Last week, the Democratically-controlled Finance and Appropriations Committee unveiled their mid-term budget proposals as a counter to Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget, but they don’t add up.
“If you take the Finance Committee revenues and the spending proposed by Appropriations they’re general fund, they’re out of balance by $784 million,” Acting Office of Policy and Management Secretary Jeff Beckham said. “Those two work products are not aligned at all.”
That’s mostly due to the large number of tax cuts proposed by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
“They’re coming from two slightly different directions, but I think we’re going to get there,” Lamont said Friday during a virtual news conference.
Lamont said the Finance Committee played some games with the revenue cap and that makes him worry.
“I worry about going off budget for some spending,” Lamont said. “That’s just a way around the spending cap, which I don’t think is helpful.”
In 2017, the bipartisan budget approved without the initial blessing of former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, included a volatility cap, revenue cap, spending cap, and bonding cap.
“Follow the rules of the road that you yourself set up back in 2017,” Lamont said “I think they’re really important. I think they’re guardrails and I think the legislature – I think on both sides of the aisle – said we need these guardrails to make sure we don’t go, you know, out of our lane.”
Beckham said they will have to work out something before the administration can sit down with lawmakers behind closed-doors to negotiate.
However, if you use the revenues Lamont proposed in his budget and marry them to the Democratic spending package “we would have a general fund balance and we would have about a $31 million surplus,” Beckham said.
Beckham said the Finance package was a “massive set of tax cuts, and spending at roughly where we are.”
One of the big differences is the car tax.
There are now three proposals to reduce the car tax. One from Lamont, one from the Finance Committee and one from the Appropriations Committee.
Lamont’s reduces the car tax for towns with mill rates over 29. It would cost about $160.4 million. The Appropriations Committee proposes raising that to around 32.46 mills and would cost around $100 million. The Finance Committee proposal uses the 29 mills but also eliminates the first $5,000 assessment on vehicles. That proposal would cost around $240 million in lost revenue.
“We all want to cut the car tax. We know it’s an unfair tax, we know it penalizes those towns that have a higher mill rate, “ Lamont said.
Lamont’s message to lawmakers from his own party: “You’ve got to make some choices there.”
The governor said many states have joint budget committees so “we don’t have this dichotomy.”
However, he remained optimistic.
“We’ll get together,” Lamont said.
Lawmakers are scheduled to start talks this week.