Op-Ed: The Dangers of Denial
By Fred Camillo
On Monday, June 19, I accepted an invitation to hear Gov. Rick Scott of Florida speak in Norwalk.
Like others in the audience, I wanted to hear what a successful governor from a successful state had to say.
Gov. Scott told of inheriting a multi-billion dollar deficit and turning it into an annual multi-billion dollar surplus. Being in a state that is next to last in most business ratings and still experiencing yearly billion dollar deficits, his story of reaching out to businesses, lowering and eliminating thousands of regulations and several taxes caught my attention. Having seen firsthand friends, family members and constituents leave our beloved state for Florida, some of what he spoke of was familiar to me. What impressed me more, however, and what stuck with me most, was how brutally honest he was when it came to why he was there, and how unafraid he was to call Connecticut’s policies what they are: a dismal and routine failure.
That no Democrats were there in attendance was disappointing, though not unexpected. What was disheartening, and very telling, was that some of them took to Twitter to criticize those who attended and, of course, to call names. None of these partisan posts and newspaper quotes, including one from a gubernatorial candidate from Middletown and another from a Democratic state senator from Norwalk, could offer a clearly defined and believable defense of what has become a national embarrassment. To criticize any Connecticut resident who attended Gov. Scott’s speech and asked questions of a leader who got it right says a lot about why our state is once again in the middle of a prolonged budget debate. Once again, the majority party is trying to tax our way back to prosperity, as if the last two tax hikes didn’t do enough damage. To quote former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”
The fact that our state has been losing residents on a yearly basis doesn’t seem to bother them. Another fact that has fallen on deaf ears is that since the inception of the state income tax in 1991, private sector growth has been flat lining. Despite Connecticut Republican objections, the majority party has totally ignored the will of the people, who in 1991 voted for a spending cap that was to accompany the new state income tax. The thinking behind that was that future legislatures and governors would need a formal and statutory restraint when blessed with all the expected money that would come from the income tax. In the intervening 26 years, the cap, which was approved by a plurality of 82 percent of the voters, has never been implemented.
When you go to the polls in 2018, remember the record, and remember the willful disdain that the majority party has had for the voters who asked for a spending cap. As Casey Stengel used to say, “You could look it up!”
While we will continue to fight policies that are causing jobs and residents to depart our state, we must do so with an awareness of what our competition is doing. Gov. Scott’s visit was a wake-up call. Connecticut needs and deserves a chance to achieve the success that states like Florida have experienced, and it will only get that chance with a change in leadership in the General Assembly and in the governor’s mansion in 2018.
Fred Camillo represents Connecticut’s 151st House District. He lives in Old Greenwich.