Weston Legislators Oppose “Band-Aid” Budget Bill

December 11, 2015

Calling it another “Band-Aid” fix to Connecticut’s chronic budget problems, Sen. Tony Hwang, Sen. Toni Boucher, and Rep. John Shaban voted against a bill package to address the $350 million deficit during a Dec. 8 special session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

The Weston 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.”

“We are facing a $3.6 billion out-year budget deficit – that’s billion with a ‘B’,” Sen. Boucher said. “This bill achieves no long-term savings that will help address that huge fiscal hole. And you can bet that taxpayers in Weston will – once again – be asked to fill that hole with even more of their hard-earned money. Almost 40 percent of the bill diverts taxpayer dollars from specialized funds and one-time sources. 40 percent! Raids, fund sweeps, and gimmicks are not the answer. We will continue to do all we can to persuade the decision-makers in Hartford to get honest about our state’s finances in 2016. Many taxpayers in Weston and throughout Connecticut have said to me that these big problems require a ‘Verbal 2 x 4’ across the heads of state legislators. They are absolutely right. To right this financial ship, we need Weston taxpayers to raise their voices in 2016. If we do not, we will remain on this treadmill of higher taxes, we will continue to see jobs and residents leave, and the red ink will continue to flow.”

“As a threshold issue, we proposed two needed resolutions to (i) require the legislature to cast actual votes on state union contracts (instead of simply not acting on the contract where after its adopted by default), and (ii) finally pass the needed legislation to trigger the decades-old constitutional spending cap,” said Rep. Shaban. “Unfortunately, both efforts were rebuffed by the democratic majority. It’s an embarrassment, really. In response to the creation of a state income tax 25 years ago, the people of Connecticut passed a Constitutional Amendment to cap state spending via statutory definitions that were to follow. Sadly, the legislature has never completed the job, opting instead for moving targets and a spending explosion that has outpaced population by many multiples.”

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.