Thanks for your email and I do appreciate the frustration that you have with what's happened over the last couple of years. I completely share that frustration. As I have been saying for the last three years, everyone knew in early 2007 that our economy was on the brink of a very severe recession. As you might remember, a conscious decision was made by the Governor and the legislative majority to ignore it and make no adjustments to our state's budget. That decision has had severe ramifications.
Since that time, everyone has talked about the need to restructure government, to cut spending to create jobs and to relieve municipalities of unfunded mandates. Well, what has happened since? I'll tell you what has happened; Nothing. The proof is in the pudding. Other than transferring money from one account to another and scrounging all of the furniture the state owns for loose change, there have been no meaningful changes in how our state government functions.
As I've said repeatedly, no one likes to make unpopular or difficult decisions. Just like raising children, no one wants to say no to their child. But, when that's not done, the results are predictable. We are more than two years into this recession and the primary problem is that there has been no acknowledgement by the legislative leaders of this reality. They still believe that if we maintain the status quo, this will all blow over and we can go back to doing what we were doing. (As a prime example of this, just look at the press conference Speaker Donovan had last week when he formed a task force to consider restructuring state government.) Another task force? Another task force to consider restructuring state government? That's leadership? That's a joke.
But it's not funny because we're talking about the economic future of this state. This is the state my parents immigrated to. This is the state where I was born and raised and where I chose to make my home. This is the state that I'd like my children to be educated in and hopefully choose to make their home. But, none of that will happen if there are no economic opportunities. And there will be no economic opportunties if taxes keep going up to pay for a bloated and inefficient state government.
It's way past the time to establish task forces or to keep saying what people want to hear. It's time to make some very unpopular decisions based on some common sense principles;
Don't spend more than you make.
Borrow only what you can afford to pay back.
Provide all the government we need, but only the government we need.
If a government program doesn't work, get rid of it.
I do not believe you can be a responsible public servant and fulfill your duties by just opposing proposals made by other legislators. That is why each time I have voted against a proposal, I have offered an alternative which I would support. In concluding, I honestly believe that this state is on the precipice of a potential economic disaster. We will not avoid this by putting our heads in the sand, maintaining the status quo and hoping it will go away as has been the approach over these last couple of years. We will mitigate this by making some very politically unpopular decisions in order to put our state on better footing for the long term. As a start, that means eliminating unfunded mandates on municipalities, eliminating government programs which exist because they have a politically powerful ally and expanding the partnership we have with our non-profit agencies to deliver services more cost effectively.
Unfortunately or fortunately, we have no other viable option.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org