Take the Best Ideas to Create an Affordable Budget

05.04.2015
Issues & Policies

Now that everything’s on the table—tax and spending plans from the governor; legislative Democrats and Republicans; and the best practices and proven reforms adopted by other states—the next step is to craft the best budget using the most practical ideas from each.
The spending proposal approved by the Appropriations Committee last week on a party-line vote–with all Democrats approving and all Republicans opposing–rewrote the state’s constitutional spending cap to increase spending by an unaffordable $1.5 billion.
“We’ve said from the beginning of the session that the only way to properly deal with the state’s fiscal problems is to encourage greater economic growth,” said Joe Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
Unsustainable
As seen with the now-certified budget gap for this fiscal year and the deeper deficits projected for the next two, Connecticut taxpayers can’t afford unsustainable levels of spending.
In addition, the Appropriations Committee proposal violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitutional spending cap and is an affront to the more than 80% of Connecticut voters who called for a way to control spending and the taxes needed to pay for it.
Most important, the state’s continuing fiscal crisis will make it much more difficult to attract the investment Connecticut needs to grow jobs.
Why not the best?
Yet even with all of the problems contained in some of the proposals, ideas contained within each, if packaged well, could be the keys to a sound and sustainable state budget.
Prior to the Appropriations budget, legislative Republicans unveiled their proposal which focuses on growing Connecticut’s economy most significantly by lifting tax restraints on job creation, except for extending the corporate surcharge for another year, and putting the state on a more level playing field with competitor states.
The GOP budget spends at a lower level and stays under the current constitutional spending cap; maintains important investment incentives for businesses; looks for the fulfillment of $253 million in savings from state employees that were called for, but not met, in the current state budget; and reduces funding for overtime, and creates an office of overtime accountability.
Second chance, etc.
Governor Malloy’s budget includes significant corrections systems reforms under the banner of a “Second Chance Society” that emphasizes changing lives rather than putting people behind bars. He also called for a 10-year investment in remaking Connecticut’s transportation systems and infrastructure.
The Appropriations Committee package achieves greater corrections system savings while enhancing the “Second Chance Society” proposal, and calls for $36.5 million in reduction in overtime costs from various agencies.
What’s also been on the table for some time are the recommendations of the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century to make state government work better at less cost—many of which reflect the proven best practices of other states that have confronted similar challenges.
And as Connecticut’s job creators know and have encouraged the state to adopt, efficiency techniques such as Lean can make the everyday processes of state government work much better. Some agencies—such as DEEP, DOT, and DAS—are in fact making great strides with Lean; now it’s time to adopt it throughout state government.
Some of the big-ticket reforms highlighted by the institute would create better results at lower cost in:
Long-term healthcare: Transitioning more people out of long-term institutional care and into home-based care can save on spending and give people the care they prefer.
Corrections: Moving nonviolent offenders out of prison, better prepare them for productive lives, and reduce their chances of going back is more effective and less costly than putting people behind bars.
Social services: Using more of Connecticut’s outstanding nonprofit providers—who exist to address numerous specific needs–to deliver social services can improve service quality and save tax dollars.
State pensions: Many changes could and should be made to eliminate fraud and abuse in the system; including by doing a better job of managing the overtime in state agencies.
Technology: Better and more coordinated information technology systems can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.
CBIA urges lawmakers to do what’s best for Connecticut: Adopt sustainable levels of spending, make the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars and focus on ways to grow our economy.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart at 860.244.1925 | bonnie.stewart@cbia.com | @CBIAbonnie

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