CT has a budget deal of steel

The state of Connecticut has decided to do a retake on the budget, but with a twist.

The state Senate approved the spending plan 33-3 in the Senate and 126 to 23 in the House, which means it is just about veto-proof.

The Hartford Courant reports the budget is a two-year, $41 billion plan “that closes a yawning deficit, rejects large scale tax increases and seeks to bolster the state’s future financial stability.”

The bill provides financial aid to eastern Connecticut homeowners dealing with crumbling foundations, drops the amount of money stripped from the UCONN and offers $40 million to help the city of Hartford avoid bankruptcy.

Among the things in the plan, the budget does not hike income or sales tax rates, but raises hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through smaller measures, such as higher taxes on cigarettes, a $10 surcharge on motor vehicle registrations to support parks and new fees on Uber and Lyft. The hated motor vehicle tax remains, despite a proposal floated earlier that would have eliminated it.

The GOP was able to roll  back proposed taxes on cell phone plans, second homes and restaurant meals.

Many in the General Assembly said this is not the time for celebration.

“I rise to support this budget but I don’t do it with a lot of joy; I don’t think this is a time for celebration, but…it is a time for hope” said House Republican leader Themis Klarides.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz was a little more upbeat.

“Leaders do things that are maybe not in their best interests, or maybe against their own beliefs, in an effort to do what’s right. And I think that was done,’’ he told the media.

New Haven Democratic Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven and co-chairwoman of the legislature’s powerful appropriations committee, said the bipartisan proposal, is a major step toward closing a $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years and righting the state’s unstable finances for decades to come.

The more progressive liberals blasted all sides, including lame duck Governor Dan Malloy. The budget rejected a number of proposals that would generate more money for the state, including tolls and the more libertarian-like legalization and taxation of marijuana.

Lawmakers also turned down a proposal by electric vehicle maker Tesla to pay a licensing fee of up to $1.6 million and up to $16 million in tax revenue in exchange for permission to sell its electric vehicles in the state.

As for Malloy, he remained noncommittal.

“Malloy, who has been cut out of recent budget negotiations, expressed confidence that the long-running stalemate is coming to a close. Connecticut has been without a budget since the new fiscal year began on July 1,” the Courant said.

The Yankee Institute for Public Policy, CT’s conservative think tank, breaks down the budget.

On the spending cap

This budget will create a strong spending cap, something Connecticut voters overwhelmingly approved 25 years ago. Pension costs for both state employees and teachers, which have generally been moved out from under the cap through gimmicks in the past, will be phased in over the course of several years. The cap will also include aid to distressed municipalities, which has also been kept out from the cap for decades and has been a point of contention between lawmakers. This will ensure the state cannot overspend and force lawmakers to account for the rising pension costs in their spending plans. Debt service will remain outside of the cap, a provision which was part of the original spending cap plan.

In terms of a Hartford bailout

Hartford will receive a $40 million bailout from the state but it will come with strings attached. The budget creates a Municipal Accountability Review Board, which will fund the city an additional $20 million and the state will make a $20 million payment to bond-holders to prevent the city from defaulting on its loans. The Review Board will exercise some oversight of the city’s finances. Although this provides Hartford with the $40 million sought by Mayor Luke Bronin, Moody’s projects the city will need $60 million every year for the next 20 years.

As for the return of tolls on the state’s highways

The new budget eliminates the Transportation Finance Authority, which would have been run by an unelected board of officials and had the ability to build and operate tolls on Connecticut’s highways. The Authority also would have had the ability to oversee all transportation projects throughout the state.

In a statement, Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau supported the new budget deal.

“All of us at Yankee Institute stand with so many others in Connecticut who are tired of being asked for more money without a definite commitment that the status quo in Hartford has changed. That’s why we have spent this year insisting that lawmakers put real, meaningful structural reforms in our state budget.” Liebau said.

 

 

WTNH News 8 has coverage

As does WFSB 3, WVIT 30 NBC CT, WTIC Fox 61, News 12 CT,

 

 

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