Bipartisan worry over Malloy budget cuts

October 7, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Meriden Record-Journal

Democratic members of the joint Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday in hopes of finding ways to stop steep cuts to hospitals and human services they say could damage the economy and harm the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

State Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, D-83rd, said she hopes the group can come up with alternative cuts to restore some if not all of the $16 million to social services, and $63 million in Medicaid reimbursements, even calling for a special session of the legislature if necessary. Abercrombie, a co-chair of the Human Services Committee, said Republicans have been invited to craft their own list of alternatives.

“We hope by the end of this week we can present something to the governor,” Abercrombie said. “I know that we have to balance the budget but I’m confident there are other areas we can cut.”

The lawmakers are responding to an announcement two weeks ago by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that the administration is making $103 million in recissions to cover a budget shortfall. The most significant cut was to hospitals, which stand to lose upwards of $190 million when matching federal funds are tallied.

State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-13th, a committee member, is among the Democrats planning to attend the meeting.
“The recissions are heavily focused on many of the things many of us have identified as priorities,” Bartolomeo said. “We want to look line by line to see if this can’t be spread evenly. We want to look at everything; we want to understand the consequences.”

Republicans, who have called for a special session to address the recissions and the new corporate unity tax, have their own ideas for cuts. Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, said Monday he hadn’t heard anything about the Democrats’ meeting.

Nor had state Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, who sits on the Appropriations Committee. Markley had his own ideas about where to cut.

“It’s news to me,” Markley said about the meeting. “There are over 100 people making over $100,000 in the Board of Regents system. There is also a tremendous amount of corporate welfare.”

The state costs to entice enterprises such as Jackson Labs to move here would have been more than restored the funding to the hospitals, Markley said.

“At this point we’re doing damage to them, especially the small ones,” Markley said.

Abercrombie said the cuts to social services will impact occupational training programs for disabled adults at agencies like the Arc of Meriden and Wallingford.

Abercrombie wants to look at Malloy’s highest fiscal priority – passing a constitutional amendment to create a lock box for long-term transportation and infrastructure spending.

“Are you going to put transportation ahead of families?” I’m not,” she said.

The Malloy administration has made transportation and infrastructure improvements a priority after years of neglect and to improve mobility to benefit the economy.

Fasano supports the lock box and blamed the current budget problems on years of reckless spending.

“We need to go back into session,” Fasano said, “and talk about our priorities.”