Connecticut GOP offers alternative budget, targets state OT [AP]

April 24, 2015

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The minority party in the Connecticut General Assembly offered an alternative state budget proposal on Friday that replenishes many of the Democratic governor’s controversial, proposed spending cuts while reducing state employee overtime and imposes a wage freeze next year.

The approximate $40 billion, two-year proposal, which does not include higher taxes, was met with mixed reactions from Democrats.

While Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office accused the GOP of “putting forward a budget that is based on hundreds of millions of dollars in unrealistic assumptions,” at least one Democratic legislative leader said some of the GOP’s ideas will become part of the spending plan the Democratic-controlled Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on Monday. Ultimately a final compromise will be reached with Malloy.

“This is an extremely challenging budget year, and the Republicans deserve credit for sharing their ideas instead of simply sniping from the sidelines,” said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. “Some of the minority’s proposed adjustments will be incorporated in the full Appropriations Committee budget, so I would expect a bipartisan vote as well.”

The Republican budget restores Medicaid coverage to an estimated 12,100 people, including low-income pregnant women. It also restores state funding for resident state troopers, burial benefits for the indigent, mental health and substance abuse service, nursing homes and nonprofit social service provider. The budget also puts back in the sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear starting at $50, beginning June 1, 2016, and would phase out the income tax on pension income under $100,000 for joint filers.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the GOP wanted to focus on the tax changes that help the middle class, who she called “the people that get left out a lot of times.”

The Republican budget would reduce funding for state employee overtime by $80 million in fiscal year 2016 and more than $140 million in fiscal year 2017. It would also eliminate recent salary increases for Malloy’s staff and impose a one-year wage freeze for all state employees starting July 1, 2016.

The Republican budget proposal relies on $253 million in what lawmakers called “unmet savings” from Malloy’s 2011 labor concession agreement with the state employee unions. They suggested Malloy could generate the savings originally included in the four-year-old deal by imposing a wage freeze, increasing contributions to the pension system, increasing co-payments for health insurance and prescription drugs or eliminating special payments made to long-time workers.

“Go get what was promised,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

Malloy’s office said such proposals would require the governor to “either illegally break state contracts or lay off thousands of hard working, middle class families, stopping our economic recovery dead in its tracks. It’s just not serious.”