When Gov. M. Jodi Rell said there would be no big surprises in her annual budget address Wednesday, she meant it. Based on a budget briefing given by Rell’s Budget Director Robert Genuario, there will be no tax increases and there will be less than $30 million in spending cuts, despite a $515 million budget deficit.
The governor’s plan maintains education funding and municipal aid and even increases funding for charter schools by $5 million. It also cancels $388.7 million in bond authorizations, initiates the game of Keno for $20 million, and preserves funding for the Citizens’ Election program.
The state’s human services caseload is growing and along with it the cost of providing services to low-income families and individuals. In order to deal with the increased caseload, Genuario said Rell will propose increases on premiums and co-pays for Medicaid recipients to save about $26.4 million.
As part of her proposal to restructure the Medicaid system Rell will also propose eliminating coverage of most over-the-counter drugs and require all mental health prescriptions to be on the preferred drug list.
Perhaps the biggest change in Rell’s budget is a proposal to move the current managed care system to an administrative services organization, which means the insurance companies will take on more of a clerical role and the state will take on more of the financial risk. Genuario estimated this move will save the state $29 million.
The governor also renewed her proposal to eliminate the six legislative commissions. Last year Rell proposed eliminating all six legislative commissions, but the General Assembly decided to keep them and simply cut their funding by an estimated 50 percent to help close the budget gap. At that time, the General Assembly also eliminated Rell’s appointments to the commissions. We reported on one of those commissions here and here in January.