Package restores millions to hospitals, prevents cuts to towns
In a session of the Connecticut General Assembly Wednesday afternoon, State Representatives Jason Perillo (R-113), Ben McGorty (R-122) and State Senator Kevin Kelly (R-21) voted in favor of a bipartisan package to cut the $220 million deficit that remains in the final months of the 2016 budget.
The GOP successfully fought for restoring $31 million to state hospitals, preventing dramatic cuts to towns and cities, and minimizing cuts to social service programs. It also avoids depleting the state’s Rainy Day Fund which will be needed to offset future deficits.
“The Governor has kicked the can down the road for years and yesterday’s cuts were essential first steps,” said Rep. Perillo. “I was very proud, though, to eliminate cuts to town aid. These cuts would only lead to increased property taxes here in Shelton and in other towns. The Governor can’t make up for his budget failures by increasing the tax burden on residents.”
“This was an important step for both parties to reach the agreement that was achieved,” said Rep. McGorty. “In reaching an agreement it was essential that we were able to restore money to our hospitals, or raid municipal funds which essentially passes the mistakes of state government onto local government. We managed to agree not to do that, but the real challenge will be working on the next budget.”
“Once again Republicans are leading the way, and closing the $220 million budget deficit,” said Senator Kevin Kelly. “However, a $900 million deficit is on the horizon for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2016. This is because the majority party continues to refuse to address the structural long term budget problems. As we move forward in addressing these large deficits, legislators must be mindful not to create new taxes that take money out of middle class budgets or enact initiatives that will deny Connecticut’s youth the opportunity they deserve.”
Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the $220 million deficit mitigation plan that will only cover the last three months of the year. The legislators noted that it would still be essential for state employee unions to negotiate for givebacks or else the likelihood of major layoffs of state employees becomes a foregone conclusion.
A bipartisan solution to the deficit remained in doubt until the last days leading up to Tuesday’s session because Democrats were still proposing at least $8 million in municipal aid cuts that would have slashed local budgets as the fiscal year was ending June 30. Republicans on Monday pushed for additional negotiations and by Monday night, Democrats decided to join them.
Republicans proposed covering that cut with money from a separate municipal reserve fund that was not even targeted for towns and cities until the next fiscal year. The Shelton legislators said it would have been a simple “swap’’ of funds from fiscal year 2017 to 2016, but Democrats did not want to go along. In the end, money from four other off-budget accounts and various other funds were swept to cover the municipal aid loss.
The package passed the House by a vote of 127 to 16, and passed the State Senate 33-3. It will now head to governor for his signature.
The legislators noted that while yesterday’s action was a positive step, there is already a $900 million deficit for the next budget year, which balloons to $4.5 billion in the next biennium. They said the state still needs to make the fundamental structural changes that Republicans have been calling for to achieve future budget stability.
This session of the Connecticut General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at midnight, Wednesday, May 4, 2016.