Christine Stuart photo
Finance Committee meeting (Christine Stuart photo)

In what was called an “unprecedented” Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee meeting Wednesday, lawmakers adopted new revenue estimates for the two-year budget adopted by the General Assembly a few weeks ago.

It was the first time members like Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, who is serving his fifth term in the Senate, could remember the committee convening after a two-year budget was adopted.

The move, while necessary to proceed with the budget implementation language, caused political tempers to flare.

Finance Committee Chairman Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, said the lion’s share of an estimated $24 million increase each year will go into the special transportation fund so bus and train riders won’t experience fare increases. The new revenue will come from an increase in almost all Department of Motor Vehicle fees.

There were also increases in other fees, which Democratic lawmakers said were necessary to pay for things Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked to be restored hours before the previous budget, which she allowed to become law without her signature, was passed.

Instead of increasing fees, Roraback said they should be talking about reducing spending.

Rep. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said she supports not increasing transit fares, but “we should be doing it in a responsible way.”

Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, said the Democratic majority made cuts to the budget, but it was Rell who asked for these things to be added back. She said it was a myth that it was only the Democrats that wanted to restore spending.

“The governor abdicated her role as governor,” Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, said.

She attacked the Democrats for putting pork barrel spending in the budget when she was filling the “sausage sleeves,” Caruso said.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said the idea that the governor wanted these programs restored is “pure fiction.” He said the Democrats are “claiming to be the heroes for the fire they started.”

Staples said there was no new spending reflected in the revenue estimates.

Needless to say the new revenue estimates passed along party lines.

Shortly after the committee meeting Rell distributed a letter warning lawmakers that “unless implementer bill accurately reflects the terms of the budget bill, is supported by honest revenue estimates and contains properly drafted, workable, language, I will veto it.”