With Budget Mess Looming, Sens. Fonfara, Stillman Considered for Senate Finance Chair

State Senate President Don Williams and Majority Leader Marty Looney have a big decision to make in the coming weeks—who will replace retiring finance committee chair Sen. Eileen Daily. Two logical candidates for the post are Sen. John Fonfara (D-Hartford) and Andrea Stillman (D-Waterford). The choice is particularly important and daunting given the budget problems the state will be facing. Just last week, there was the news that the state budget deficit could reach as much as $300 million. Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he will not raise taxes. The General Assembly needs to craft a new, two-year budget in the legislative session which starts January 9th.

Both Fonfara and Stillman have significant experience with the finance, revenue and bonding committee chaired by Daily for the last ten years. Stillman is currently a member of the committee now and was the House chair for 2 years and chair of the bonding subcommittee for two terms when she was a state representative. With that experience, it’s understandable she’d be interested. “I haven’t yet had a conversation with the senate president but I am always interested when it comes to finance,” Stillman tells The Hanging Shad. “I expect to have a meeting with Don [Williams], probably this week. I don’t know of any timetable for an announcement but I would expect it to be before Christmas,” she said. If chosen, Stillman would almost certainly relinquish chairmanship of the education committee that she currently holds.

Fonfara is the current vice chair of finance and also chairs the bonding subcommittee. He is currently Senate chair of the energy and technology committee, a panel that has seen many controversial and important issues come before it in recent years.

Just how challenging will it be for whoever is at the helm of this vital committee? “Extremely,” says Majority Leader Looney (D-New Haven) who held the position from 1997 to 2003 when he was elected to majority leader. “The committee oversees all revenue, taxes and bonding.” Looney says it’s premature for him to speculate who will be chosen.

Stillman says the state budget situation makes the position that much tougher. “Absolutely. It’s never easy and whoever is chosen needs to know that going in,” she said.

Republican leaders in the legislature are already warning of the dire situation with a certain “I told you so” tenor. Malloy Friday repeated that he will not raise taxes telling CTNewJunkie.com, “I have no intention of raising taxes. I’ve been saying that for weeks…I have no intention of raising taxes and I think the election of the president takes off some of the provisos I had supplied you with previously. So I have no intention of raising taxes.”

So it seems a showdown is looming as to how to close the budget gap. Without any new revenue, the governor is challenged with filling a hole of several hundred millions of dollars with lapses and cuts. And the new finance chairman will be right in the thick of it.

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