Conn. Democrats, Republicans Not in Harmony on Budget Tune

So far, all sides trying to deal with Connecticut’s budget shortfall agree generally on the size of the immediate problem. And they are all in the same room. After that, not so much.

Many questions remain. Does a one-year suspension of the program that publicly finances state elections sound a death knell for the program? Do any of the plans now out add up? How debilitating are the cuts to hospitals (even after the Democrats restored about half of the governor’s cuts). Will an early retirement program (ERIP) help? What about transportation? Municipal aid? Overtime (this is a separate, ugly issue)

The Republicans’ plan relies on an ERIP and some changes to labor deals. It also puts into place some systematic changes to deal with the breath-taking deficit looming in future years—$4.3 billion over four.

The Democrats’ plan released Monday restores some of the draconian cuts made by Gov. Dannel Malloy. But consider also that Democrats:
• “Suspend” for one year the landmark campaign public financing program for saving $11 million. A one-year suspension means it’s (theoretically) a one-shot revenue that helps this year but not after that. Also, one-year easily turns into another year, then another, and on. You either support the notion of public financing or you don’t.
• Restore only half of the governor’s Medicaid cuts. No matter how many times you deflect attention by saying “look over there!” (the “there” in this case being the bloated pay of hospital CEOs) $30 million in cuts to Medicaid is substantial.
• Include in the plan is the ever-popular “saving through efficiencies.” It’s a unicorn ridden by a mermaid.
• Take money from both the Rainy Day Fund and the Transportation Fund. Again, one-shot revenues unless they continue to raid the funds (it wouldn’t be the first time).

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis—the legislature’s fiscal department—has been in the room when the Dems and Rs put together their respective plans. It has not, however, weighed in on either of the plans as far as whether they add up.