Every other week, John J. Ryan, a former Republican state representative, and Hersam Acorn editor Joshua Fisher, share their back-and-forth about news going on around the state, among other items of interest. Links to all the articles and other items mentioned in the column can be found in the Opinion section of NCAdvertiser.com.
Fisher: While Punxsutawney Phil came out on Saturday morning to predict an early spring, Chuckles the Connecticut Groundhog predicted a growing state deficit. The Connecticut deficit is so predictable, even a groundhog can see it.
Is there any chance of a fiscal springtime for the Constitution State?
Ryan: Connecticut’s financial and economic troubles are like what Bill Murray’s character goes through in “Groundhog Day” the movie. They keep repeating over and over and over.
Fisher: In that now classic film, Murray’s character eventually found his way out of being forced to live the same day over and over by learning to do things differently. It seems that Connecticut’s state officials aren’t learning from previous mistakes.
Ryan: It’s easy to see why our editor has been trekking off to Wyoming and Boston to pick up awards and speaking gigs on the rubber-chicken circuit, given his perceptive abilities. You are correct that despite the very recent “budget adjustment” and last year’s huge tax increase, the deficit only continues to keep expanding. See “Lembo: FY 13 Deficit Now At $140M” (CourantBlogs.com/capitol-watch, Feb. 1).
Editor: So all of the steps taken thus far by the Malloy administration have not stopped the fiscal hemorrhage. Including that things you buy on Amazon.com in Connecticut will soon be subject to state sales tax. See: “State to tax your Amazon purchases,” (NCAdvertiser.com, Feb. 4).
Ryan: The explanation is simple (and taxpayers continue to be totally oblivious to what is going on): all of this time, state spending has been increasing, amazingly enough. See: “Facing a deficit, Malloy’s next two-year budget will increase spending,” (NHRegister.com, Feb. 4) and “Malloy Budget Speech Wednesday Will Reset The Table” (Courant.com, Feb. 3).
Fisher: That’s an interesting economic theory: spend your way out of a deficit. The last Malloy budget raised taxes and that led to less state revenue. Now, the governor has promised his new budget (which was officially released Wednesday, after this column was written). What are some of the spending projects ahead?
Ryan: We have already noted in previous columns that state spending items on higher education and the Busway Boondoggle are not nickel-and-dime items, and there is more, much more in the pipe-line!
See: “Malloy to pitch $500M for economic development” (HartfordBusiness.com, Feb. 4) and “Malloy Wants To Invest $1.5 Billion In UConn Sciences, Technology” (Courant.com, Jan. 30).
Fisher: A billion here, a billion there…
Ryan: And while we are at it, why not add more state agencies and bureaucracy? See: “Conn. governor to create early childhood office” (CTPost.com, Feb. 4).
Of course the media frequently reports on the performance (or lack thereof) of some of the state’s agencies. See: “Another State Property Falls Into Ruin” (Courant.com, Jan. 25) and “University has much to explain” (Rep-am.com, Feb. 4).
Fisher: Obviously there is an unending series of examples on the repeating theme of unhappy state topics that “Groundhog Day” is famous for. We can guess that there are few harbingers of a fiscal spring for Nutmeg State businesses.
Ryan: You can call these stories harbingers, but they aren’t hopeful: “Connecticut work force declines by 51,130 from 2011 to 2012” (NHRegister.com, Jan. 26) and “STR to lay off 160, take $20M in charges” (HartfordBusiness.com, Jan. 30).
Fisher: But you haven’t been totally fair here in mentioning good economic news. A path to economic prosperity was outlined in a recent Hartford Courant op-ed by that recent U.S. Senate candidate now famous for back-to-back landslide losses. See: “McMahon: How We Can Revive The American Economy” (Courant.com, Jan. 25).
Not only was it noteworthy for, like her campaign “plans,” having no substance, it shows that the candidate who dragged down Connecticut GOP tickets in 2010 and ’12 is not going away. Good luck, Republicans, in 2014!
Ryan: If you are going to reference political figures, then we should observe the recent passing of New York Mayor Ed Koch, who was the mayor for so many of our local commuters. Whether you agreed with any of his policies or viewpoints, he was an example of a political leader rarely seen these days: blunt, forthright, never dodging a tough question or issue, and most importantly, he actually got things done. Remember how the city was sliding into bankruptcy before Koch took charge?
Fisher: Will we ever see a strong, capable leader who can galvanize Connecticut with sensible policy and real leadership, or do we have only more vacuous politicians who cannot answer a question, just bleat out “I have a plan”?
Hope springs eternal.
John J. Ryan is of counsel to the Fairfield County law firm Russo & Assoc., and served 14 years as Darien and Rowayton’s state representative and has been writing this column for Hersam Acorn even longer. Joshua Fisher has been an editor with Hersam Acorn Newspapers since 2003.