In an effort to show the general public what balancing the state’s estimated $8.7 billion budget deficit would look like without new taxes, the Democratically-controlled Appropriations Committee presented a series of spending cuts Monday evening.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget presented in early February closes a $6 billion budget deficit for the next two years, so Democratic leaders asked the Appropriations Committee two weeks ago to prepare the $2.8 billion in cuts necessary to balance the budget. The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has projected an $8.7 billion budget deficit while Rell’s budget office has projected a more than $6 billion budget deficit.
The three scenarios presented Monday evening—which Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said are not endorsed by the Democratic caucus—include closing two University of Connecticut regional campuses, one Connecticut State University campus, and two prisons, in addition to laying off 5,600 (or 13.5 percent) state employees and eliminating all deputy commissioner positions.
“I think what this is today is a reality check,” Majority Leader Denise Merrill said Monday.
“What we have here today are a series of options that show, demonstrate, both to ourselves and the state what that really means in terms of the real amounts that this means we have to find,” Merrill said.
“Our caucus was adamant that these cuts are unacceptable,” she said.
“We have to take the governor at her word when she said not a dime in new taxes,” Rep. John Geragosian, co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said. He said the three scenarios presented Monday are something the state will have to look at if Rell sticks to her decision not to raise taxes.
“It’s real. It’s not an exercise,” Geragosian said.
“We were given a political statement of $2.8 billion in cuts that nobody endorses,” Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said. “They’ve spent the better part of two weeks coming up with a list of cuts that they don’t endorse, they won’t vote for, and they won’t support.”
McKinney called the Democratic proposal “political theater.” When asked what he thought the true deficit is, McKinney said he didn’t think anybody “knows what the true deficit is.”
Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper distributed a statement Monday evening:
“Now that the Democrats have put their $2 billion in cuts on the table, they should also put their $2 billion in new taxes on the table and then ask our citizens which they are more afraid of,” the statement read.
Rep. Cameron Staples, co-chairman of the Finance Committee, said the Appropriations Committee put forward a series of cuts that are real. He said it was his impression that this list would be studied carefully and thoughtfully if the General Assembly needs to cut the budget.
Earlier Monday, Rell asked lawmakers to start face-to-face budget talks before the end of the mont. Donovan said he wants to start talks sooner than that.
The Appropriations and Finance Committees are expected to release their spending and revenue proposals by April 2, two weeks sooner than originally scheduled.
Below are the three scenarios presented today