In 2018, demand straight talk not phony reassurances

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was right when he told business leaders in Hartford on Friday, “We know we haven’t done the right thing, but we’re afraid to change direction because it’s unpopular.”

Malloy, it appeared, was talking about Connecticut’s elected leaders. The governor has met legislative resistance to some of his tough-medicine ideas.

But it is also true of special interest groups who always want someone else to feel the pain of curbing spending. And it applies to voters, who tend to back the candidates who tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

What voters want to hear is that the state’s chronic fiscal problems can be fixed by curbing waste, that tax increases and tolls on our highways can be avoided, and that labor costs can be magically cut without any resulting reduction in services.

In reality, while there is certainly still some wasteful spending, and it is always good policy to root it out, it is only a minor factor in why state expenses continue to out pace revenue.

Without some new influx in revenue, Connecticut will not be able to maintain its existing transportation system, never mind provide the upgrades that are desperately needed. The Malloy administration, responding to Wall Street credit rating agencies, said without new funding it will have to eliminate some rail services, including Shoreline East runs, suspend 40 percent of planned construction projects and postpone indefinitely major highway rebuilding plans, like widening Interstate 95 in our area.

The most obvious revenue source, utilized by surrounding states, are tolls with revenue dedicated to the transportation fund. Connecticut could raise the gas tax, but that is largely paid by state drivers, not those passing through. Improving car mileage reduces the revenue that can be gained from the gas tax.

Trimming the state labor force, something the Malloy administration has steadily done through attrition, means longer lines at the DMV, fewer troopers responding to emergencies and fewer resources to provide human services.

Many call for higher taxes on the rich, but that raises the potential more of them will leave the state.

As the state moves toward the 2018 election, voters should seriously consider those gubernatorial and legislative candidates — if they emerge — who provide serious policy proposals, even unpleasant ones. Look for straight talk, not phony reassurances.

This is going to be difficult. Malloy certainly found that out.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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