Town Leaders: Act, Lawmakers, For The State's Sake

By Stewart "Chip" Beckett III, Jon Colman, Dave Kilbon

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth has issued its report. Now it’s the legislature’s turn to make a choice: Lead, follow or get out of the way.

We hope they choose to lead. That’s what we elected them to do.

We also hope they choose to take the commission’s recommendations as the basis for decisive action to address the serious problems Connecticut faces. As the report points out, the state’s economy is shrinking, we are failing on key elements of competitiveness and we face ongoing budget deficits in the coming years. These problems won’t fix themselves and will get worse if nothing is done.

There is still time to right the ship if the legislature moves quickly. To quote the commission co-chairmen: “The good news is that the situation is fixable if we take bold action. We are optimistic about the future, but only if our governmental leaders and the entire General Assembly share our assessment of the situation and are willing to take immediate action.”

The legislature created the commission as part of the bipartisan budget bill last fall. It was made up of 14 leaders drawn from business, education and government who have strong ties to our state and who recognize the seriousness of the issues they were tasked to address. In the course of their work they gathered data and held hearings, listening to scores of people representing different elements of the Connecticut community. Their report is the result of that work.

We strongly support the concepts outlined in the commission’s report. Like any proposal, it needs to be carefully vetted from a variety of perspectives before final action is taken — but it’s critical that action is taken.

Change is hard to make under the best of circumstances. Defenders of the status quo will work to ensure their self-interests aren’t adversely affected. By all means, listen to them: They may offer productive ways to address the urgent matters that face us. But don’t let them stop the actions that are necessary. Compromise on the specifics is a necessary part of the process. From our experience in local government, we know that the best solution is one that leaves everyone a little dissatisfied because no one gets everything he or she wants.

The commission has done what it was charged to do, thoroughly and on time. The ball is now back in legislators’ court.

The legislature might choose, however, to study the recommendations of the commission, deferring any action until 2019 at the earliest. As current and former elected officials, we understand why: With an election looming, no one wants to make enemies by taking on contentious issues. It’s important, too, that Freedom of Information concerns are addressed expeditiously, though the legislature must move ahead while that’s happening.

Ducking the problem does our state and its citizens a serious disservice. Every day that goes by makes Connecticut’s fiscal issues worse. It’s time for legislators to bite the bullet.

We got into this situation because previous administrations and legislatures failed to make hard choices. Don’t let that happen again.

Stewart "Chip" Beckett III is minority leader of the Glastonbury Town Council, Jon Colman is a former member of the Bloomfield Town Council, and Dave Kilbon is East Granby’s former first selectman and currently chairs the East Granby Board of Finance.