BROOKFIELD, Conn. — As the legislature continues to wrestle with the state budget, State Rep. Stephen Harding (R-107th District, Brookfield) said the focus should be on resolving Connecticut's $900 million deficit for the coming fiscal year.
After the legislature this week approved cuts totaling $78 million, Harding said, "Even though I believe this is only a band-aid to a structural problem our state government faces, it is a better way to resolve our deficit woes without going after our hard-working taxpayers once again."
Yet, Harding explained the deficit mitigation plan only addresses this fiscal year’s current gap. "What has to be addressed--is the $900 million deficit we are facing in the year ahead," he said.
"Our state has a structural problem with spending. A majority of this problem stems from the majority party struggling to effectively work and negotiate with unions to create deals that are truly in the best interest of the people of Connecticut.
"Going forward, we need to find savings in this realm in order to take the burden off our taxpayers and cease cutting from our essential services such as mental health and our hospitals, which have unjustifiably been hit the hardest."
He explained in order to effectively do this, "we need to restructure long-term benefits for state employees, get the Legislature to approve collective bargaining contracts with unions and support the vital social services that enrich the quality of life for all Connecticut residents."
Harding explained that Implementing these changes is essential to putting the state’s financial status back in order.
"This is imperative because of our current economic climate; Connecticut reinstated fewer than 74 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. What’s worse, the vast majority of these jobs are lower-paying than the jobs lost," he said.
House and Senate Republicans joined together recently to offer an alternative for closing the deficit.
Harding said the package that was proposed "would restore the $140 million in funding to state hospitals and utilize two-day unpaid furloughs to state workers and modifications of future benefits as an alternative to mass layoffs of employees."
He said this plan also calls for "a 10 percent cut to the pay of state legislators, an elimination of legislator franked mail privileges, reductions in legislative expenditures and a $100,000 budget reduction to each of the four legislative caucuses."