Editorial: Bold action required to fix Connecticut’s finances

The issue: It is no secret that Connecticut has been in a “permanent fiscal crisis,” as the governor’s budget director put it several years ago. Sure, there’s been a few bright spots, such as higher-than-expected tax revenues recently. But unfunded pension liabilities are reaching a critical mass which is dragging the state down and in the next fiscal year will push to an estimated $2 billion deficit. Shuffling funds from one pot to another is no longer adequate — restructuring is required.

What happened: The state Legislature in 2017 created a commission to come up with bold ideas to right Connecticut’s finances. The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, comprised of 14 prominent business leaders, set to feverish work and in a few months produced revolutionary recommendations delivered to the General Assembly in March. There was something for every segment to like — and dislike. The report landed with a thud.

What we said: “Adopting the recommendations in this report would clean out at least some of the sclerotic arteries of state government and raise this troubled state’s pulse rate. ...

“The catch phrase of the commission is ‘Connecticut’s platform is burning.’ In other words, the very foundation on which everything stands is compromised. ...

“The power of this report is that it sets an indisputable baseline in many areas for moving forward. It does not accuse and snipe. The challenge, though, is to actually move these changes — everything from reduced spending, to tax reform, wholesale changes in the collective bargaining process, reorganization in the Legislature, major transportation improvements, and much more — through the Legislature. Getting a mule, if you will, through the eye of a needle.”

— Editorial: March 27, 2018

“This is a given: The way Connecticut operates needs to change. Not an easy task in the Land of Steady Habits. But people are leaving this land for places where they can keep more of their money.”

— Editorial, March 28, 2018

“If there’s a problem with the report, it is that it is unflinching and matter-of-fact in its presentation of the massive problems: billion-dollar budget deficits that are growing; financially crippling obligations to state employee pension funds. ... Over the coming summer, the candidates need to read the report and incorporate its findings and recommendations into their plans for the future.”

— Editorial, May 13, 2018

What’s new: Undaunted by the lack of legislative action, the commission reformed as a private group and Wednesday issued what they dubbed Report 2.0. The goals of fiscal stability and economic growth are the same, but the six recommendations are fewer, and more focused. They relate to spending reductions, increased revenue without raising taxes, realigning the tax system, jump-starting transportation projects, creating STEM scholarships and refocusing municipal aid coupled with expense management.

What should happen next: The new General Assembly should take Report 2.0 seriously as a blueprint. The details might be difficult, and could need tweaking, but this is the time for bold action.