As tempting as it is to make the 2014 election a referendum on Democrat Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, more is required of Connecticut Republicans to win the trust of voters.
The key to energizing voters is to offer a credible plan on how life in Connecticut can be less of a struggle with Republicans running the General Assembly and the executive branch. A winning reform effort must be bold, simple and realistic. No trimming the edges or qualifying bromides. Maybe something that captures what we need: Vote Republican — we can all prosper.
To start the debate, Republicans must establish a theme of common purpose. Republicans think people should apply their skills to pursue their dreams while not trampling on others. We think people have most of the answers. When we enjoy success, there is plenty of money for those in real need. We view government as necessary but limited.
But for too long, government has exerted its will in every aspect of our lives. The state budget has nearly doubled since 1991. Democrats are mostly responsible for this because they have controlled the legislature and the purse strings for all but a few of those years. Result: Connecticut is an economic basket case, "the sick man" of New England.
Republicans would cut the government budget down to a reasonable size. It has to be through a combination of starving the bureaucracy of money (spending) while reducing institutional costs (collective bargaining, pensions, borrowing).
The GOP has long called for an end to the state's role in tasks it doesn't do well — garbage collection, energy, real estate, banking, urban planning, parenting, data processing and health care, to name a few.
The Department of Transportation is a perfect example of how to meet public needs with private initiative. The DOT is made up of engineers, traffic consultants, laborers and construction crews. The world is filled with such experts from the private sector. The DOT should be trimmed to have expert managers to supervise and be accountable for those it hires and how they perform.
Other examples: In social services, private specialists could help serve emotionally troubled youth at a dramatically lower cost than the state now spends.
Other areas of service could be farmed out. State workers could be allowed to reapply for their jobs and given preference. But, as new employees, they would be managed through private entities.
For current state employees, pension and benefit costs are unsustainable. Why not shift state workers away from guaranteed pensions to the government equivalent of 401(k)s?
Republicans must push for a dynamic pro-growth tax policy worthy of Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. Do what North Carolina did — replace our progressive income tax rates with a flat tax, scotch the inheritance tax and business entity tax, and repeal about 200 nuisance taxes and fees that aren't worth the cost of collecting. Connecticut should have the lowest corporate tax rate in the East.
With those changes in our laws, Connecticut would become competitive overnight.
And Republicans should add this to their platform: "Any citizen who wants to work shall not be required to join a union to do it."
Republican legislative candidates should pledge not to take a paycheck until a budget is passed that has a net reduction in spending and a plan to cut our staggering state debt.
Another pledge: Make all legislative proposals subject to hearings in the late afternoon or early evening at the Legislative Office Building so regular people can testify and talk to their representatives before votes are taken.
Republicans have proposed many of these ideas over the last few years. The media yawned and Democrats shrugged. But now voters are eager for a plan that lifts this fog of frustration and uncertainty over whether our state survives or ends up as husk of its once-vibrant self.
States like Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina are booming because they have cut taxes while clipping the wings of unions. Connecticut often sticks with bad ideas and leaders for a long time. We are comfortable sometimes with the misery we know.
Misery is optional. Prosperity is the way — it works if you let it.
Chris Healy of Wethersfield is former chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party.Copyright © 2015, CT Now