Senator Frantz Discusses Concerns Over State Budget Proposal [Connecticut Post]

April 22, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post on April 20, 2013

Panels review Malloy’s $44-billion budget

By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — Majority Democrats on the General Assembly’s two budget panels reviewed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s two-year, nearly $44 billion budget and offered their own versions of the tax-and-spending package Friday.

Along party lines, the budget-writing Appropriations Committee and the tax-drafting Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee approved both sides of the budget, which would take effect July 1.

Now, the Legislature faces a midnight June 5 deadline to come up with a version that can pass the House and Senate and is acceptable to Malloy.

Malloy’s budget chief said there’s room and time for a compromise.

“One of the things coming out of this process from the committees is the committees are mirroring the governor’s bottom line,” said Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. “Generally we are in line with each other with regard to how we want to proceed with no new taxes and a balanced budget.”

He said it neutralizes the state’s looming $2-billion budget deficit.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities called the proposal “a mixed bag” for towns and cities because it reduces current local aid by $150 million.

“The fact remains, towns and cities — and local property taxpayers — cannot afford to pay for the state’s budget deficit,” said Jim Finley, executive director of the CCM.

The budget passed 32-17 in the Appropriations Committee and 31-17 in the Finance Committee, during late-afternoon votes.

Republicans blasted the two-year, 9.5-percent increase in spending and charged that there’s too much additional revenue and borrowing to pay for operating expenses.

“Given the significant economic challenges facing our state, this is an unacceptable increase in the size of the state budget and will do nothing to contribute to the state’s economic recovery or dismal employment situation,” said Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, ranking member of the Finance Committee.

During an early afternoon news conference, House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said the Democratic budget will hurt the state’s economy.

“They protect the legislative commissions and take college scholarships and the opportunity to go to college away from young men and women, mostly from urban backgrounds, all economically depressed, many minorities,” McKinney told reporters. Scholarships would be reduced by $4 million in each year of the biennium.

Cafero said the budget is an example of “the arrogance of one-party rule” in the Legislature, including long-term borrowing for a billion dollars in operating expenses. Cafero and McKinney have both voiced interest in running for governor in 2014.

Sharkey dismissed the criticism of the GOP leaders.

The Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) criticized the Democratic bill for retaining a $550-million tax on hospitals that was proposed in Malloy’s budget, which he announced in February.

Jennifer Jackson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA), said that if the budget becomes law, hospitals throughout the state will cut staff.

“Let us be explicit: If the budget passes with $550 million in hospital cuts, people will lose jobs,” she said.

The Democratic budget doesn’t ignore Malloy’s proposal to end local taxes on personal motor vehicles, but would delay it for five years. It would eliminate Malloy’s proposal to restore sales tax exemptions on some clothing purchases.

It would extend the 20 percent corporate tax surcharge, bringing in more than $44 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and $74 million in the second year. It would also slightly raise the gross receipts tax on motor fuels, and exempt boats costing more than $100,000 from the 7 percent luxury tax.