HARTFORD—Rep. John Rigby joined House and Senate Republicans today in unveiling an alternative balanced budget that eliminates tax increases proposed by Democrats, while calling for concessions in health care and pension benefits from state workers that would save $662 million. What’s more, the “No Tax Increase” budget described at a Capitol news conference today preserves vital programs and services at 2007 funding levels, and it greatly reduces government costs through agency mergers, retirements and salary and benefit concessions, Rigby said. The two-year spending plan would not reduce municipal aid, and there’s no reduction in education funding to any town. Also, it restores the $500 property tax credit eliminated recently in a tax-heavy budget plan from Democrats.“We had to take a stand,” Rigby said. “Residents of the Northwest Corner, and the state for that matter, already pay enough taxes. I’d like to avoid hitting anyone again—especially in this economy.”
The two-year budget proposal issued by Democrats recently includes $3.3 billion in taxes—what amounts to the largest tax increase in the history of the state.
“I think folks in the majority here rushed their plan, opting first for significant tax increases without exploring cost-cutting measures the general public has called for,” Rigby said.
“This economic crisis has provided us with the perfect opportunity to reinvent our state’s government,” he said. “I think this plan is the launching plan to do just that.”
Republicans balanced their budget by combining state agencies, rolling back spending levels and offering state workers early retirement and bringing state employee benefits more in line with the private sector.
Rigby said he’s ready to work with Democrats and Gov. M. Jodi Rell to produce a two-year budget Connecticut can afford, and one that won’t drive more businesses out of state or raise taxes.
The highlights (download the presentation here) of the Republican alternative are:
• Early retirement to save more than $285 million;
• State worker concessions for salary, health care and pension benefits that save $662 million;
• Folding 23 agencies into six and implementing a hiring freeze to reduce overhead costs. Two more agencies would be merged into the General Fund;
• Overhauling the higher education bureaucracy that duplicates services and drives up tuition for families struggling to pay for college;
• Preserving school and municipal aid;
• Using the Rainy Day Fund for what it was intended – fiscal distress;
• Imposing $900 million in hard cuts;
• Restoring $25 million in municipal aid cut by Democrats and the $500 property tax credit for families earning as little as $46,000;
• Engaging private companies that can perform duties such as state park maintenance;
“The way I look at it, this legislature should consider all responsible options for reducing spending and building efficiencies in government,” Rigby said. “That’s what I was elected to do.”
Rigby, of Colebrook, has organized an April 23 state budget forum in Winsted at The Gilbert School, where he plans to provide information and field questions about the state’s fiscal crisis. The two-hour session begins at 7 p.m.