Heddy Castelano said she doesn’t want to have to die before the state helps find her mentally and physically disabled services.
“There’s other ways to find the money,” Castelano said standing outside the House chamber Tuesday with a poster featuring her 40-year-old daughter Jessica, who is one of 2,000 people on a waiting list for Department of Developmental Services residential services.
Castelano joined about 700 other human service advocates for the “Mother of All Lobby Days.” The coalition included nonprofit service providers, organized labor, families of developmentally disabled individuals, AIDS Connecticut, and NAMI.
The coalition, which gathered outside the House and Senate chambers Tuesday afternoon, was there to express their appreciation to both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature for proposing budgets restoring some of the cuts Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed in February.
Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources, a behavioral health provider, said they were there to thank legislators Tuesday. However, she said they were also there to let lawmakers know they are watching the budget process closely.
Gates said she would like to see the spending package proposed by the Appropriations Committee last week approved because even though it included a small cut, it would maintain the status quo.
In order to make the Appropriations Committee budget work, legal experts would need to defend a specific interpretation of the spending cap and it would need to approve $1.8 billion in taxes over the next two years to balance it.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, who put together the spending package said they are “heartened” by Tuesday’s demonstration as they head into negotiations with the Malloy administration.
Bye said it’s unusual for people to come back and say “thank you” after the committee approved a spending package. Walker said their presence reinforces the tough decisions they made.
Walker said the message from advocates Tuesday was “you stood up for us, so we’ll stand up for you.”
Formal budget negotiations between majority Democrats and Malloy are expected to start in the next few days.
Julia Wilcox, a lobbyist and senior public policy specialist with the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits Inc., said they were there Tuesday to thank both Democrats and minority Republicans, who also restored most of Malloy’s human service cuts. With three budgets in play, Wilcox said at least two of them help maintain the current level of services for a diverse group of people.
The Republican budget after the revenues were released last Friday is more than $200 million out of balance, but Sen. Republican leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s not concerned. He said if the Democrats have a “come to Jesus” moment and want to take a serious look at their budget then they would alter it to match the revenue projections. He said they have already started on that process.
Most of the spending cuts included in the Republican plan, which does not increase taxes, come from unidentified labor concessions, reductions in overtime costs, and the creation of a hybrid 401k style pension plan.
Republican lawmakers announced earlier this week that they will be holding a public hearing Monday on the Democratic tax package, which retroactively raises $2.4 billion in taxes over two years.
“We believe you need a public hearing when you have this increase in taxes,” Fasano said.
He said some of the taxes being proposed never received a public hearing. Democratic lawmakers have been critical of the public hearing claiming there’s no need for it.
Fasano said they invited Democratic leaders and Malloy to host the public hearing with them, but they both declined. A spokesman for the Senate Democrats called the public hearing “political theater.”
Fasano countered Tuesday that everything that happens in the building falls into that category.