Four Democratic Senators and 11 Democratic Representatives sent this letter Tuesday to Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Chris Donovan urging them to take swift action on Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget mitigation package. The letter also warned Democratic leaders about future borrowing and emphasized the need for spending cuts.
“We need solutions NOW that do not exacerbate the problems that loom for the foreseeable future,” the letter says. “We can no longer wait or hope for a miracle on Capitol Avenue.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Bob Duff of Norwalk, Joan Hartley of Waterbury, Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, and Reps. Linda Schofield of Simsbury, Kim Fawcett and Thomas Drew of Fairfield, Chris Perone of Norwalk, Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, Christopher Wright of Bristol, Ted Moukawsher of New London, John Mazurek of Wolcott, Terry Backer of Stratford, Tom Reynolds of Ledyard, and Steven Mikutel of Griswold.
“While no solution is easy or without pain, we all have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this state to get our fiscal house in order,” the letter says. “The only way we can responsibly address the current deficit is to immediately reduce spending.”
Donovan appeared unfazed by the letter.
“It’s always good to get input from people in the caucus,” he said Tuesday evening, adding that House Democrats are working on a budget mitigation package of their own and will be holding a hearing on it later this week. He refused to say when the General Assembly would vote on a deficit reduction package, which is likely to include an increased tax on wealthy estates. Rell vetoed similar legislation in December.
Derek Slap, spokesman for Williams, said the letter articulates what Williams has been saying both publicly and privately for months. “The General Assembly should pass a mitigation plan and the governor should sign it ASAP,” Slap said.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero was a bit more critical of what he thought the letter signaled.
“We’re 10 months away from an election and they found religion,” Cafero said. “My guess is those 15 Democrats are from suburban districts that possibly could go Republican in November.”
If he was picking and choosing, Cafero said it’s not out of character for Hartley, Duff, or even Doyle to express these sorts of opinions. But he says he is surprised at some of the other signatures.
“People ain’t going to be fooled,” Cafero said.
However, lawmakers like Perone say they have been concerned about the state’s fiscal situation since the previous election.
“The financial health of the state is more important than my re-election,” Perone said Tuesday.
Balancing the budget this year, while fixing the structural budget holes over the next two fiscal years, is not something Perone takes lightly and he wants the state to get it right.
As he walks this tightrope, Perone says he understands that his position on the budget and the state’s fiscal future comes with consequences.
“I’ve got people in my caucus calling me a Blue Dog, while the other side is saying I’ve gotten religion,” Perone said, adding that he has not been inconsistent on the budget.
But the 15 lawmakers who signed the letter Tuesday may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Sources say there are several more Democratic lawmakers who may align themselves with an as-yet unrevealed group of more fiscally conservative Democrats in the future.