When asked what state lawmakers and dignitaries should expect Wednesday during what will be her last State of the State address Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said there won’t be many surprises.
“I don’t think it will come as a lot of surprise. You know Connecticut continues to face a very difficult time, difficult challenges and that we’re going to have to continue to tighten our belt,” Rell said last Wednesday at a Fidelco 50th anniversary celebration.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3 Rell will address a joint session of the General Assembly and unveil her proposed changes to the second year of the two-year budget.
After being named the honorary chairperson for Fidelco’s year-long anniversary celebration, Rell hesitated to give too many details for fear no one would listen if she gave too much away.
After a German shepherd puppy broke up the press availability Rell joked “if I could take this dog into the chamber next week I’d have them all eating out of my hands.”
But not even a puppy will be able to fix what may be a $3.2 billion budget deficit by 2011.
It was only four-months ago that Rell and the General Assembly finally passed a two-year budget which is already more than $500 million in the red.
In December Rell vetoed the General Assembly’s attempt to mitigate a $300 million budget deficit because she said it didn’t cut enough spending. Rell had proposed cutting $116 million, while the legislature approved delaying a tax increase on wealthy estates, cut about $12.4 million in spending and approved moving about $23 million from off-budget accounts to the general fund. Democratic lawmakers said Rell’s spending cuts would cost the state 5,000 private sector jobs.
Democratic lawmakers have largely been in favor of finding new revenue streams, while maintaining spending on social services and government programs. Republicans including Rell have continued to tell the Democratic majority that they haven’t cut enough government spending. Both sides have talked about consolidating certain state agencies, but little if any progress has been made on that issue.
An optimist Rell said there’s light at the end of the tunnel, “It’s dim, but I think we need to showcase that and talk a little bit about that.”
“So it’s a mixed message of what I call good news bad news,“ Rell said. “But I’ll save the rest of it for next Wednesday.”
Wednesday is the start of the short, three-month legislative session, where lawmakers are supposed to deal primarily with adjustments to the two-year $37.6 billion budget. While the focus will mainly be on the budget lawmakers will also look at fixing the fledgling campaign finance system, changes to the unemployment compensation fund, and incentives to regional approaches to municipal government.