GOP Calls For Dems to Scrap Budget, Start Over [Hartford Courant]

June 23, 2015

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Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

As House Democrats held a closed-door caucus Tuesday, Republican legislators called for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic majority to scrap the state budget that was passed three weeks ago.

In a busy day at the state Capitol, Republicans said the budget hurts the middle class by reducing the property tax credit and reducing the income threshold so that fewer taxpayers would qualify for the popular credit. The state’s largest cities, including Hartford, Bridgeport, and Waterbury, are among the top 10 communities that benefit the most from the property credit, Republicans said.

While Republicans called for more budget cuts, a large crowd gathered on the second floor of the state Capitol outside the House Democratic caucus room. They called for no more cuts and pushed for the two-year, $40 billion budget to be enacted as it was passed on June 3.

At the other end of the Capitol complex, Republicans told a different story.

“Now is the time to step up to the plate and do the right thing,” said House Republican leader Themis Klarides of Derby. “This budget is no good for our state, and implementers are not the place for expansive policy shifts, which is what we need.”

Republicans said the middle class would also be hit by a $280 million tax increase over two years because the state sales tax of 6.35 percent would be imposed on clothing, shoes, and sneakers under $50 per item, starting on July 1. In addition, the popular sales tax holiday in the back-to-school season in August will be limited under the deal crafted by Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature.

The already passed budget, which Malloy has not yet signed, also calls for imposing the state sales tax on car washes, which are currently tax free and which would cost consumers an estimated $13.6 million.

Donning purple stickers and buttons that read “#PeopleMatter,” more than 100 health and human services providers, clients, and advocates descended on the Capitol, calling again for the General Assembly to maintain the budget as it was initially passed.

The human services demonstrators fear that any additional changes could cut some of their services, which range from mental health care to substance abuse care. After the budget was first passed at the beginning of June, corporations, lobbyists, and Republicans mobilized to reduce some of the new business taxes. Responding to those concerns, Malloy proposed rolling back some of those taxes, while also cutting an additional 1.5 percent of spending across the board—the catalyst for Tuesday’s demonstration.

“If there are additional cuts from the budget that was passed and negotiated, it will be very problematic” for the human service providers and clients, said Heather Gates, the CEO and President of Community Health Resources.

The General Assembly will still have to weigh in on what, if any, additional changes are made to the budget at this point, and House Democrats are holding a caucus in the Capitol today to discuss the budget. The General Assembly will finalize the budget at a special session at the end of the month with so-called “implementer” bills that carry out the nuts-and-bolts of the budget.

Gates said a reduction in spending would impact her organization’s ability to provide services.

“If further cuts are taken, we will absolutely have to reduce services,” she said.

Outside the caucus room, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said he and other House Democrats were prepared to make difficult decisions.

“The times are dictating that we have to make tough choices. And that’s what we ran for office for,” he said.