Christine Stuart photo

In anticipation of Gov. M. Rell’s Monday night address which focused on how her budget would set what she called a “fundamentally new vision for state government,” a coalition of groups calling themselves the “Better Choices for Connecticut” campaign unveiled their own budget plan to rebalance the state tax system and raise revenue to protect vital public services.

The coalition of nonprofit providers, public service workers, and community groups proposed increasing the income tax on those making $200,000 or more per year, capping the states film tax credit program, eliminating corporate tax loopholes, increasing the sales tax by one percentage point, and increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

Connecticut Voices for Children’s Executive Director Douglas Hall said Monday that the package also includes drawing down about $500 million from the $1.4 billion rainy day fund and includes about $650 to $700 million from the federal stimulus package. When you add it up the package totals about $2.9 billion, of which about 60 percent are increases in state revenues.

“I think we’re fairly confident that legislative leaders recognize we need to have a balanced approach that doesn’t rely solely on cutting services programs and services,” Hall said. “Instead we put together a package today that should be able to close that budget deficit solely through new revenues and I think that’s the right way to go.”

“We believe there’s clearly some room for some smart budget choices,” Hall said.

When asked if the legislature should cut back on the salaries for its legislative staff, Hall said, “I’m not sure that’s a really good strategy and I don’t see that as being a way to close the budget gap for sure.”

The coalition of Connecticut’s public service unions said that cutting public services during an economic downturn will only further hurt the middle class and continue the downward economic spiral in the state.

“This is the wrong way to address an economic crisis,” Gateway Community College economics professor Lorraine Li said in a press release following Rell’s address Monday.

“On the larger level, these cutbacks will hurt the state economy, by decreasing income in the state and services available to the public. On the individual level, when families are hurting, you don’t pull the rug out from under them. You make sure that they are safe in their homes and communities, that they can receive healthcare and other support services, and that they have somewhere to turn when the going gets really rough.”

The state employee unions and Rell are currently in negotiations regarding possible union concessions. It’s unclear if her budget address on Wednesday will include a placeholder for the amount of money she expects in union concessions.

Meanwhile, the unions are making their case online at In This Together CT. The unions also released radio and television ads this week.