Connecticut taxpayers are maxed out. Even though there are about the same number of people living in Connecticut today as were 20 years ago, the state budget has exploded from an annual $7 billion then to $19 billion now.

With virtually no increase in the state’s taxpayer base over the last 20 years, that’s a whopping 158% increase in state spending. Even accounting for inflation, and with a wider range of state services now being provided, 158% is a very steep price to pay. 

What’s more, the Office of Policy and Management recently reported that the state’s long-term obligations total $70.2 billion—up from $61.7 billion last year. The largest chunk, 35%, or $24.6 billion, comes from unfunded state employee post-retirement benefits. Connecticut now has the largest per capita debt in the United States—a tab of more than $19,000 per every person in the state if it were to come due at once.

These are huge problems, but the recession merely unmasked their true source: Taxpayers can no longer afford the size, scope and cost of Connecticut’s state government, especially the overwhelming commitments for state employee retiree benefits.

While the budget deficit represents the higher costs of providing more state programs and services, and lower tax revenues caused by the recession, it also reflects years of poor spending habits and a general lack of accountability on how well taxpayer dollars are being spent.

The budget gap and unfunded liabilities are eroding the confidence of employers in the state as a place to create and keep good jobs.

The only way for Connecticut to move beyond our fiscal crisis and build a foundation for long-term growth is to encourage private-sector employers to invest here, create jobs and drive our economy. To rebuild confidence, policymakers need to reduce the size and cost of state government and increase its efficiency and performance.  — Dave Conrad

Dave Conrad is a CBIA writer/editor. He may be reached at dave.conrad@cbia.com.