The Connecticut Republican caucus released its long-anticipated budget proposal in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The proposal, titled “Confident Connecticut,” claims to protect the state’s hospitals, nonprofits and social services, many of which were threatened by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget. It would not increase taxes to close the state’s projected budget gaps of $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion in the calendar years 2018 and 2019, respectively. Republicans also proposed a new Education Cost Sharing Formula, which would alter how funds for education are distributed to towns, and the phasing out of Municipal Revenue Sharing, a plan in which the state sales tax revenues are distributed to towns.
The Republican proposal comes in the wake of the joint Appropriations Committee’s rejection of the governor’s budget proposal on Tuesday and the failure of the committee to pass a budget by the end of the day, which was its deadline.
In the press conference, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R–North Haven, said that before the public release, Republican caucus leaders wanted the budget to go through the Appropriations Committee. They had reached out to Democratic leaders of the committee for approval for the alternative budget on which the committee could vote by Thursday afternoon. The Democrats did not grant approval.
According to Fasano, the entire Republican caucus is behind the proposed budget.
Republican House leader Themis Klarides, R–Derby, emphasized the party’s commitment to not raising taxes.
“We have also said, so many times that we probably see it in our sleep, we do not support any tax increases, not because we want to be obstinate, not because that’s what Republicans do, but because we have seen what the two highest tax increases in the state’s history have done to this state in the past six years,” Klarides said.
She claimed that Democratic leaders of the Appropriations Committee did not allow the budget to be brought up in the committee for fear of the bill passing because they were short a party member. Klarides also said that the Republican budget proposal was below the governor’s spending by $300 million, whereas the Democratic proposal was above it by $400 million.
The Republican’s proposed ECS formula changes the equation for municipal aid to take into account factors such as percentage of the population below a certain poverty level, median income and school-aged population. The state would then phase in changes in funding over a 10-year period beginning in 2018. In the end, the state would spend $678.7 million more on education.
The proposal comes in response to a 2016 Connecticut Supreme Court decision that ruled Connecticut was unfairly distributing education funds.
“We have an ECS formula that actually is a formula,” Fasano said. “We put more money into ECS.”
The budget relies on $24.8 million more in labor concessions than the governor’s budget. It also recommends rolling forward the fiscal year 2017 budget cuts, except for those in core services such as grants for mental health and substance abuse, early childhood programs for low-income families and youth services. The plain claims to restore funding for programs such as Care4Kids, Meals on Wheels and mental health and substance abuse treatment.
But state Rep. Michael Winkler, D–Vernon, said the budget does not restore funding for social services. In fact, he believes it makes cuts that hurt minors the most. He pointed to a $123 million cut in Medicaid, which he believes will hurt families and children disproportionately. He also pointed to the full cut of funding to the Nurturing Families Network and cuts to Young Adult Services, Discharge and Diversion Services and the Connecticut Mental Health Center, among others.
“Our governor was accused of being harsh on the developmentally disabled and this budget doubles down on that,” Winkler said.
Winkler also said that the cuts Republicans criticized Malloy for were compromises in an effort to create a bipartisan budget, which Republicans ended up voting against. He believes that Republicans have no intention of passing their budget and that they just created one, as they have in the past, because of pressure to do so. Winkler added that he believes that their strategy is to fault a Democratic or compromised budget that passes.
“[Their budget passing] would be a disaster because they would have a budget that they would have to defend,” he said. “The Republicans have gotten a lot of mileage from pointing fingers at Democrats and their budget. It’s a good strategy in this political climate.”
The Connecticut Legislature will have to pass a budget by June 7 or deal with the prospect of a state government shutdown.