New Haven has a new presence in leading the Connecticut General Assembly Appropriations Committee, but that leadership may notresult in increased economic benefits for the city.
Representative Toni Walker of the 93rd Assembly District will take over the co-chair position from Representative John Geragosian, joining fellow New Haven resident Senator Toni Harp of the 10th Senatorial District. Speaker of the House Representative Chris Donovan appointed Walker for her long history of service with the committee, said Larry Perosino, the spokesperson for the Connecticut House Democrats.
The state’s difficult fiscal situation would take precedence over any preference the co-chairs could exercise for New Haven, said Harp and Walker in an e-mail Monday evening.
“Whether Democrat or Republican, the state of the budget calls for being realistic,” said Republican Senator Rob Kane, a ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. “I think both the co-chairs recognize the dire nature of the situation and will be fair in their decision making.”
Despite the Elm City roots of the co-chairs, Perosino said that the change in leadership comes in time to tackle the imposing state budget deficit, which the Office of Fiscal Analysis projected to be $3.5 billion.
Moreover, because Connecticut’s economy relies heavily on the revenues of its cities, Harp and Walker offer a unique perspective to the economic discussion because of New Haven’s influence on the state’s economy, Perosino said.
The discussion of how to reduce this deficit was the main topic of interest for the committee, which met on Monday for the first time under the leadership of Harp and Walker.
The potential for revenue in an urban economy could loosen up the tight service budget, Perosino said, since the lack of revenue in Connecticut and heavy spending both contributed to the projected deficit.
Regardless of any increases in revenue, Harp and Walker agree that they are still looking to decrease current services spending by $1.1 billion.
In addition to reducing spending, Perosino predicts that some spending programs will be revised.
“There will probably be a focus on increasing the efficiency of delivery of our current programs, instead of proposing anything new,” he said.
The committee will begin to analyze these cuts at hearings on Governor Dan Malloy’s proposed budget that he will be presenting on February 16. The hearings, which will begin on February 22, are open to the public and invite citizens to suggest improvements to the budget.
The Appropriations Committee is one of the joint standing committees of the Connecticut General Assembly. It is composed of 58 members – 13 Senators and 45 Representatives.