.gov.

Rep. Smith Frustrated by Inaction on State Budget at End of Session

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Demands Taxpayer-Friendly Compromise before Fiscal Year Ends

HARTFORD State Representative Rich Smith (R-108) reacted to the culmination of the 2017 legislative session by decrying inaction on the state budget as the deadline passed on Wednesday, June 7th. In order to pass a final budget and see it signed into law by the governor, a resolution was affirmed by both houses of the General Assembly to convene in a special session at some point before the conclusion of the fiscal year on June 30th.

Currently, legislative Republicans, legislative Democrats, and Governor Dan Malloy have each released a state budget proposal that disagree on which municipalities or public institutions should be forced to endure cuts. However, none of the proposals were called for debate in the House.

“The primary reason the General Assembly convenes for almost six months is to develop, negotiate, vote on, and eventually pass a state budget, so our failure to do that this year can be pinned on a truly embarrassing absence of leadership and accountability in Hartford,” said Rep. Smith. “While there were certainly competing visions of a final budget product proposed each by legislative Republicans, legislative Democrats, and the governor, the majority Democrats refused to address the need to reduce spending, while instead focusing all their energy on ways to raise revenue, be it by taxes, tolls, or legalizing marijuana. Worse, none of the budget proposals were called for debate in either chamber, let alone voted on.  It’s just the wrong way to do business and sends a message to our businesses that Connecticut is not ready to change its fiscal mismanagement anytime soon. The failure to work in a bipartisan manner now leaves Connecticut taxpayers and our municipalities with unanswered questions of how this budget will impact them.”

Although Rep. Smith had made pursuing new fiscal policies central to his goal for the session, he did praise a series of bills the legislature passed this session to address other issues that now await the governor’s signature to become law.

“In terms of successes, I was happy to see the legislature make a serious effort to address the opioid epidemic by passing laws that controlled prescription medications and made them easier to dispose. This will make them less likely to be abused or end up on the street.” said Rep. Smith. “Importantly for my constituents, we also held the line on re-instituting tolls in Connecticut. A bill that called for tolling Connecticut’s highways was pulled due to a lack of support in the House and it is unlikely to gain much traction in the near future.”

Budget negotiations will persist in the coming weeks until a special session is announced in the hopes that a final budget product can be voted on before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th.