Although described as “technical” in nature by Finance Committee Co-Chairwoman Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, Republican Senators felt the increases in fees were anything but technical.
In the budget passed just 24 days ago, “ordinary citizens took it on the chin with increased fees for hunting licenses, fishing licenses, occupational licenses …” Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, said.
Most of the fee increases in the new revenue estimates will be generated by increases in all Department of Motor Vehicle licenses and fees.
A four-year drivers license fee will increase from $44 to $52 and a six-year license will increase from $66 to $78. Also the saltwater fishing license fee was reduced from $30 to $10 and the shellfish harvesting fee of $1 per bushel was eliminated.
Daily said the fee increases help forestall an increase in rail and bus fares for commuters.
“I would just like to remind the chamber that we’re here raising additional revenue because of additional amendments passed on Aug. 31,” Daily said.
Daily was referring to the final amendment added to the budget passed by the General Assembly Sept. 1.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the legislature’s Democratic majority have been fighting for weeks over whose amendment it was that added $26 million to the $37.6 billion two-year budget.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said of the additional revenues. “We passed a budget 24 days ago and we’re already back increasing spending.”
While the Office of Fiscal Analysis said Wednesday that it doesn’t expect to update its budget projections until mid-November, some legislators believe the General Assembly will be back in session within a few months when the projections fall short.
The Senate voted 23 to 12 along party lines to adopt the new revenue estimates before immediately transmitting the document to Rell’s office. It’s unclear if she will sign the bill having said in a letter yesterday to legislative leaders that “although I have been willing to support fee increases in the past, and indeed I have proposed some fee increases, I have never been willing to support fee increase and tax increases as contained in the budget.”
The Senate joined the House in approving the probate court bill which reduces the number of probate courts from 117 to 54. The vote in Senate was 33 to 2.
In addition the Senate passed a bill that transfers parcels of state land and one that authorizes $2.38 billion in borrowing for the next two years.
All four bills passed by the Senate Thursday afternoon will now go to Rell.