The Stratford Star
September 3, 2009
Legislators who represent Stratford on both sides of the political aisle were among those who voted against the budget passed Monday by the General Assembly in Hartford.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Tuesday the budget would go into law without her signature.
“I had hoped that given the supermajority Democrats’ refusal to make more than token cuts in the budget they approved Monday, that the governor would veto this ill-conceived, partisan budget that passed on largely party-line votes in both legislative chambers,” Rep. John Harkins (R-120th) said Wednesday. “It still spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much. It will mean another round of tax increases next year and it will set back Connecticut’s economy for years to come. For the sake of our state’s struggling families, individuals and employers, I strongly urge Gov. Rell to reconsider her decision to let the Democrats’ budget pass without her signature and exercise her veto power at least one more time.”
The $37.6 billion plan passed the House 103-45, with nine Democrats voting against the majority, and passed the Senate 22-13, with one Democrat dissenting.
State Rep. Terry Backer (D-121st) voted against his majority party’s spending package out of concern over a “$5 billion structural deficit for less than two years from now.”
“A better job could have been done in finding cuts to various entities and programs that are not really getting done what we need to get done,” Backer said Wednesday.
“I don’t believe the Legislature did its best effort to cut spending,” he added. “That’s not to say you could ever approach $5 billion.”
Backer said the source of money being borrowed to close an $8 billion gap remains unclear.
“When you borrow money, you need to securitize it to a known revenue stream. There is no known revenue stream with this,” Backer said. “They said we can come back and negotiate later.”
A revenue stream will be created, Backer said, “and that will create another tax source, and I don’t know what that will be.”
The approved budget relies not only on a financial upturn, Backer said, but a “vertical lift.”
Fees for fishing and occupational licenses increase in one attempt to fund the budget.
“At a time when people are struggling, we’ll be asking them to double those payments,” Backer said.
Taxes also will increase on cigarettes.
“I smoke,” Backer said. “No one can defend smoking. But 25% of the population smokes. No other product has that many taxes on it, even alcohol, and we have alcohol problems.”
“No one cares if anyone quits smoking, I believe, because the state sees $300 million in revenue from it,” he said.
Heavy on taxes
Republicans continued to assail the Democratic plan for relying too heavily on taxes without cutting spending.
“This budget is bad for Connecticut families and small businesses,” said state Sen. Dan Debicella (R-21st). “It raises taxes by over $1 billion, with higher income, cigarette, alcohol, and business taxes.”
“In nearly 20 years as a legislator, I have not seen the House of Representatives take action as irresponsible as the budget passed by House Democrats,” state Rep. Larry Miller (R-122nd) said in a statement. “Amidst the worst economic crisis we have seen in a generation, the majority has opted to balance the budget on the backs of those who create jobs and provide a livelihood for Connecticut families. Rather than make real cuts to state spending that are reflective of falling state revenues, the majority has instead opted to increase spending and shake down the taxpayers to fund it.”
“Democrat legislators have dug in their heels and refused to make the prudent and responsible reductions in state spending that are needed to deal with the state’s $8 billion deficit,” Harkins said in a statement. “Instead of following the example set by families throughout Connecticut, who have cut back their spending and learned to live with less, they have approved several major new spending proposals, which they would pay for by raising our taxes by $1.5 billion.”
Harkins said the budget would borrow nearly $1 billion for the 2009 fiscal year and $1.3 billion for the next two, take $1.4 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, and use a one-time infusion of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds to fill gaps over the next two years.
“When that money dries up, and revenues continue to shrink, their response will be another round of crippling tax increases — you can count on it,” Harkins said.
“We had a clear alternative that would have reset spending to 2007 levels (a 5 to 10% cut in most programs) and eliminated the deficit without raising taxes,” Debicella wrote in an e-mail. “State government needs to be like every family and small business out there and cut back on expenses rather than raising taxes on the middle class.”
Backer, who promoted a total reassessment of how government operates when he campaigned last fall, said that has yet to happen.
“The leadership — and they’re good people, they work hard — do not want to look at things systemically,” he said. “It’s not about paying more or paying less. It’s about looking deeper into the system. There’s no appetite for changing the system at this point.”