As Election Day approaches, the most important message I can offer voters is simply that Connecticut has some very serious fiscal and competitive problems that we must address before it is too late and a crisis severely limits our ability to invest in education, to protect the most vulnerable, or to improve our infrastructure.
These problems are no secret. They are the reason Connecticut has had no population growth and no job growth since 1990; why it is rated one of the worst states in which to do business and the worst in which to retire; why its debt rating was downgraded by Moody's; why it is considered the worst-managed state by Barron's; and why our governor is paying companies millions of our hard-earned tax dollars to stay here.
Following the financial crisis, neighboring states recognized the need for spending and tax restraint; but Connecticut's one-party government, under a false banner of "shared sacrifice," responded with higher spending, increased fees, and the biggest tax increase ($1.8 billion) in state history that was supposed to be "matched" by $1.6 billion in savings over two years from concessions by state employees. However, only $1.0 billion of savings could be documented, and the deal was so sweet for the unions -- including a four-year, no-layoffs guarantee -- that their chief negotiator bragged he would be teaching other unions how to replicate it. To no one's surprise, we ended fiscal 2012 with a $144 million deficit and we face bigger deficits in the current and coming fiscal years, deficits that will likely be covered with more tax increases and/or more debt.
Higher and higher state taxes are bad enough, but Hartford is also directly impacting our property taxes and quality of life in Fairfield. I highlighted some of these effects in recent policy statements on unfunded mandates, and on abuses of the state's affordable housing law. Meanwhile, the growing indirect effects of Hartford's mismanagement are all around us, including an unemployment rate well above the high national average, and continued pressure on the value of our homes and businesses because fewer and fewer people can afford to live here. Even before the big increase in 2011, Connecticut's combined state and local tax rate was among the highest in the nation, and we also have the highest gasoline prices and the second highest electricity costs in the continental United States. Not surprisingly, prices for single-family homes were down 4.7 percent in Connecticut in the second quarter (led by a 12.9 percent drop in Fairfield County), despite a 3 percent rise in home prices nationwide. Nutmeggers are voting with their feet by moving out.
We must address these problems before unrestrained spending, taxing, borrowing, regulating and mandating drive our living costs still higher and drive out even more seniors, young people, job-creating businesses and families. The single most important thing we can do to address these problems is to end the one-party rule that is responsible for them and send more diligent, responsible and independent leaders to represent us in Hartford.
If elected, I would diligently focus on the critical issues; exercise independent judgment; and provide responsible leadership. "Critical issues" means our serious fiscal and competitive problems; it does not mean, for example, reducing our dependency on plastic bags. "Independent judgment" means that issues should be decided on their merits in the best interests of the state; it does not mean voting along party lines 97 percent or 98 percent of the time. "Responsible leadership" means strong advocacy for spending cuts to address our near-term budget problems, and for strong private-sector growth incentives that will allow us to create jobs and fulfill our long-term goals; it does not mean casting symbolic votes against the budget, complaining briefly and timidly about too much spending, and then reverting to "business as usual," nor does it mean showing up for less than half of one's committee meetings and public hearings and missing votes on critical bills like repeal of the death penalty and paid sick leave.
Hopefully, Connecticut voters will not be lulled again by members of the dominant party urging them to "move along" without taking a long hard look at the situation, and will decide on November 6th that it is time for a long overdue change in the control of our State. With an end to one-party rule and with responsible leadership in Hartford, we can turn things around and restore optimism and prosperity to the State of Connecticut.
Thank you for considering my candidacy.