After patting themselves on the back and talking about what they did and didn’t include in the budget, the Senate passed the two-year $36 billion spending plan with a 33 to 1 vote on Monday.
Sens. Judith Freedman, R-Westport, and William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, were absent.
Sen. Sam Caligiuri, R-Waterbury, voted against the budget because while it “was the best budget under the current political realities,” it did not postpone the increase in the gross receipts tax on gasoline, which is scheduled to rise from 6.3 percent per gallon to 7 percent per gallon on July 1. He said it also includes large spending increases that will inevitably force the state to chose between large tax increases or large spending cuts in the not so distant future.
“We are going to pay the piper sooner rather than later,” Caligiuri said. He said his vote against the budget was the strongest way he could make that statement.
The legislation now goes to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature.
The Senate was expected to vote on implementation bills later Monday that spell out the details in the budget. And legislators are expected to return to the Capitol on Thursday to vote on remaining budget-related legislation before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Sen. David Capiello, R-Danbury, said prior to Monday’s budget vote that in any other year he would not have supported a budget with an 8.8 percent increase in spending in the first year. But he said it was a good compromise because it didn’t increase income taxes. The only tax increase in the budget is the cigarette tax, which will go up from $1.51 to $2 on July 1.
He said, “you have to think about where we began and where we’ll end,” referring to the early talks in which Rell had initially proposed an across-the-board income tax increase, and Democrats had countered with a progressive income tax plan that would have hiked taxes for married residents making $270,000 or more a year.
Democrats like Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, said he was disappointed they were “not able to have a middle class tax cut,” by implementing a progressive income tax. He said he had hoped to make the tax system “more fair.”
“Did we get everything we wanted? No,” LeBeau said. “But is it something we can agree on? Yes.”
Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford Springs, said it’s a “good budget for today, but I’m not sure it works real well in the future.”
Most Republicans who spoke today did so about how the budget blows through the state’s spending cap, which would have allowed a 3.5 percent spending increase this year.