People in Connecticut don’t want to pay taxes to fund services, but they also don’t want to cut those services, “which means really what they want is a magician, not a governor,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told a group of about 25 high school students Friday.
Just days before going into budget negotiations with lawmakers, Malloy was speaking to a group of high school students who study financial services at High School Inc. in Hartford, and he was asked to explain Connecticut’s budget situation.
“Everybody wants something for nothing,” Malloy said further explaining his remarks. “But we don’t live in a world where that’s possible so what we have to do is concentrate on providing those core services that we’re required and really need to provide.”
He said the state supports about 500,000 residents who can’t take care of themselves due to a mental or physical disability.
“I’m not resenting that. That costs the people of Connecticut a lot of money to do,” Malloy said.
He said Connecticut residents want people in those situations maintained and “you can’t do that without appropriate revenue and you can’t have appropriate revenue to devote to your core services, if you’re spending it on non-core services.”
But Malloy also took time during his 45-minute visit with high school students to defend the two-year budget they passed in June, which is now out of balance.
Malloy said everyone likes to focus on the tax increases included in the two-year budget, but everyone forgets they reduced motor vehicle taxes for residents living in cities and towns with a mill rate higher than 32 mills. That tax relief won’t be realized until July 1 and Malloy was unable to offer any guarantees Friday that it would still be there after negotiations with lawmakers to close the latest budget deficit.
“I’m committed to having discussions about ways to live within the revenue that we have,” Malloy said.
Malloy declined to say whether getting rid of property tax relief for some residents was on the table, even though he’s said it’s a top priority. “In inviting people to the table I said we could talk about everything,” Malloy said.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said the property tax relief is a “fundamental pillar of the budget” that he’s not willing to compromise.
Malloy has the power to rescind up to 5 percent of any line item and 3 percent of any fund without seeking legislative approval. But there are items in the budget he can’t touch without legislative approval, such as municipal aid and entitlements.
Malloy has in the past sought to expand his rescissionary authority, but this time he’s asking lawmakers for their help in making the spending cuts.
Malloy told the students that he made about $103 million in budget cuts in September that no one seemed to appreciate. Spending cuts to hospitals, the Department of Developmental Services, and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services were widely panned by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
“So what I’ve said is if we have to make more cuts, come to the table and tell me what your ideas are,” Malloy said. “But if they don’t come with new ideas and give additional powers, or agree we’re going to do something, then I have to go back and make cuts from areas where I’ve already made cuts.”
He said that means cuts in the areas of the budget he has the power to cut will be deeper than anyone might want.
“So, we’re going to see if they have some better ideas,” Malloy said. “Good question. That allowed me to make the point I wanted to make today.”
Malloy and lawmakers are expected to meet Monday, Oct. 26, for a discussion about what should be cut from the budget.
Advocates for the developmentally disabled and other human services impacted by Malloy’s $103 million rescission package lined the second floor of the state Capitol Friday afternoon waiting for a chance to talk with Democratic members of the House of Representatives as they headed into a closed-door caucus.
Andrea Barton Reeves, president and CEO of HARC, said she’s concerned the budget decisions will be made on the backs of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens.
Reeves said she was at the Capitol Friday to make sure lawmakers understand their budget decisions have an impact on real people.
“We’re asking them to make people an important priority too,” Reeves said.
Patrick Johnson Jr., the interim executive director of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, said lawmakers and the governor could learn a lot from the nonprofits who have been asked to continue operating without an increase in state support, even though nonprofits deliver 70 percent of the state’s human services.
“When funding for health and human services is continually targeted for budget cuts, a profoundly negative ripple effect is felt across the state, in local communities and among individuals and families and those employed in the industry,” the #PeopleMatter coalition wrote in a letter to Malloy and legislative leaders. “We urge you to give a higher priority to essential programs and services that generate jobs and economic activity while also maintaining the highest quality of life for our communities and for our families.”