Op-Ed: Straight Talk

By Bill Nickerson

We live in an era when straight talk is in short supply.  We hear of “alternative facts” and “truthiness.”  Some even claim that the “truth is not true.”  A democracy cannot function in such an environment.  As the late Senator John McCain reminded us, voters need and want a principled candidate who faces the hard realities.

Which brings us to the election for the 36th District State Senate seat, comprising Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan.  Senator Scott Frantz is running for reelection based on his commitment to badly needed financial reform.   As Co-Chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, he has long been a dedicated and forceful advocate for change – balanced budgets, debt reduction and a positive business climate.  With his business and financial background he has the skills and vision to lead in a new direction. 

By contrast his opponent claims that Connecticut’s financial calamity was brought about by “fiscal mismanagement by politicians from both parties.”  Really?  As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously observed, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

Stay with me as we look at Connecticut’s finances.  Governor Malloy took office in January 2009 and has been backed by majorities controlled by Democrats in both the House and Senate, with the single exception of the current legislative term where the Senate is equally divided 18 to 18 between Republicans and Democrats.  This is the Democrats and Malloy’s financial record:

• Two of the largest tax increases in Connecticut’s history, increasing every tax in sight from income tax, sales tax, business tax, estate tax, gift tax – all the way to a car wash tax.

• Connecticut has $70 Billion (yes B, Billion) unfunded pension and other liabilities, one of the highest in the country on a per-capita basis.

• Bonded debt has risen to over $20 Billion, again one of the highest in the country per capita.

Connecticut’s bond rating was downgraded six times by nonpartisan rating agencies at Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.

• Connecticut, unlike many other states including our neighbors in New England, has never replaced the managerial and professional jobs lost in the recession. 

• In 1992 Connecticut voters overwhelmingly adopted an amendment to the State Constitution to establish a spending cap, using the Consumer Price Index.  After 16 years of chafing under it the Governor’s team used a series of legal, interpretive and procedural gymnastics to declare the cap invalid.

• Governor Malloy signed a collective bargaining agreement with the state workers union which purported to handcuff future legislatures by setting benefits through 2027.

• 35% of revenues go towards debt service and retirement obligation.

• The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has projected that there will be a $2 Billion deficit next year.

These are not just numbers.  This affects every family in Connecticut.  No wonder that Connecticut has lost jobs through the departure of GE and other businesses.  Young people are not optimistic about their future in Connecticut and the state is losing population.

It is not too late to turn this around.  However it can only be done through a clear assessment of what happened and why.  The debacle was brought about by the failed leadership of Governor Malloy, backed by the Democratic legislative majorities.  It is simply surreal to claim that it was done by “both parties.”

Why put a new oarsperson in the boat who rows in the wrong direction?  Better to have Scott Frantz’s strong and innovative leadership.

Bill Nickerson is the Former State Senator from the 36th District.