Republican legislators bash governor’s budget at Bristol forum [Bristol Press]

March 26, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press

Friday, March 22, 2013 12:51 PM EDT
By Steve Collins
Staff Writer

BRISTOL — Calling Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget both deceptive and costly, Republicans pounded the plan during a Thursday evening forum in Bristol.

State Sen. Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican, said the list of problems with the governor’s spending plan “goes on and on and on.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney called the two-year, $41 billion spending plan “the most dishonest I’ve seen” during his 15 years in the legislature.

The Fairfield lawyer said that despite Malloy’s claim that he’s made cuts, his budget actually seeks to raise spending by $1.8 billion during the next two years. It also extends taxes that had been slated to cease, McKinney said.

“Our state spends too much and taxes too much,” McKinney told a crowd of 75 at the Main Library.

State Rep. Whit Betts, a Bristol Republican, called the governor’s budget a shell game.

Malloy, however, called his proposed budget “honest, transparent and built to address Connecticut’s long-term obligations.” A copy is available on the state’s Office of Management and Budget website.

Both Betts and Welch said they’re particularly concerned about Malloy’s proposal to slice $500 million in aid to Connecticut’s hospitals, including Bristol Hospital.

Welch said the impact on hospitals in smaller communities such as Bristol “would be catastrophic.”

Betts said it would likely lead to the elimination of some programs and jobs at the hospital.

Welch said he’s concerned about everything from the proposed elimination of the motor vehicle tax to Malloy’s lack of willingness to confront “any of the problems” facing the state.

Republicans warned the state already carries the highest per capita debt in the nation and has more than $66 billion in unfunded liabilities for employee pensions and other promised payments in the future.

McKinney called the debt “more dangerous” than any of the spending proposals in Malloy’s budget. “What are we going to do” to pay it off, the GOP Senate leader asked.

Betts said the state has to do more to reverse its “anti-business” reputation in order to attract young people and better-paying jobs.

Getting the state’s “fiscal house in order” would help, McKinney said.

Dave Roche, who ran unsuccessfully against Welch last year, said construction jobs are one way to dig out of a recession. He hailed the Jackson Labs project and the Busway between Hartford and New Britain as a stimulus that provided employment.

McKinney said the key is “to build up the private sector.”

Jim Griffin, a former Democratic congressional candidate from Bristol, said the GOP should challenge the Democrats to “go after their sacred cows” and see if they’ll rise to the occasion. Both sides need to bend to make progress, Griffin said.

That would be better, he said, “than the two groups spinning their wheels.”

The forum drew a wide range of people, pushing everything from making sure major companies pay income taxes to protecting gun rights. A fair number of Democrats were also present, include Joseph Mudry, a party committee member, who took video of the hearing.

The Bristol library forum was the fourth of McKinney’s eight-town “Fiscal Responsibility Tour” to talk about the budget.