Gov. Dannel P. Malloy marked his signing of the state’s two-year, $37.6 billion budget with a press release Wednesday, the same day a Quinnipiac University poll indicated voters largely disapproved of his handling of the budget.
Unlike passage of his first budget two years ago, Malloy did not hold a ceremonial bill signing for this year’s budget. In a statement, he stressed that the budget continues to fund last year’s education reform.
“At a time when it would have been easy to cut and run on education, we went in another direction and invested nearly half a billion dollars into our public schools, most of it going to chronically struggling districts,” he said.
In the statement, Malloy and legislative leaders also said the budget does not enact any new taxes.
“We overcame so many obstacles in preparing this budget, first and foremost eliminating a projected two-year deficit of nearly $1.9 billion without raising the income tax or sales tax, and preserved municipal aid programs to help cities and towns hold the line on local property taxes,” said Sen. Toni Harp, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee.
The two-year budget signed into law Wednesday will largely be the budget the legislature and Malloy campaign upon. Next year is only a budget adjustment year, where most legislation introduced is tied directly to modifying the state budget.
Throughout the legislative process, Republican critics of the budget disputed the “no new taxes” claim. The budget extends until October an electricity generation tax, which was scheduled to sunset. It also stops the July sunset of a 20 percent surcharge on the corporation tax and extends a cap on the use of tax credits for insurance premiums. The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates that the budget raises about $315 million in new revenue.
Republicans also opposed an accounting change, which only counted the net impact of Medicaid spending after the federal government has reimbursed the state. The plan moved more than $6 billion in spending out from under the state’s spending cap, a change necessary to keep spending below the ceiling. Without the change, the budget would be about $44 billion, an increase of almost 10 percent over the last biennium.
Most of the voters surveyed in a Wednesday Quinnipiac University poll — 69 percent — said they did not know enough about the state budget to approve or disapprove of it.
Voters largely disapproved, however, of the governor’s handling of the issue. In total, 55 percent said they disapproved of Malloy’s handling of the budget, while 35 percent approved. Democrats were more favorable, approving 62-27 percent. Republicans overwhelmingly disapproved, 80-10 percent.
Voters’ disapproval of Malloy’s handling of the biennium budget debated this year is about the same as it was in 2011. That budget, which included the second largest tax increase in the state’s history, had a similar disapproval rating of 55 percent. Thirty-six percent approved.
Two years later and despite the governor’s claims the budget does not raise taxes, voters still disapprove of his handling of taxes 63-29 percent. Meanwhile, voters were split on the Malloy’s handling of education. Forty-three percent approved of the governor’s education administration of education and 43 percent disapproved.
To stay in balance, this year’s budget also legalizes Keno, a bingo-style form of gambling that was previously illegal in Connecticut. The budget counts on the game to raise $3.8 million in revenue during the first year, and $27 million in the second year.
Residents polled by Quinnipiac were critical of the decision to legalize the game. They disapproved of allowing it 59-35 percent.
The poll also found voters disapprove of the way the legislature is handling its job 54-33 percent. Republicans disapprove 72-17 percent and unaffiliated voters disapprove 61-28 percent. Democratic voters, on the other hand, approve of how the legislature is doing its job 54-34 percent.