They’re usually a quiet bunch, but once the state budget crisis threatened everything from interlibrary loans to the iCONN database, librarians across the state made certain their voices were heard loud and clear.
“We would like to thank the legislators of this state for sticking by us on this rollercoaster, emotional, budgetary ride this past year,” Randi Ashton Pritting, president of the Connecticut Library Association, said Tuesday at the Hartford Public Library.
Ashton Pritting says librarians knew that with the “flash of a pen” libraries and the investments they’ve made in resources could have been set back more than a decade if the General Assembly decided to end a handful of programs, including one which gives members of one town access to library resources in another town.
“With this cut we would have taken the library system, which has developed into a true sharing proposal throughout the state, to an 1800s library where the books that were available would just be the ones available in your library,” Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said.
He said every day as budget deliberations continued he received calls from librarians making sure library patrons were served adequately.
“Information is knowledge and libraries provide needed knowledge to our communities,” Donovan said.
The Hartford Public Library was just the first stop on Donovan’s post-budget press conference tour. Later Tuesday afternoon he visited the Hartford High School health clinic. School-based health clinics across the state were also spared the budget ax by the legislature’s Democratic majority.
The tour will continue in Stamford and Bridgeport tomorrow where Donovan will talk about how Family Resource Centers were also spared.
What Donovan didn’t want to talk about Tuesday was how these budget “successes” may be short lived depending on revenue projections.
While Donovan doesn’t believe the state Comptroller will have any bad news Sept. 20th when she releases her latest revenue projections that optimism may fade over the next two years when federal stimulus funds and state budget reserves dry up.
“The budget was balanced on the current figures we had,” Donovan said.
Donovan took a wait and see approach to the budget Tuesday. Saying he would wait to see what revenues come in before commenting.
But budget experts have said it’s possible the state budget will have a $2.5 billion hole in it by January 2011.
“This budget is a recipe for disaster,” Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said the night the House passed the budget. “We’ll be back in here in two months if projections don’t stay where they are.”
Miner talked about the budget’s precarious spending and revenue projections, which rely heavily on future legislative and executive action.
“If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, has said. “How much better off would we be if we were to heed those simple words.”
Many lawmakers who voted against the budget felt that the General Assembly was just putting off spending cuts it will have to make in the future.
The $37.6 billion, two-year budget, only included about $3 billion in spending cuts. The rest of the $8.56 billion budget deficit was made up by $1.2 billion in tax hikes, $950 million in borrowing, $1.47 billion in federal stimulus, $1.3 billion in securitization, and $1.4 billion from the Rainy Day fund.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week to pass a bond package for capital projects and write what are called “implementers,” the language which defines the policy decisions implied in the budget document.