Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was non-committal Friday about how hard he would fight to keep surplus spending from this year focused on the priorities he outlined in his budget proposal.
On Thursday the Appropriations Committee passed a budget that took about $64 million from this year’s $504.6 million surplus to help balance the 2015 budget. Malloy had proposed using $250 million to bolster the Rainy Day Fund, make an additional $100 million payment to the state’s pension fund, and give taxpayers back $155 million through a refund program.
Under Malloy’s budget proposal an estimated 2.7 million residents would receive a $55 tax refund sometime in September. It will cost the state about $1.7 million to send out the checks, according to Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.
So how hard will Malloy fight to make sure the tax refund for individuals remains as part of the budget?
“I don’t want to use an ‘off-the-table’ or ‘settled matter’ verbiage with my colleagues in the legislature,” Malloy said. “I think they know that I feel very strongly that it should be included in the budget. I believe it will be and we move forward.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month found that a majority of voters (63 percent) believe the $55 tax refund to residents is a “political gimmick.” About 45 percent of those polled between Feb. 26 and March 2 had heard nothing about the $155 million Malloy wants to give back to taxpayers in the form of a refund, and only 22 percent said it’s good public policy.
“Rainy day, pay down the pension, return a portion to the taxpayers: that’s my message. I believe it’s the right message, at the right time, and I have a good working relationship with the chairs of that committee as well,” Malloy said, implying he would work with the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee co-chairs on the proposal.
Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that assuming this year’s surplus is real, then giving taxpayers back $55 after implementing the second largest tax increase in the state’s history is a little disingenuous.
“How you can have a surplus in all these years of a recession and anticipate a $1 billion deficit eight months from now is like magic to me,” Klarides said Friday.
She said Malloy probably didn’t answer the question because he probably doesn’t know if that’s going to be part of the final product.