Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s handling of the state budget has been “almost infantile” in recent months, a Democratic candidate for attorney general said at a public hearing at City Hall on Saturday.
Over a tinny sound system, about half a dozen Democratic state representatives for New Haven provided a primer on the state budget to an audience of about 20 local residents. But the state officials took time to criticize Rell and her management of the state budget for fiscal year 2010.
At the event, state Rep. Cameron Staples (D-New Haven), the co-chair of the legislature’s Finance Committee and a contender to take the spot of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, said he is frustrated because he thinks Rell has not worked with Democrats to create a balanced budget.
“It’s almost infantile the way this governor has failed to lead,” he said.
The legislature overrode a Rell veto to pass the most recent state budget. But in light of the state’s current deficit of at least $500 million for fiscal year 2010, state legislators last month passed a tax bill intended to give the state up to $75 million in tax revenue, representatives said. But Rell in turn vetoed the bill.
In a statement she released last month when she vetoed the tax bill, Rell defended her decision, saying that the Democrats’ request to tax residents is counter-intuitive to improving the state economy.
“Homeowners and employers in Connecticut are not able to balance their checkbooks this way, and they will not stand for lawmakers trying to do so,” Rell said in the statement. “They are not taken in by legislative finger-pointing.”
At Saturday’s meeting, state Sen. Toni Harp (D-New Haven), co-chair of the state Appropriations Committee, said it is difficult to cut costs to close a budget gap because social welfare programs would suffer.
“Our biggest line item is Medicaid, health care for the poor,” she said. “The biggest line item is nursing homes, the next largest is personal services, the next municipal funding, then debt services, employer retirement and health services for retirees.”
After their presentations, the elected officials took questions from the crowd. When asked about the state of the New Haven economy, they emphasized the importance of the role education. State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield (D-New Haven) said state officials need to address the achievement gap between whites and blacks in order to keep Connecticut competitive compared to other states.
At the end of the meeting, local residents gave public testimonies about suggestions to improve the state economy. Frank Panzarella, the New Haven area vice president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, expressed concerns about what he described as the state’s lack of emphasis on manual work in efforts to improve Connecticut’s economy.
“A country that doesn’t produce anything,” he said, “won’t be worth anything in the future.”
Rell will submit her proposal for the fiscal year 2011 budget on Feb. 3.