Newtown Legislators Oppose “Band-Aid” Budget Bill

December 10, 2015

Calling it another “Band-Aid” fix to Connecticut’s chronic budget problems, Newtown legislators State Sen. Tony Hwang, Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, Rep. J.P. Sredzinski, and Rep. Dan Carter voted against a budget mitigation package to address the $350 million dollar deficit during a special session on December 8th.

On Dec. 8, the legislature put forward a plan to cut projected deficits of $254 million in the current fiscal year and $552 million next year.

The Newtown legislators said the plan does little to reassure Connecticut residents that the state will not be in deficit before the end of the fiscal year.

While the proposal makes changes to many of the business tax increases we had been advocating for, including restoring some funding to hospitals, it also raids $35 million from the transportation fund and provides no acknowledgement of the structural changes needed to address the deficits Connecticut faces next year ($358 million in July) and in 2018-19 ($3.5 billion).

Sen. Hwang said, “I was encouraged by the bipartisan process in which Republicans, who have long been shut out of budget discussions, were invited into the negotiation room to share our ideas and solutions. As a result, this bill contained many positive changes on corporate and personal tax relief. However, the bill was ultimately weighed down with Band-Aid fixes and budget gimmicks. This bill lacked long-term structural solutions to our budget problems. It simply kicks the can down the road, delaying and avoiding critical decisions. Connecticut is in a fiscal crisis, and that demands bold, courageous leadership. We can do better, and we need to do better.”

“The citizens of Connecticut deserve better than a “patch and fix” mentality from their state government,” said Rep. Sredzinski. “They deserve to be represented with vision and ultimately presented with a plan to lead us in the right direction. Although it is true I can agree in part with the deficit mitigation plan that was passed by the legislature, it fails to address our long-term needs and that is why I couldn’t vote in favor of the bill.”

Rep. Bolinsky said, “Allow me to begin by clearly stating that I voted against the latest deficit mitigation plan because it does nothing to solve Connecticut’s long-standing fiscal crisis. True, it plugged today’s $350-million hole – but tomorrow, we go back into the red. In fact, we’re already projected to have another $550-million shortfall by June of 2016 and nearly $4 billion by 2019. That’s crazy and screams out for changes to how we budget in Connecticut. I was so encouraged at the beginning of this deficit mediation process. For the first time in recent memory the doors to the budget negotiation process had been swung open, presumably to include representatives with fresh ideas to help bring our state’s finances into balance and avoid the insanity of meeting every new fiscal challenge with more economically crippling tax increases. Naively, it was my hope that we’d finally come to an agreement that irresponsible state spending is Connecticut’s problem and begin to reach consensus on how to begin the process of bringing it under control without repeating mistakes from the past. Sadly, when the Governor and Democrat leadership ended the talks without an agreement for real structural change, we were left with the mess I discussed above. The fiscal crisis has not been addressed, only kicked down the road. Again.”

Rep. Carter said, “It boggles my mind that the majority is continues to kick the can down the road by rejecting sound proposals that would help our state manage the budget crisis. To adopt a few proposals that attempt to mitigate the damage they are causing, especially to those who need quality mental health services, and pass it off as a responsible plan is unacceptable.”

According to the legislators, each year, the state promises the business community or the taxpayer something, whether it is tax credits, hospital funding, or a transportation project, only to have the promise pulled the next year and funds siphoned to meet budget shortfalls.

Republicans in October put forward a serious budget proposal in an effort to close the current budget deficit that works to address the state’s long-term structural budgetary issues. Some of the key points (highlighted below) include lowering the state debt by limiting the amount Connecticut can borrow, identifying and addressing inefficiencies in state government, protecting transportation funding, better management of the state’s pension system, and modest labor modifications.

  • Mandatory approval of state labor contracts by both House and Senate. This will force lawmakers to be accountable. A contract has not been rejected since the Senate, controlled by the Republicans, voted one down in 1995.
  • Implement definitions for a constitutional spending cap by March 1 in the next legislative session through a bipartisan commission. If no cap is in place, no final action on any bills would be permitted.
  • Cap bonding allocations by the State Bond Commission at $1.8 billion annually.
  • Competitively bid the Corrections Department healthcare contract that costs the State of Connecticut $92 million last year.
  • The full Republican deficit mitigation proposal is available here.