HARTFORD, CT — As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, which was about five hours before the Senate was expected to vote on a bipartisan budget, there was still no publicly available budget document.
The only document available was an eight-page summary created by Republicans to help lawmakers in their caucus understand the deal they spent half a month constructing behind closed-doors.
The document says Republican efforts in the longest budget negotiations in Connecticut’s history have produced structural reforms that “will help Connecticut tremendously, with special attention paid to our cities and towns,” according to the document obtained by CTNewsJunkie.
“These reforms represent victories on issues we’ve fought for over the years,” the position paper states.
The budget finally implements an effective cap on state spending, a stronger bond cap of $1.9 billion, a revenue cap which will prevent lawmakers from considering 100 percent of state revenue as the budget is built; and, a volatility cap, meaning excess revenue goes into a budget reserve fund.
The position paper claims the budget has many reforms that will help the state’s 169 cities and towns.
It states: “Republican legislators, at the urging of frustrated local municipal leaders, have long advocated for changes in regulations on arbitration and prevailing wage. We deliver.”
The budget, the paper states, mandates:
• an arbiter shall not consider 15 percent of a town’s fund balance in a town’s ability to pay an award;
• towns will not be punished if they reduce their budgets beyond previous year’s spending levels, so long as the reductions are no more than the reductions in state aid;
• the Minimum Budget Requirement expires every two years;
• the prevailing wage threshold for new construction has been increased from $1 million from $400,000 — “a major victory over Democrats and labor unions who have historically launched vigorous fights against our attempts at change.”
The position paper also claims a victory in the area of volunteerism, stating local volunteers can now provide services in towns, stating currently those efforts are often blocked by state regulations favoring unions.
In the area of binding arbitration, the position paper claims another win. “In proceedings between municipalities and school board employees, an arbiter will not be limited to choosing (current law) either the last best offer from each party. The change in this budget would allow an arbiter to choose an award in the middle!”
The paper notes that any new hires or contract changes installed by a municipal school board during a budget year must be submitted to that town’s finance board for review/comment. “This will create a public dialogue that in most communities does not exist now, providing finance board and members of the public with timely insight to financial decisions made by school board members.”
The position paper states while the budget carries a “modest reduction” in municipal and education aid over the next two years, it creates and Education Cost Sharing formula “that will provide predictability.”
The budget, the paper states, sticks to Republican principles, which include phasing in exemptions of taxes on Social Security, pensions, and estates; requiring the legislature to vote on union contract; a hiring a freeze on state employees; and no widespread Department of Motor Vehicle fee and permit hikes.
The position paper admits that the budget isn’t completely rosy.
It notes that cuts to the University of Connecticut will be $132 million over two years; and that the elimination of the car tax is off the table.
It also notes the budget has an “Ugly List.”
The “Ugly List” included the following:
• increasing taxes on (by 45 cents) on cigarettes and snuff;
• homeowner’s property tax credit for seniors/people with dependents;
• new fees including broker fees, an increase in dealer fees on auto trade-ins;
• 25 cent fees for Rideshare (Uber) services;
• fees to cover administration of state services, and;
• a “significant sweep” to the Green Bank and other clean energy funds.
The position paper reminds Republicans to take credit for “blocking bad policies.”
It lists those as: no income tax hikes, no sales tax hike or expansion of the sales tax, no cell phone tax, no secondary home tax, no restaurant tax, no increased hotel tax, among others.
Another one of the proposals the Republicans took credit for blocking was an increase to wages paid to 8,500 home care workers. The $13 million to help boost their pay to $15 an hour didn’t make it into the final compromise agreement.