No ‘Kume Bah Ah’ in Budget Process

Last December, majority Democrats and minority Republicans in the General Assembly came together to pass a deficit mitigation plan that eased the state’s budget shortfall. Last week, the legislation that addressed post-Sandy Hook issues was hailed as a bipartisan effort (although there were many who voted against it). The political good will now come to screeching halt as lawmakers craft a new two-year budget.

Democrats generally don’t like parts of the governor’s plan. Republicans don’t like any of it. It’s of further concern that they don’t like it for different reasons. Democrats don’t like the cuts to some services and Republicans decry the increased spending of the bill (nearly 10 percent). In essence, the two sides are heading in the different directions. It should be an interesting remaining two and a half months of the session. And that’s if there isn’t a special session needed to finish things.

State Sen. Rob Kane, the ranking Republican on the appropriations committee, says his caucus is worried the Democrats will raise taxes again. “They [Democrats] want to restore cuts to programs that benefit their constituencies. We just had the largest tax increase in state history [in Gov. Malloy’s first budget]. We would prefer to cut spending,” he said.

Democrats have raised the specter of having to increase taxes to stave off painful cuts. Back in February, the New Haven Register reported on a board of alderman meeting at which appropriations committee chair Sen. Toni Harp said the state had “a revenue and spending cap problem.” Malloy has said he is strongly opposed to new taxes.

Sen. Harp says there the next two weeks will be important as to just how her appropriations committee and the finance committee proceed. “It’s my impression that there doesn’t seem to be the desire to go beyond the governor’s bottom line. However, there are questions as to just how we get there.”

There are very few fans of Gov. Malloy’s plan to eliminate the car tax. Mayors and first selectmen in the state hate it because it cuts off a revenue stream without replacing it with another. Without it, they say, they may have to raise local property taxes to maintain services.

As far as the state constitutionally mandated spending cap, the governor’s budget is over the cap unless the definition of the cap is changed which his budget proposes. Sen. Kane says there is no appetite among Republicans to do that. “There is no reason to change the spending cap just to satisfy the governor’s policies of money spending.”

The legislature is already behind in the budget process because of the focus on the post-Sandy Hook legislation passed next week. Kane says that after the bipartisan cooperation that has taken place so far in the session, Republicans should be involved in the budget process. “I hope we still have a seat at the table.”

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