Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday that they’ve turned over every rock in the state budget and were able to find enough money to cover this year’s budget deficit, which is estimated at more than $1 billion.
A big part of the proposal, which the Democratic majority will present Wednesday as an alternative to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s third deficit mitigation plan, includes using $200 million in savings from “off-budget accounts,” which are accounts that fall outside of the General Fund balance.
The accounts that come with names like “Historic Hartford Courant” and “Legislator Reunion” have been under review by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis and total $1.6 billion.
The Democrats are proposing using 12 percent of the funds to help reduce the budget deficit. However, it’s unclear which funds will be cut because none of the funds listed in a 15-page document came with line items.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the proposal which would reduce the deficit by $1.2 billion includes $150 million more in savings than Rell’s proposal. In addition, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said it doesn’t include any tax hikes or fee increases.
In addition to cutting 12 percent of the “off-budget accounts,” Democrats also said they incorporated some of the Republicans’ proposal, which called for eliminating several deputy commissioner posts and half of the 48 deputy prison wardens. Democrats did decide against the Republicans’ suggestion to extend the sale of alcohol at the two Indian casinos, but they will expand the nickel deposit to include water bottles.
Democratic lawmakers didn’t touch the $22 million in savings Rell hoped to achieve by offering state employees over the age of 55 years old a retirement incentive package before April 1. They said it will be up to Rell to negotiate the package with the state employees SEBAC coalition.
In a statement from Rell emailed late Tuesday night she called the Democratic plan “a disappointment on a number of levels.”
“First it provides no early retirement plan for state workers, even though that was the reason they were going into session in the first place—and they are taking $22 million in savings for the plan they are not putting in place,” Rell said.
“Moreover, their plan contains few real cuts. No specific cuts, just $5 million in unspecified contract savings, $16 million in unspecified rescissions and an incredible $200 million in unspecified savings from accounts that are depleted and largely restricted.”