At a Republican Club of Darien Speakers' Forum held March 5, State Rep. Larry Cafero Jr. (R-142) addressed the state's budget crisis by calling for cuts in government spending rather than further tax increases. In keeping with the club's 2011 forum theme, "Tightening the Belt," the House Republican leader in Hartford assailed Democratic Gov. Daniel Malloy's 2011 budget proposal as lopsided, neglecting to trim spending while raising a wide range of state taxes on property, earned incomes and services.

Cafero said the state has to reduce government spending, create jobs and make living and working in Connecticut more affordable. The state faces a $3.6 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year and similar size deficits over the next two years.

To close the gap, "Malloy had promised voters he would make tough decisions requiring shared sacrifices from taxpayers and public employees. Taxes were to be raised, but as a last resort," Cafero said.

Yet the chief way the Governor now plans to balance the budget is through a combination of income and sales tax hikes, fewer tax exemptions and an assortment of new taxes on goods and services. State spending has risen much faster than personal incomes in recent years, Cafero pointed out. Tax increases are projected to raise $1.5 billion in revenues in fiscal 2012 while government spending continues to rise. .

"That doesn't make sense. And you can't make further use of deficit financings when Connecticut's per capita debt and unfunded public sector pension liabilities are already among the highest in the nation," he said. "We must get our fiscal house in order."

"Connecticut is coming out of the recession more slowly than many other states, Cafero said.

"We've lost 100,000 jobs in the past two years and not added any net new jobs since 1989. I've talked to many small companies which are the backbone of our economy and there's a common complaint: The political climate, excessive regulation and high taxes are major impediments to business expansion," he said. "We're one of the least business-friendly states in the nation."

Cafero contends that the state can move toward a balanced budget without raising taxes by consolidating government agencies and duplicative programs, selling off assets and shrinking the public sector's 47,000 workforce. Specific recommendations are embodied in the Republican Party's Common Sense Commitment to Connecticut, a five-point plan that includes reduced spending and borrowing, eliminating non-core government functions, freezing state employee salaries and streamlining the delivery of state services.

At the club's annual meeting, Bonnie Frate Dora was elected as president; Joi Reiner Gallo, vice-president of programs; John van der Kieft, vice-president of communications; Dennis Cummings, treasurer and Libby Gebney, secretary. The club will hold another speakers forum at the DCA Thursday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. featuring First Selectman David Campbell, Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao and Board of Education Chairman Kim Westcott.

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