About the same number of people live in Connecticut today as did in 1990, with the state growing only slightly from a population of 3.27 million back then to around 3.5 million now.

The number of people employed in Connecticut is also about the same today as then, with an average overall workforce of about 1.725 million.

So, what’s different between 1990 and 2010?

First of all, a much more expensive state government. Twenty years ago, Connecticut taxpayers supported a state budget of just over $7 billion. Now, taxpayers are struggling to pay for a state budget of $19 billion.

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.

In fact, we’re really not paying it. Today we face a state budget gap of $3.5 billion (which of course would have represented half of the entire state budget back in 1990).

While the 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.

Connecticut taxpayers simply cannot afford the size and scope of state government today. And our $3.5 billion structural budget gap and $60 billion in 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 maybe reached at dave.conrad@cbia.com.