Commentary: Governor’s budget proposal falls short

State Sen. Kevin Kelly

State Sen. Kevin Kelly

Speaking before a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the governor recently announced his proposed budget for the next two years. After reviewing this proposal, many groups expressed concerns over various aspects of the budget, including taxes, health care, municipal aid and more. This week, I would like to share my take on the governor’s proposal and how you can impact the budget process over the next several months.

In total, the governor’s budget proposal will cost more than $43 billion. While the governor previously claimed that he would cut spending, this budget proposal increases spending by nearly 10% or about $1.8 billion over the next two years. A major concern in this budget is the reliance on a one time revenue source by borrowing $750 million simply to pay the state’s operating expenses.

In his speech, the governor claimed that this is an “honest” budget that lives within its means like many families throughout our state. However, common sense says that when you earn less, you have less to spend and you cannot borrow to make ends meet for very long without paying it back.

For instance, it claims the budget will help Connecticut seniors to age in place through the Money Follows the Person program. This program requires that a person first go to a nursing home and then program funding helps to get that person out of a nursing home and back into the community. However, this program only helps those who are on Medicaid and does nothing for those who are not. Our state needs to reevaluate these programs to make more residents eligible for community-based care.

Next, the proposed car tax relief does not explain how towns and cities will afford the governor’s proposal. It will shift the burden away from cars and onto our homes — which are already strained by declining values and some with foreclosure issues. Some estimates have pegged this loss in municipal revenue at $630 million or more that will have to be made up through reduced services or higher taxes on residential or commercial properties.

Third, the governor claims the budget will improve public health and make our state a national leader in this arena. However, the budget puts forward a public policy designed to cripple our hospitals which are critical to providing quality medical care in Connecticut. These cuts add up to $550 million of funding that is used to cover the cost of caring for patients who do not have insurance.

In the area of national leadership, Connecticut lost more jobs than any other state in the country between 2011 and 2012. That works out to a loss of over 50,000 jobs which is more than either New York or California even though our population is much less than these states. This trend must be reversed by lowering the tax and regulatory burden on companies to put Connecticut back to work and bring good middle class jobs back to Connecticut.

Lastly, this year’s budget takes credit for repealing the tax on clothing under $25 that Governor Malloy himself put in place in 2011. Before that, clothing under $50 was tax exempt in an effort to help working families. I applaud the governor’s reversal on this tax, but it certainly appears to be disingenuous to claim ownership of the proposal.

In the end, the people of Connecticut do not want and are not asking for partisan politics. They want common sense and practical middle class solutions to the challenges they face every day. I believe there is a better way to provide critical and much needed services to those in need but to do so without new taxes or additional borrowing to simply pay for the state’s daily operating expenses. Following the largest tax increase in state history which did not generate the projected revenue, it is only practical that the state live with revenue it receipts and not increase spending by 9.7% nor borrow money from our children to meet those needs.

Over the next few months, members of the Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees will be reviewing the governor’s proposal and hopefully make improvements. Thanks to the legislative process, including committee meetings and public hearings, elected officials and members of the public have an opportunity to make an impact on the state’s budgetary process. If you would like to review the governor’s proposal, visit the Office of Policy and Management website at www.ct.gov/OPM.

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