With less than 21 days left in the legislative session, the House almost unanimously passed a 2010 deficit mitigation bill Tuesday.
Rep. Shawn Johnston, a Democrat from North Grosvenordale, who doesn’t caucus with either the Democrats or the Republicans, was the lone lawmaker to vote against the bill. The vote was 147 to 1.
Lawmakers hope the bill, which eliminates $323 million and does not include any tax increases, erases most of the 2010 deficit, but they won’t know for sure until after the April 15th tax filing deadline. Shortly after April 15th the projected numbers lawmakers work with for most of the year will become actual numbers.
The bill, which mostly included cuts, also lowered last year’s increase in hunting and fishing licenses and state park admissions and camping fees. They are paid for by an increase in Department of Motor Vehicle fines.
Hunting licenses will go from $28 to $19 and a fishing license will go from $40 to $28, if the Senate passes the bill Wednesday and Gov. M. Jodi Rell signs it into law.
The bill passed with bipartisan support, but prior to the vote Republican lawmakers warned that the state is still looking at a more than $700 million deficit in fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1, 2010.
“We can not pass the buck to our successor legislators,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said. “We’re taking that first step. It is a beginning, not an end.”
Cafero said he wants to make sure lawmakers deal with the more than $700 million deficit and the $1.3 billion it promised last September to securitize before the session ends on May 5.
House Majority Leader Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, agreed that Tuesday’s vote was an important first step, but she reminded her Republican colleagues that the state didn’t create the mess it finds itself in. She said the state’s revenues plummeted overnight due to the national economic crisis and lawmakers in Connecticut will continue to work hard at finding solutions. She said Connecticut is not unique and there are 48 other states dealing with similar budget deficits.
The Senate is expected to take up the plan Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Rell said it wasn’t easy coming to an agreement on the bill.
“I have to be honest with you it was very hard to put that together trying to find things that we could basically all agree to,” said as she left the Capitol Tuesday to attend a press event. But Rell seemed content with the compromise bill.
“It is a plan that eliminates the current year’s budget shortfall without increasing taxes or cutting municipal aid, two goals all of us can support,” Rell said in a press release after the vote.
Click here to read our previous story on the budget.