(Updated 1:30 a.m. Tuesday) For most of the day Republican legislative leaders asked Democratic legislative leaders to put the brakes on passing a two year, $40.11 billion budget, which raises taxes on a number of goods and services. But with at least 19 of the 22 Democratic Senators ready to vote in favor of it, it was full-speed ahead Monday evening.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said the budget isn’t one of compromise, it’s the product of a Democratic legislature and Democratic governor.
Republicans offered their no-tax-increase alternative budget as an amendment Monday evening at 10:35 p.m. after six hours of debate on the Democratic budget proposal. The Republican amendment was defeated after about two hours of debate 22 to 14.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said the Democratic budget is even worse than the 1991 budget that ushered in the state income tax because the tax increases in this budget are “so sweeping and so devastating.”
The tax package the Senate was on the verge of adopting Monday raises taxes $1.4 billion, the largest increase in the state’s history.
The tax package increases sales and use taxes from 6 percent to 6.35 percent. And it applies the increased tax to everything from clothing under $50 to pedicures to over-the-counter medication and yarn.
Income taxes will also increase on almost every income bracket starting with those making $50,000 a year. It also expands the income tax brackets from three to six with a rate of 6.7 percent applying to the wealthiest. It lowers the $500 property tax credit to $300, increases alcohol and cigarette taxes, and imposes a 3 percent tax on admissions, food, drink, service, and merchandise at any place offering live music, dancing, or other entertainment.
Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, said the tax package will literally tax taxpayers from head to toe, while Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, who has been soft spoken in his second-term, wondered why the budget was being rushed through the legislature.
“The people would thank us if we waited,” Markley said.
He said Monday’s budget vote will be the defining vote of the next two years and he wondered why Democrats were congratulating themselves for rushing it through the process.
“I think the Republicans are feeling increasingly isolated,“ Sen. President Donald Williams, said. “Here we are at this point where many of the issues that they were complaining about before have been resolved.”
He said they resolved the issue of the budget being unconstitutional with new language that’s permissive in bringing it back to the legislature should Gov. Dannel P. Malloy fail to get the $2 billion in labor concessions he needs to get this budget to balance.
“And if there’s not an agreement then we work with the governor on the equivalent of a mitigation plan and balance the budget, now that’s absolutely clear,” Williams said.
But Republicans disagreed.
Cafero said they support about 95 percent of the new language, but Democrats made returning for a vote permissive, instead of mandating the General Assembly to return for a vote on a revised budget should negotiations fall short.
Admittedly the new language restores the balance between the legislative and executive branches, but it does not go far enough, McKinney said.
The budget being debated in the Senate for more than six hours lacks a real understanding of how this will impact the average middle class resident in Connecticut, he added in his speech on the floor of the Senate.
“This is the most fiscally responsible governor that’s been around in a long time and the budget that’s being voted on tonight is a better package than the one he proposed on Feb. 16,“ Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications director, said. “In part because he went to 17 town halls and listened to thousands of people and made some changes, in part because the Democrats in the Finance and Appropriations Committees made some more changes and it’s a better product.“
But McKinney said Malloy’s budget, which remained mostly in tact through the legislative process is the product of a “tax and spend liberal.”
“The myth was you couldn’t balance a budget without raising taxes, Republicans have shown that you can,” McKinney said. “And it’s not a Republican thing—Andrew Cuomo agrees with us, the economy necessitates that you don’t raise taxes.“
Malloy has argued that if he balanced the budget like Gov. Cuomo in New York, municipalities would suffer and would be forced to increase property taxes to make up for the difference in state spending cuts.
“It’s the most fiscally responsible budget that is currently pending in the entire country and he’s very proud of it,” Occhiogrosso said of Malloy’s budget.
But Cafero described Malloy as someone unwilling to compromise.
“I mean the economy and has changed since he took office, certainly since he was elected and he came out with a plan early on, he’s unwilling to bend on that plan, he’s unwilling to give on that plan,” Cafero said. “It’s his way or the highway.”
Democratic leaders continued to reference the support business leaders gave to Malloy’s budget and said it proves the tax increases won’t impact the state’s business climate or economy.
Roraback begged to differ saying that it was only a few days after signing that letter that United Technologies Corporation planned to layoff 200 Hamilton Sunstrand employees as part of a reorganization.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.