jbartlettRep. Jason Bartlett picturedSeventeen freshmen legislators proposed using $125 million of the state’s surplus and $125 million from next year’s operating budget to start a trust account to fund universal health care proposals.State Rep. Jason Bartlett, D-Bethel, said Monday, that it’s evident questions about how the state will pay for a universal health care plan will be part of the debate. “Let’s set aside the money first,” Bartlett said.

He said when Massachusetts passed its universal health care plan it took the state 24-months to implement because there was no start-up capital. If Connecticut starts investing now, there will be money to transition the state when it passes universal health care, Bartlett said. Bartlett said the trust account would be invested the same way as the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which realized a 10.39 percent of return last year and the state’s short-term investment fund earned 5.38 percent. But there’s a lot of competition for surplus dollars this year since both the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Policy and Management have predicted a state budget deficit in 2008-09. The health care trust fund would be similar to the teacher’s retirement fund, which in the past was not fully funded by the legislature. A huge demonstration at the state Capitol and a surprise surplus last year convinced legislators to fund the teacher’s retirement account at 100 percent for at least two years. The teachers retirement fund had previously been underfunded for 12 out of the last 13 years. amannbartlettSpeaker James Amann, pictured“Being creative is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Speaker James Amann, D-Milford said Monday. Amann and Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden attended the press conference to give the freshman legislators some support. There’s “no monopoly on good ideas,” in the Democratic caucus, Amann said. Senior legislators already know there will be some tough debates over the state budget and the spending cap, but they didn’t burst the freshman legislators bubble Monday.“Real health care reform will not come easily or cheaply,” Amann said.