The state Senate passed a $16.07 billion bi-partisan budget 35 to 1 Monday. It’s the same budget passed by the House on Sunday, which includes no car tax relief, no estate tax relief, no earned income tax and no contraception for rape victims sent to Catholic hospitals. What does it do? It increases the property tax exemption from $400 to $500 in 2006. It eliminates property tax on manufacturing machinery, eliminates the 15 percent corporate tax surcharge and provides increases in money for programs, such as employment training for at risk urban youth and a new office that will advocate on behalf of businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it’s the first time in 26 years both Democrats and Republicans voted in favor of a budget, not because it’s the lesser evil,” but because “it meets the needs of people in Connecticut.” Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, who was the sole opposition to the budget, said he it lacked estate tax reform. Currently, the estate tax—more commonly known as the death tax—levies a $100,000 tax on estates worth more than $2 million. What wasn’t included in the budget? Penalties for the state’s eight Catholic hospitals that have refused to allow their hospitals to distribute emergency contraception to rape victims, since January 2006.Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven and Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield added the language in March when they released the Appropriations budget. Catholic hospitals that refused to participate and distribute emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, a concentrated dose of birth control, to rape victims would not get to share in the state money to help with increases in energy costs. Harp said Monday after the budget passed that the Plan B language was stripped during negotiations on the overall spending plan. “Ultimately, our goal was to draw attention to the issue because of the way it died in the Public Health Committee,” she said. At the time, the Catholic Church wasn’t willing to come and sit down at the table to discuss the various differences surrounding the issue, she said. “We wanted to draw attention to it, by saying if you aren’t willing to provide it, there will be consequences,” Harp said. The plan is to work this summer and fall with Catholic leaders to hammer out a consensus on its distribution by hospital personnel, Harp said. Public Health Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Southington, said he too would continue to work with both sides on a solution. “Bottom-line is that the issue isn’t going away” he said. But it doesn’t seem likely it will be revived in this session, Murphy said. He said Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford, has already said it won’t be brought up in the House.