Republican lawmakers continued their campaign Thursday to get Democratic lawmakers or Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to agree to a special session to make changes to the state budget.
In addition to calling on Malloy and their Democratic colleagues to rescind a $63.4 million cut to hospital funding, Republicans also called for a repeal of some of the business tax changes approved in June as part of the two-year state budget.
They held their press conference in Fairfield, where General Electric is headquartered.
GE announced in June that it was considering relocating to another state because of the changes Connecticut made to its business tax structure. Specifically, the company opposed the new unitary reporting requirement, which won’t go into effect until January 2016. Unitary reporting requires multi-state companies to report their assets and profits in a more comprehensive manner to the state, which may increase their tax liability.
Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said the state can either “lament the looming loss of GE and other businesses,” or “make fundamental reforms to the way we tax and spend in Connecticut.”
He said instead of eliminating the “low-hanging fruit” through executive rescissions, the legislature should be working on a “thoughtful, data-driven” approach to budgeting through a special session.
Hwang said the approach Malloy is taking is “plugging holes.” He said there needs to be a more holistic approach taken through a special session.
“I’m not placing blame. Let’s just get back to work,” Hwang said. “Let’s act now. Let’s demonstrate some leadership.”
Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau, a Democrat, also attended the press conference.
He said he wants Democrats and Republicans to start working together to solve the problem and make Connecticut more business-friendly. He said he’s concerned that the state doesn’t have a clear direction or plan to attract and retain business.
He said he doesn’t necessarily have the solution, but someone does and they need to get those people in a room every day to work on solving the problem.
“I don’t see a sense of urgency at the state level to solve the problem,” Tetreau said in a phone interview.
It’s like the state is driving toward a cliff and everyone in the car is arguing over whose steering, but nobody is putting their foot on the brake, Tetreau said.
He said when he first took office the train station in town was over budget and behind schedule, so he made sure all the interested parties gathered in his office every day at 4 p.m. to talk about what happened that day and what they planned to do the following day. Tetreau said it’s that type of urgency that’s needed at the state level.
Tetreau didn’t express an opinion about whether that meant they should hold a special session.
While Democratic lawmakers weren’t ready to call themselves into a special session, they expressed concern about the hospital cuts.
Senate President Martin Looney said he’s disappointed in the cuts and hopes Malloy will reconsider.
“These cuts will have a multiplier effect — jeopardizing federal reimbursements — adding to my concerns about the financial viability of the smaller, community-based hospitals with potentially devastating impacts on patient care and the workforces of these facilities that are, in many cases, the largest employer in a community,” Looney said earlier this week.
In the meantime, Looney urged hospital executives “to look for cost-saving measures that do not affect critical patient services or levels of employment.”
John Brady, a registered nurse, and executive vice president of AFT Connecticut, said they’ve been concerned about some of the decisions being made by the executives running these community hospitals.
“These chief executive officers and lobbyists didn’t suddenly begin making poor choices with patient care dollars on Friday,” Brady said referring to the day last week when Malloy’s administration announced the rescissions.
Brady suggested that the executives, who are handsomely compensated, “lead by example, demonstrate shared sacrifice, and put patients before profits.”
But Jennifer Jackson, CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said earlier this week that a conversations about executive compensation is a distraction from the real funding crisis hospitals are facing.
“We need to be able to attract and retain the most capable and brightest executives,” Jackson said Tuesday, adding that the argument about executive compensation is not significant to the conversation. She said the state gives tax breaks to for-profit companies with CEOs who make “multiples” of what hospital CEOs make.
Elliot Joseph, president and CEO of Hartford Healthcare, said the decision to slash Medicaid payments will cause his organization to lose an additional $41 million
“The sudden and unexpected nature of this latest cut speaks to the absolutely reckless fiscal policy of Connecticut — a state that chooses to treat hospitals as drains rather than drivers of our state’s still struggling economy,” Joseph said.
He said the Medicaid cut was exactly the same one that was partially restored during budget negotiations “in recognition of our struggling hospitals throughout the state.”