Lawmakers chip away at deficit

HARTFORD — State leaders gathered in lame duck session on Monday to close Connecticut’s estimated $350-million budget gap for the current fiscal year.

In negotiations characterized by Speaker of the House James A. Amann as going “surprisingly, extremely well,” lawmakers were able to agree on a deficit mitigation measure that will close the current deficit without raising taxes, laying off state employees or dipping into the state’s “rainy-day fund.” The measure, first proposed by the Gov. M. Jodi Rell in October, received overwhelming support in both houses of the General Assembly, unanimously passing the Senate with only one dissenter in the House.

But even as legislators congratulated each other on the successful passage of the bill, they warned that a far more challenging fiscal situation looms on the horizon. The state Office of Policy and Management projects that the state is facing a $6 billion deficit through 2011.

“This is the first step in a much longer process,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams in an interview with the News. “[Next year] there won’t be a single department or agency that goes untouched.”

Amann, who is retiring in January to run for governor in 2010, warned that the next budget cycle would be “ugly,” while State Sen. Toni Harp of New Haven said there will be some “excruciating” cuts to state services.

“I think the next General Assembly will face something barely better than what I faced my freshman year,” Amman said, referring to the over $1-billion dollar deficit facing the state in the 1990-’91 session, which comprised a larger percentage of the overall budget than does the current shortfall.

According to many here at the Capitol, the situation is now even direr. The state weathered the last crisis, for instance, by taxing income for the first time in its history, a resource it no longer has up its sleeve. State leaders like Williams and Amann say they hope President-elect Barack Obama’s administration will be more receptive to state concerns. They have both reached out to the Connecticut Congressional delegation for help from the federal government.

Sen. Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, for his part, spoke to reporters Tuesday about federal help to states. He said 41 states are reporting budget deficits warning of harm to vital state services. He proposed an increase in the Community Development Block Grant funding and the Federal matching rate for state Medicaid expenditures. Combined, he said, his plan would generate at least an additional $250 million for Connecticut.

Compared to neighboring states, Connecticut is standing up surprisingly well. Gov. David A. Paterson of New York proposed over $5.1 billion in cuts to Medicaid and education funding.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano ’81, who represents East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford, said healthcare funding is a “sacred cow” and would only be cut in the worst of situations.

Harp said such cuts are counterproductive.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that we will come out of this,” she said. “We need to make sure we come out of this stronger than we went in. Cutting basic social services would be a big mistake.”

Amann agreed, saying the state needs to be extremely careful where to invest and where to cut. Citing the recommendations of economic experts consulted by the governor and the legislature, he said the worst thing the state could do is cut funding for infrastructure, education or social services.

Comments

  • Yale Football Fan

    Eli Football: Perhaps if you could properly write/speak English, you would understand the YPMB's "humor." Do everyone a favor and stop going to the games.

  • Recent Alum

    Is Zeke Miller the son of (or otherwise related to) Zell Miller?

  • Brittanicus

    Millions of patriotic Americans are on the alert of any Congressional movement towards so-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform. By any other name--this is AMNESTY OR A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP. A fine (approx $3000.00, learn English and go to the back of the line? We will still have to give them free health care, housing, education and other welfare programs. Now whose going to enforce those rules. They cannot even deport those here already in large numbers? American citizens know the ominous implications of allowing this to happen. It means we will have to share Social Security, Pensions with 37 million illegal aliens squatting in the US., according to the Tucson Border Patrol union

    Not only will impoverished illegal foreign nationals be able to tap into the welfare government share-out, we have now? But millions without paying 10 years of working credits, will be able to draw on SSA, SSI, SDI, food stamps and other programs designed for low income citizens. With their legalization they will have the opportunity to bring in their extended family members. Their elders, sick, mentally ill will be able to use our wilting health care system, and receive welfare to survive. This is an outrage to every working American and legal resident. It will lead to more illegal immigrants coming across the border and OVERPOPULATION. Don't believe in the liberal national press, read the truth

    The truth is to terminate illegal activity at the workplace with massive fines, confiscation of business assets and long terms in prison for pariah employers. The answer is there--but does our government have the true intention to halt the illegal alien epidemic?

    Find uncensored facts at http://www.judicialwatch.org/ http://www.numbersusa.com/ http://www.capsweb.org/www.americanpatrol/

  • the day the music died…

    This news broke my heart.

    I didn't read the wall, but whatever was written on it can't be any worse than what the band cheers or even what the band insinuates through cheers, props (I mean, did anyone see that missile??), and the scripts.

    The YPMB suspension is completely inappropriate. If the band is getting silenced for this incident, it sounds like they'd have to face a complete attitude reform before being re-instituted. That reform would be a terrible letdown for Yale students and alums.

  • Rob

    Cut the army of social worker pests; they're perpetrating anti-parent behavior in our children, advocating idiotic behaviors and irresponsible tendencies in our kids before they are capable of handling the excess of premature liberties they are advocating . Our kids need to be raised and educated first and foremost by caring parents and empowered teachers before they are able to properly handle the freedoms they are entitled to.