(Updated 3:59 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joked that he didn’t bring his crystal ball with him Thursday, but if he had to guess he thinks his first budget proposal, which raises taxes $1.5 billion and cuts spending by $1.76 billion, will make it through the process more intact than former governor’s budgets.
“It will look a lot more like my budget than Gov. Rell’s last budget looked like hers,” Malloy predicted after his first state Bond Commission meeting.
But Malloy was cautious not to allow his ego to steamroll another branch of government, which will have a chance to present its own budget in April.
“There’s a legislative process. I want to be respectful of that process,” Malloy said.
“Having said that, our state is in a terrible state and I suppose if the Yankee Institute had asked people if they think Connecticut is doing well right now a large, significant number of people would say, no it’s not. And that’s what we’re trying to change here.”
A recent poll by the Yankee Institute found 73 percent oppose the elimination of the property tax credit on the middle class. Only 15 percent support it.
“Many people who oppose us on this actually don’t qualify for it, which is an interesting set of circumstances,” Malloy said. He said he formed that opinion by talking to people and asking them what their incomes were and their incomes were in excess of incomes that would have allowed them to have that credit.
The $500 property tax credit diminishes on a sliding scale ending with those making $175,000 a year. A sizeable portion of this $365 million, as much as $80 million of it is being paid to the federal government, which works the credit into a person’s adjusted gross income for its tax purposes, Malloy said.
He said it really doesn’t benefit people, but it became a popular tax credit since its inception in 1996. Over the past several years, there have been proposals to eliminate it, but the political will hasn’t been there to get it done.
Asked how strongly he was willing to fight the legislature to maintain the elimination of the tax credit: “Pretty willing,” he said.
“If you’re asking me if we’re going to go to the mat for $365 million, the obvious answer is, of course,” Malloy said. “Having said that there’s room for the legislature and us to do our jobs.”
Asked if he was surprised people would be opposed to tax increases, Malloy quipped, “I’m opposed to tax increases.”
Fergus Cullen, executive director of the Yankee Institute of Public Policy, said the property tax credit “has been a political yo-yo for years.” He said in good times the state looks to increase the tax credit and in bad times it looks to eliminate it.
Sources believe the credit, which has been around since 1996, has a good chance of being eliminated this year even though Democratic lawmakers have signaled they will oppose its elimination.
The Yankee Institute’s poll conducted last Sunday also found that while voters disapprove of almost of the tax increases Malloy included in his budget, they support the increase in taxes on alcohol and cigarettes by a margin of 68 to 39 percent.
By a margin of 71 percent to 20 percent the poll found that voters support getting unionized public workers to accept lower pay or benefits. Malloy has assumed he’ll be able to get the state employees unions to give up $1 billion a year in concessions and savings.
Cullen said the support for state employee concessions should “give the governor courage to go for those concessions.”
“And the public employee unions should be careful because they might not have as much support out there as they think they have,” Cullen said.
Cullen said he was surprised that most voters believe a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax increases are necessary to balance the state’s budget.
“It could be said that seventy percent of voters were open to some higher taxes in order to balance the budget,” Cullen said. “But certainly there’s an appetite for more spending cuts and going after unions for concessions.”
Malloy’s popularity, according to the poll, is 50 percent with 46 disapproving of the job he’s done since taking office on Jan. 5.