By Scott Frantz
We have lived through what will undoubtedly be considered the worst decade in Connecticut’s economic history, with the exception of the Great Depression. The two largest tax increases in state history resulted in the 48th highest tax burden per person in the country. Basic services have been cut year after year – the consequence of chronic budget shortfalls. Jobs growth is flat and the state economy is stagnated.
In 2008, it was clear to me that if Connecticut was going to have a chance, we would all have to step in and help. That is why I ran for the State Senate and have been working hard since to make fundamental changes to the way our state governs. It hasn’t been easy. One party control for more than 40 years is never a good idea. Trying to turn things around while that party is still in control takes a lot of effort. We are fortunate that so many good people have stepped up to try and do just that.
Today, I am more optimistic about our future than I have been in a long time. I am optimistic because, for the first time in generations, we have been able to craft not just one, but two bipartisan budgets that fundamentally change everything. What changed and why does it matter so much?
Connecticut has three new safeguards in place to ensure responsible budgeting and borrowing practices and protect against irresponsible decision making. For the first time ever, there is a strong, well-defined spending cap that limits spending increases to a level that is actually sustainable: the rate of inflation or the rate of personal income growth. For the first time ever, there is a powerful bonding cap that prevents excessive borrowing. For the first time ever, there is a volatility cap that guarantees surplus capital gains revenues are placed in the Rainy Day Fund.
All three of these safeguards are secured by a bond lock, which means that Connecticut is legally bound to maintain these spending and revenue restraints and that they are virtually impossible to break for more than a decade.
These revolutionary changes would not have been possible had it not been for the new balance of political power in the State Senate. The majority party had to listen to our solutions, and I am encouraged by the fact that they not only listened, but many also embraced our new approach. As Co-Chair of the Finance Committee, I am proud of this monumental achievement and know that if we can keep the current leadership in place, or improve our numbers, we will continue to move forward. I am confident that those ideas, which are less than well thought out, and those that may endanger our state’s progress, will no longer have a place in Hartford.
I am optimistic about the future of Connecticut for several reasons. I am optimistic because we have a chance to choose a new Governor after surviving a dismal stretch of poor policy decision making by the outgoing Governor, who spiraled downward and became one of the most disliked governors in the entire country. He landed at the bottom for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was the dismal economic performance tied to his massive tax increases and punishing regulatory environment, as well as the state’s overall poor business environment. We have the chance for a fresh start this November and an opportunity to elect a new leader who genuinely understands business and economic development.
I am optimistic because the people of Connecticut have seen the benefits of having more political balance in the State Senate and House. I believe they will continue to vote to increase the number of fiscally responsible people in both chambers so we can look forward to a much more secure fiscal foundation going forward. Cleaning up our balance sheet remains a priority for voters because they know that is the only way to restore economic development, the overall business climate, and to fully fund essential services. Connecticut voters get it.
I am optimistic because business leaders sense change in the air and have been making decisions that reflect the benefits of this change in leadership. As Co-Chair of the Commerce Committee, I spend a tremendous amount of time with business executives and employees who fully understand that a state’s performance and success are both due to strong leadership. They are feeling more confident than they have in a decade because they can feel a change coming.
I am optimistic because consumer spending, critical to sustainable economic performance, has picked up. When the economy is doing well, people benefit significantly, both directly and indirectly. Consumers are smart, and they sense that the tide will turn when those who know how to get things done are voted back into office to work with vibrant new leadership in the Senate, House and Governor’s office.
I believe the voters of Connecticut have had enough and trust that Connecticut voters will get it right. We have worked hard to build a solid foundation and now that it is set, finally, Connecticut is poised for an incredible comeback.
Scott Frantz is the State Senator for the 36th District.