Last Wednesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy employed his executive authority to make an additional $65 million in state cuts to begin the process of closing a projected $220 million state budget deficit in the current fiscal year.
A multitude of departments bear the impact of these cuts, particularly within the Department of Developmental Disabilities, which will lose approximately $17.2 million. It is somewhat surprising the governor did not feel more sympathy toward this department, considering his childhood struggles with dyslexia, which, though a learning disability and not a developmental one, had an impact on his education.
Educational institutions were hurt as well, with the University of Connecticut (including the Health Center) and the Department of Education losing $5.4 and $6.2 million, respectively. Given the university’s still recent approval of a 31 percent tuition increase over the next four years, piling on cuts will potentially lead to more tuition hikes to meet the $40.2 million shortfall. This is an option that would continue to hurt students and hurt UConn’s affordability, one of the greatest benefits of a public university.
It’s not clear what the solution is. Nobody wants more taxes to cover the deficit, as Connecticut already has the fourth highest average state and local taxes in the country (including Puerto Rico). Likewise, no one wants layoffs and budget cuts. However, the governor was correct in saying that it cannot go both ways unless magic started being involved.
The most recent set of cuts is well within Malloy’s rights as governor of Connecticut; state law enables him to bypass legislative authority with reduced spending on any line item up to 5 percent. That, however, does not make it a viable long-term solution. Of all the expenditures at the state level, education and social services are not only likely to be the most widely used, but also the most beneficial to constituents of the state. Many people rely on the affordability of state programs as a function of their everyday lives. While these areas certainly aren’t untouchable given the state’s fiscal situation, piling on cuts to education and social services will not help the state in the long run. Other budget areas need to be considered with larger state contracts, as well as planning cuts on a long term basis, rather than repeated short term cuts.