Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, (pictured) called Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget proposal “a mildly impressive plan she thinks will give her a lasting legacy” if she was “running for prom queen.” In response to Amann’s name calling, Rell’s spokesman Rich Harris took the high road and said “The people of Connecticut are much better served when the name calling and partisan politics are put aside.”
Amann called Rell’s budget that raises the state’s education spending by $3.4 billion by increasing the state income tax from 5 to 5.5 percent, “fiscally and socially irresponsible.” He said she balanced the budget on the backs of the middle class by increasing the cigarette tax, increasing bus fees, and not investing enough in transportation, energy, or health care. Harris said Rell’s education reform package creates an “education system that is second to none” and “opens the door to addressing some of the social ills that can be traced back to the lack of education.” Amann’s Democratic colleagues praised Rell’s budget. State Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport called it “brilliant.” Sen. Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said it was “an unusual budget for a Republican governor,” and a good starting point for a discussion. The trick they said is making the connection between the income tax increase and the property tax decrease. Rell has said she plans to introduce legislation to address the strings attached to the money. Amann said he doesn’t believe the state needs all the money it would raise from an increase in the income tax. If there needs to be an income tax Amann said it should be more progressive. He said he would favor an income tax on individuals who make more than $100,000 a year. Harris said the state income tax is already progressive. Rell’s budget goes over the constitutional spending cap next fiscal year by $521 million which will require a special act of the legislature. Will there be an attempt to define the cap? “Yes,” Amann said. He said there will also be changes in bonding this year. Rell controls the Bond Commission and sets the agenda for how the state credit card is used. Democrats introduced legislation at the beginning of the session to wrestle away some of that power from the executive branch. It seems like a separation of powers battle may be looming between the executive and legislative branches. A similar battle between the legislative and judicial branch is still brewing.