Republicans Outline 2012 Priorities for Budget Fixes, Jobs Initiatives, Education Reform and Government Transparency

February 17, 2012

Cafero, McKinney remind Legislature of its constitutional responsibility and taxpayers’ expectations

Hartford, CT – Republican lawmakers today outlined several priorities for the 2012 legislative session [PDF] centered on responsible budgeting, education reform, improved government transparency and continued progress on job creation. Citing the legislature’s constitutional requirement to focus on budgetary, revenue and financial matters in even year sessions of the General Assembly, Republican leaders, who vehemently opposed Governor Malloy’s record two-year $3.7 billion tax increase in 2011, have set the following goals for this year’s budget adjustment:
2012 Republican Priorities

  • Strict adherence to the state’s constitutional spending cap;
  • No new taxes; and
  • No spending increases.

Republican leaders said the current Democratic budget is unsustainable and will lead to massive deficits unless responsible adjustments are made. “Before anyone starts spending more money that we don’t have on schools, energy, transportation or public safety, Connecticut has to address the budget deficits that we have been warned of repeatedly. We have to bring transparency to the budget process and enact real spending cuts – not pray for promised ones to materialize,” said House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. (R-Norwalk). “We have to re-order our priorities.”

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) said, “State Government needs to be smarter and have the resolve to prioritize and make tough decisions. Democrats cannot keep asking taxpayers to throw money at our problems and hope they go away. We have to balance our budget responsibly and meet the important challenges we face in education, job creation and elsewhere within existing state resources.”

That means that while Republicans share several of Governor Malloy’s education priorities, including teacher tenure reform and increasing school choice through the support of charter schools, they believe those reforms must be accomplished within existing state appropriations. Conversely, Governor Malloy has proposed $329 million in new spending to pay for his education reforms and other initiatives.

Watch the Press ConferenceLikewise, while Republicans have identified true pension reform as a priority and support the concept of paying down state debt faster, they do not believe Governor Malloy should exceed spending cap limits in order to do so. Instead, Republican leaders want to begin to directly address the unaffordable state employee pension and health care benefits that are the heart of the problem. Even if the SEBAC agreement cannot be opened until 2022, the leaders propose immediately enrolling all new state hires in less expensive 401K-type retirement plans as opposed to the current defined benefits plans. They also want to end the practice of “pension padding,” whereby state employees are allowed to count overtime and longevity pay in their retirement calculations.

Republican Leaders are concerned about projected deficits in the out-years of Governor Malloy’s recommended budget which the administration presented to lawmakers and the public in an unconventional and misleading way on February 8th.

Highlights of the Republican proposals include:

Balancing the Budget

  • No tax or spending increases and strict adherence to the constitutional spending cap
  • Review of all 2011 Malloy tax hikes
  • Require consensus expenditure projections, just as consensus revenues are provided
  • Reduce pension liabilities through real pension reform
  • Enhance fraud detection in social service programs

Economic Development and Job Creation

  • Regulatory reform: moratorium on new regulations, expedited permitting, cost/benefit analysis of existing regulations
  • Targeted tax relief: tax incentives for companies who purchase commercial property in CT; repeal the corporate tax surcharge; expand Learn Here Live Here; create a small business reinvestment account
  • Increase the dispensing fee for independent pharmacies and eliminate the mail-order requirement in SEBAC
  • Cap the gas tax
  • Fund the underground storage tank program

Education Reform

  • Reform teacher tenure to bring greater accountability into the classroom
  • Greater resources for charter schools
  • Reject the proposed mandatory regionalization that would force up to 31 small towns with fewer than 1,000 elementary school students to merge with other districts that face losing state aid.

Transparency and Accountability

  • Redirect Busway resources elsewhere
  • Require DOC to report outcomes related to Early Release of Prisoners
  • Reconstitute the watchdog agencies

General Government Reform

  • Improve response to natural disasters: centralize coordination of government efforts; performance standards for utilities; require utilities to train municipal employees in how to identify live wires
  • Establish Privatization Planning Committee to develop a plan to privatize direct-care