Senator Frantz Discusses the State Budget and Pension Reform [WTNH]

November 29, 2012

Article as it appeared on the WTNH website on November 27, 2012

Budget storm expected to last for years

By Mark Davis

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The budget storm at the State Capitol appears to be getting worse and is now forecast to last several more years.

The economic recovery is taking much longer than anyone anticipated and as a result red ink is in the forecast for the next four years.

On the day after Cyber Monday state lawmakers heard an estimate that Connecticut could be losing close to $150 million a year because big online retailers like Amazon don’t charge the state sales tax.

“We are keenly interested in collecting taxes on internet sales,” said Ben Barnes, State Budget Director.

However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the deficits the state is now facing for the next several years.

“One-point…just under 1.2 billion in ’14 and 960 million in 2015, and 900 million in 2016,” Barnes said, “this will require significant cuts to current services spending.”

The State Budget Director told lawmakers; it’s taking much longer to come out of the recession than anyone ever anticipated and that costs are growing and revenue declining.

Costs for Medicaid continue to explode with more and more people seeking medical help, and the cost of pensions and health care for teachers and state employees is also enormous and is a larger portion of the budget every year.

It’s prompting some lawmakers to say Connecticut may have to do what Rhode Island has just done, cut back on state employee pension and health care benefits.

“They completely reformed it, they’re back on track, it’s a solvent system,” said Sen. Scott Frantz. Are there less benefits for retirees? Absolutely. Are there more contributions by current workers? Absolutely, but they’ve got a system that is solvent and has a brighter future to look forward to than we do.”

“I wouldn’t say that that would solve all our problems, but it certainly is something we have to look at,” said Sen. Andrew Maynard. “When you look at the trajectory of our obligations out into the next 20 or 30 years and it’s eating up a larger and larger portion.”

A high ranking member of the Malloy Administration is telling News 8 that is not currently under consideration, but that everything does have to be considered and that when the budget cutting is announced there will be “plenty of screaming.”