State Budget Debate May Not Be Over Yet

October 6, 2009

When the General Assembly met in special session last week to vote on legislation to implement Connecticut’s two-year $37.6 billion tax and spend package, I know many people believed that the state budget debate was finally over.

Considering how long budget deliberations have been going on, who could blame them? But, the reality is that Governor M. Jodi Rell quickly vetoed one of the budget implementer bills passed last week. And, even before the General Assembly met to act on the budget implementing legislation, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman predicted a $500 million deficit. As Senate Republican Leader John McKinney said during our recent budget deliberations, “This is like watching a bad movie over and over and over again.”

Early last month, I voted against the biennial budget because I believe it will cost our state more jobs and, consequently, drive both families and businesses out of Connecticut. I believe it is unconscionable to burden our state – especially in this difficult economic climate – with a budget that raises taxes by approximately $1 billion and calls for borrowing approximately $2 billion. Of the five bills we acted upon during the recent budget implementer session, I voted in favor of just one – the bill we passed to give school districts another year before requiring them to conduct in-school suspensions, instead of sending suspended students home. As I have said before, I would rather repeal the in-school suspension law than simply delay it. However, giving towns and cities an extra year to figure out how they are going to pay for staff and find space for in-school suspensions is better than nothing.

Meanwhile, I welcomed Governor Rell’s decision to veto one of the bills that details general government spending because, among other provisions, it would have exempted the Judicial Branch from budget cuts that are being required of other state agencies. In explaining her decision to veto this bill, Governor Rell also said that she cannot accept budget implementing language that “sets incredibly ambitious spending reduction targets and then ties the hands of my Administration in trying to reach them.”

The bottom line is that we are still enduring a national recession that affects every business and family in our state. Connecticut’s taxpayers – that is, businesses and families – cannot afford to pay for big government spending and, rightfully, expects the General Assembly to do what they are forced to do: cut back on expenses. Instead, the budget adopted by the General Assembly increases taxes on businesses and the state’s wealthiest residents, raises a wide variety of state fees, and borrows a lot of money that we will eventually have to repay – with interest.

At this point, I very much doubt that Connecticut residents will ever enjoy the half percent decrease in the sales tax promised them beginning next year if tax revenues do not fall too far below expectations. Considering that we are already facing the possibility of a $500 million deficit, it seems likely that Connecticut residents will be deprived of even that small break. I will keep you informed as the situation unfolds.

Meanwhile, I will continue to support re-inventing state government so that it is smaller, more efficient, and more cost-effective. As always, I welcome opportunities to discuss issues that affect our state. If you have any questions or concerns about our new state laws, please contact my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or e-mail me at [email protected].