While Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy celebrated their budget deal Wednesday, not everyone was happy with the outcome.
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, made a trip to the press room Thursday morning to drop off a statement expressing his dissatisfaction with some of the tax proposals he and some of his colleagues will vote on later today.
“We are being asked to vote today for an historical increase in state taxes without knowing the significant other side of the budget deficit, namely, spending cuts,” Meyer said.
“The Appropriations Committee has not yet proposed a spending budget,” Meyer said. “The Governor has, perhaps understandably, not yet offered us any information about his negotiations to obtain large compensation concessions from our public employees. We are virtually ignorant on these two large components of the budget, state spending and employee concessions.”
Meyer may have jumped the gun a little because shortly after he left the press room the budget document, including the spending side of the budget was dropped off. The document won’t be put online until after the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding and Appropriations Committees vote later this afternoon.
The compromise budget increases Malloy’s spending by two-thirds of one percent and decreases his tax package by $116.7 million in the first year. It’s unclear how the budget will be balanced, but Sen. President Donald Williams said the bulk will be made up with additional federal funds. There’s also language in the bill that allows Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes to cut $1 billion from the budget, just in case the administration doesn’t get the concessions they need from state employee unions.
Some of the spending added back into the budget by the legislature’s Democratic majority restores $4 million in priority school district grants, increases the grant to Operation Fuel by $1.1 million, spends $1 million in each year on domestic violence shelters, gives the University of Connecticut a $2.5 million grant for an industry partners initiative, and adds back $6.4 million a year in funding for community health centers.
Lawmakers themselves took a hit and lowered their own budget 5.93 percent this year and 3.5 percent in the second year.
Proponents of the controversial SustiNet proposal were also celebrating the budget proposal Thursday saying it was a good first step even though it eliminates the public option.
Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said there’s still room in the budget process to modify the proposal which allows municipalities and nonprofits to join the state employee health insurance pool.
“Given the difficulties this year having this kind of item in the budget is a huge victory,” Figueroa said. “Nonetheless, it falls short of achieving the goals of SustiNet, designed not only to improve health care delivery in our state, but also save money and provide an affordable nonprofit option for small businesses and individuals left behind by the current health care system.”
Rep. Besty Ritter, D-Waterford, who also championed the SustiNet proposal, said the modified version will cost about $600,000 in each year of the budget.
Municipal lobbying groups remained pleased with the proposal which restores the Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment PILOT program.
“These budget proposals recognize that slashing municipal aid would simply shift the state’s fiscal burden onto the backs of property taxpayers and force layoffs of education and public safety personnel,” Bart Russell, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, said.
“The budget agreement makes towns and cities and their property taxpayers a priority,“ Jim Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said. “The restoration of the PILOT MME reimbursements ($48 million) and increased funding for the Priority School District grant ($4 million) are wins for property taxpayers and students.”