Dire Budget Straits: “We’re in a Lifeboat and We’re Taking on Water”

Tuesday was the second day of meetings between legislative leaders and Gov. Malloy’s people to try to figure out how to cut $243 million to address the growing budget deficit. Malloy has said he won’t allow new taxes or increasing rates on existing taxes. That leaves enacting deep cuts.

“It’s like we’re in a lifeboat, we’re taking on water and now we have to decide what to throw over,” said state Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney, a veteran of the budget process and who was in the room for the first two days of budget negotiations. Looney said the Malloy administration’s people, led by budget chief Ben Barnes, laid out a list of options—a sort of menu of potential cuts, but that it’s too early to talk specifics. Minority Republican leaders are participating in the meetings as well.

One program Looney can be expected to fight for is the earned income tax credit (EITC) for the working poor. The New Haven Democrat spear-headed its passage and Gov. Malloy has been firmly behind it. Republicans for the most part think of it as giving money to people who don’t pay income taxes (that’s because they don’t make enough money).

A special session has been set for Wednesday December 19th. Looney says everyone in the room is hopeful the deficit mitigation will be done but no one is going to like it. “This is a very painful process—every social service program, contracts with nonprofits, just about everything will be affected,” he said.

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