Republican leaders said they liked the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee budget, which spends $110 million less than Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s request, but did not vote for it during today’s committee meeting. They said they wanted some questions answered, but that didn’t happen before Wednesday’s vote.
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he’s not so sure the $50 million drop in spending for HUSKY, the state insurance program for low-income families, and the $40 million drop in Medicaid-related spending on things like nursing home costs, is accurate. At the same time, Cafero said he was pleased the proposal reduces spending instead of increasing it.
Democratic co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee said the re-estimates in HUSKY and Medicaid don’t effect the programs because there have been surpluses in those accounts for the past four years.
“They’ve padded those accounts for years and the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis agrees,” said Appropriations Co-Chairwoman Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield.
Appropriations Co-Chairwoman Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven said that if Republicans want to use the Office of Policy and Management’s numbers, then they “want a political number and we don’t.”
Both Harp and Merrill said their budget recognizes that the state residents may be facing a recession.
“Our budget is therefore revenue driven,” Merrill said.
The revenue side of the budget isn’t due out for another few weeks, but Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said he isn’t optimistic there will be tax cuts this year. He said he doesn’t think the business entity tax or real estate conveyance tax will be cut from the budget because those two taxes represent an estimated $80 million in revenue.
The Governor’s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario said in the last month revenue projections for the year were down about $80 million. He said more firm numbers are expected after the April 15 income tax returns are filed. “We’re not saying the sky is falling yet,” he said in a briefing after the Appropriations Committee vote.
Republicans opened up an afternoon press conference Wednesday before the vote claiming the Democrats stole a play from their playbook. They said when they proposed their “No Tax Increase Budget” last year, they estimated the 2009 budget would be $18.41 billion. This year’s Democrat-controlled Appropriations budget proposal is $18.39 billion.
Traditionally Democrats come in with a budget that spends more than the Republican Governor’s budget and the fact that this year is the exact opposite is “a change we would like to take credit for,” Cafero said.
Rep. Kevin DelGobbo, R-Naugatuck, one of the ranking Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, said it’s as if the Democrats “found $110 million under a couch.” He said if these numbers are real, “then we have no problem.”
Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, said, “we need to proceed with caution. I am not sure these numbers add up.”
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said Republican leaders met with the governor Wednesday morning and she shared the same concerns about the budget. In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, Rell said, “It is in many ways a “make-believe” budget – make believe hundreds of millions of dollars in health care costs have disappeared so you can claim to cut the budget. The only thing real in this budget is the $189 million in new spending that they have added in.”
The Appropriations Committee passed the budget 38 to 16.