John McKinney


John McKinney, Republican State Senate Minority Leader and declared candidate for governor, grew up in Fairfield and feels deeply indebted to his parents for making him who he is. From the time he was four, McKinney accompanied his father, U.S. Representative Stewart McKinney to political activities, and John learned the value of public service. Stewart told John when he was fifteen that (i) he had to get a job and (ii) that job would be as a dishwasher in a local restaurant in order to instill in John an appreciation for hard work. In the late 1980’s, after Stewart died of AIDS, his mother Lucie successfully sued the town of Fairfield in order to open a center to care for sufferers from the disease, imparting another valuable lesson.

McKinney feels that the economy is the key issue today. The downturn has hurt everybody, but Connecticut seems particularly hard-hit, ranking last among states in various economic indicators. McKinney noted three areas where we can improve things:

Look at where we spend our money. 22% of the budget deals with delivery of social services. CT has a dual delivery system, a state system of service centers and private non-profit centers. If, as seems true in at least some cases, services can be delivered more cheaply by the private system, they should be.

We need to reduce waste and fraud in state government.  We need an external audit organization that can perform tough investigations to manage waste and blow the whistle on fraud.

We need to consolidate overlapping services delivered by a hodge-podge of agencies in the state bureaucracy in order to eliminate duplication of effort.

Other areas he touched on were:

The need to rationalize the tax code.

Cut down on state borrowing, particularly the practice of borrowing to cover operational deficits.

Say no to big-ticket projects driven too much by political considerations and not enough by what makes sense economically.

Deal with CT’s massive pension and healthcare liabilities. CT ranks near the bottom of states in terms of the percentage of funded liabilities. We need to move to defined contribution plans (as has Westport) and greater employee participation in these costs.

Stop the “madness” of paying companies millions of dollars to move from one CT town to another.

In the Q&A McKinney noted the following:

Even though he’ll still be a Republican dealing with a Democrat majority, he feels he can (i) get more done as governor and (ii) can build on his experience of working with Democrats. Also, the governor can renegotiate state employee contracts on pension and healthcare benefits.

He is not a fan of increasing gas taxes (particularly when the transportation fund is raided by the general fund), state inheritance taxes (he wants to limit it to a federal tax) and other aspects of the tax code. It irks him that CT taxes drive residents to move to Florida for more than 180 days a year and make major purchases and charitable contributions outside the state.

The budget process is, indeed, full of gimmicks.

Let’s thank Art Greenberg for an interesting and informative speaker, a great send-off for the new Y’s Men season.