When, if not now, do we start paying attention?

The legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that the 2011-12 budget, the first one the new legislature must develop, has a built-in shortfall of $3.37 billion.

Against that backdrop it was astonishing to learn that the Connecticut State University System (CSU) just granted raises averaging about 5 percent (and up to 10 percent) for top officials, including Chancellor David G. Carter. Carter's salary is now in excess of $400,00, and the salaries of presidents at CSU's Central, Eastern and Western campuses are now more than $300,000.

The negative impact of this action is compounded by the fact it adds to the state's pension shortfall. Carter can expect this salary increase to guarantee an "all-too-lavish" lifetime annual pension with full health benefits to boot.

While CSU employees are reaping unheard of raises, and life-time benefits, Connecticut's students were levied a staggering increases in their college tuition. Starting in the 2010-11 academic year, students who commuted to class paid an average 6.3 percent increase. Students living on campus paid about a 5.6 percent increase.

What does this all mean? For Connecticut students the answer is simple: They will be applying for more loans, working longer hours while trying to balance their studies and facing an uncertain job future created by a state that spent far too much money.

For the state legislature the answer is simple, too. The legislature should immediately repudiate these astronomical raises, reign in out-of-control spending and get Connecticut back on firm financial footing.

DeeDee Brandt, a former member of Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting and Board of Finance, is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 133rd district. She can be reached at ddbrandtct@gmail.com