(Updated) The legislature’s Appropriations Committee voted 29 to 25 in favor of sending the Democratic $19.28 billion spending proposal for fiscal years 2011 to the floor of the House.
The proposal boosts spending by close to $350 million over this year’s budget and $373 million over Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget.
Asked after the vote if she was surprised at how close it was, Sen. Toni Harp, co-chairwoman of the committee, said she knew it would be close.
“All of these things are very complex,” Harp said.
Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, one of more than a handful of Democrats that voted against the bill said it’s very difficult to approve new spending when you look at the budget projections.
“We’re driving over a cliff,” Maynard said. “I’m willing to do what’s fiscally unpopular, but I’m not willing to do the fiscally irresponsible.”
Harp said she was more surprised last year that the two Correctional Officer unions didn’t vote in favor of the State Bargaining Agent Coalition’s $750 million concession package.
By not agreeing to the package, it left the two unions vulnerable to layoffs. And in fact the Democratic budget cuts about 390 Correctional Officer positions to save $17.4 million.
Republican lawmakers wanted to know if the prison population was decreasing and were told that by implementing new policies the state could reduce the number of non-violent offenders by 300 to 330 per month. Those numbers were based on calculations done by the Office of Fiscal Analysis, instead of the Appropriations Committee’s colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers on the budget writing committee never approached him about the proposed policy change.
“I was shocked,” McDonald said. “As this stands right now I would not be able to support it.”
Union officials said they were assured the positions would be reduced through attrition, not layoffs.
However, overall the Democratic budget proposal increases spending, which Democratic lawmakers say will help them increase federal funding. Republicans argue the state should not be increasing spending as it deals with more than $4 billion deficits over the next few years.
Sen Minority Leader John McKinney said the issue isn’t complex at all. He said the state needs to stop increasing spending. And he believes it’s more than “unrealistic” to cut more than 300 Correctional Officer positions.
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