(Updated: 8:15 p.m.) The Democratic Majority and Gov. M. Jodi Rell have decided to live with the biennium budget they passed last year.
What does that mean?
It means no increases for nursing homes, no cost of living increases for community providers, and municipalities will have to live with the $69.6 million increase in state aid they were given last year. And what of the much discussed reforms for the criminal justice system? Rell says she’s found the money for that.
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said that “not adopt new revenue figures is irresponsible.” He said times have changed and revenue figures have dramatically shifted in recent months.
At the beginning of the session in January lawmakers were tripping over themselves to give taxpayers back the projected $260 million surplus. Less than five months later the state is facing a $67.7 million deficit in 2008.
“Protecting and preserving is what we need to do,” Speaker of the House James Amann said Friday night.
Democrats will leave all the heavy lifting to Rell when it comes to balancing the budget.
“The governor told us she would veto anything with a fiscal note,” Amann said Friday.
He said he thinks Rell may have found about $5 million for the criminal justice reforms, which is about half the amount needed to fully implement the legislation. Rell said in a press conference later Friday night that she has found the $10 million to fully fund the legislation.
“The Governor has the right to balance this budget under the power this legislature has given her,” Amann said.
Rell said she has the authority to cut the budget by 3 percent, but cannot cut any one state agency by more than 5 percent and can’t cut any municipal aid.
The state still has about $1.4 billion in the Rainy Day fund.
Rell warned that the economy is already in, or is on the verge of, a recession and dark days lie ahead.
“The state needs to do what the families of Connecticut are already doing: Cutting back and doing without,” Rell said.
Click here to read the rest of Rell’s statement on the budget.
Republicans have said if the state offered an early retirement package to 4,200 state employees it could save $163 million and not have to tap into the Rainy Day fund. It’s unknown if the governor intends to tap into the Rainy Day fund to balance the budget. But even Rell’s Budget Secretary questioned the savings Republicans said could be realized by an early retirement package.