Connecticut – finally! – has a new biennial state budget [Commentary]

July 11, 2007

Connecticut – finally! – has a new biennial state budget and, while the spending side is higher than I would have preferred to see the General Assembly adopt, it is not nearly as bad as it could have been. With respect to the 34th Senatorial District, it is not a bad budget at all, which is one of the reasons I voted for it. However, an 8.6 percent spending increase is not a concept I would have initiated.

To a large extent, Connecticut has a decent biennial state budget today because Republican legislators refused to leave the decision making to the Democrats who hold a veto-proof majority in both the House of Representatives and the State Senate. We responded to Governor Rell’s call for significant new spending on education and health care initiatives without tax increases.

In the end, the General Assembly did not adopt our proposed “No Tax Increase” alternative budget – but Republicans refocused the debate to the extent that the General Assembly did adopt a biennial state budget that calls for no tax increases other than an increase in the cigarette tax. That is good news for Connecticut residents.

A couple of weeks after the close of the regular legislative session, but just in time for the July 1st start of this new fiscal year, the General Assembly adopted $17.6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2008, and a $18.41 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2009. That represents a spending increase of 8.6 percent this year, and four percent next year. Of course, I wish it were less. And, our work is not done yet; the General Assembly still has to adopt a bonding package.

Meanwhile, my constituents want to know how the communities of North Haven, East Haven and Wallingford fare in this state budget. I am happy to be able to report that all three of our communities will see an increase in state aid under this biennial budget. Of particularly good news to the people of North Haven is our success in convincing the General Assembly to remove the “cap” on Education Cost Sharing Funds (ECS) that had been unfairly imposed on certain towns, including North Haven. Under the state budget just adopted by the General Assembly, the town of North Haven is due to receive $2,665,126 in ECS funding in Fiscal Year 2008, up from $1,732,204 under last year’s state budget. During the second year of the biennial state budget, Fiscal Year 2009, North Haven is due to receive $2,819,907 in ECS funding. This is a good first step toward reaching the North Haven legislative delegation’s long-term goal of significantly increasing overall state funding for the town. From our point of view, lifting the ECS cap and increasing state education funding for the town is just the starting point.

The communities of East Haven and Wallingford also fare well under the new biennial state budget, with East Haven due to see a 10.48 percent increase in municipal aid over the life of this two-year budget, and Wallingford a 13.04 percent increase over these two years.

Overall, there is a lot to like about the state budget, such as new funding for education and health care. Nevertheless, I share the concern expressed by several Republicans who worry about the future fiscal health of our state, along with the heavy tax burden borne by state residents and businesses. Our “No Tax Increase” alternative budget proposal includes some interesting and creative ideas for addressing these problems, and I plan to work with my colleagues in the General Assembly – both Republicans and Democrats – to adopt the best of them.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Please contact me anytime to share your concerns, and your ideas, about the issues that are important to our state, especially to the people of the North Haven, East Haven and Wallingford. I can be reached at my legislative office at 1-800-842-1421, or via e-mail at [email protected].