Rep. Richard Smith outlined a legislative agenda today that includes massive government reorganization and downsizing, freezing state employee salaries and other across-the-board spending cuts to save taxpayers billions over two years. Smith and his House Republican colleagues crafted a plan with Senate Republicans, which was unveiled today by caucus leadership at a news conference in Hartford. Connecticut faces a budget deficit of more than $3 billion, and House Republicans such as Smith have called for immediate action to address the crippling situation.
“For two years taxpayers in every corner of Connecticut watched a majority of lawmakers mask our financial problems through shell-game budgeting, but they’ve seen very little, if any, spending cuts,” Smith said. “I look forward to sitting down with my Democrat colleagues to talk about and implement significant, responsible spending cuts. It’s time.”
Among the Republican suggestions for tackling the crisis are: rolling back spending to previous levels to save as much as $1.6 billion; a 5 percent reduction in the state’s workforce for $250 million in cuts; and state employee givebacks worth nearly $1.75 billion. Republicans said that their proposals preserve municipal aid over the next two years but would still save the state $1 billion. No significant spending cuts have been made over the last two budget cycles, despite the massive drop off in revenue, which has led to the projected $3.5 billion deficit.
The comprehensive set of proposals include immediate savings for taxpayers, such as the 10 percent pay and perk cuts for lawmakers to realize $3.7 million and elimination of longevity bonuses for state employees to save $30 million annually. The two-year pay freeze for state workers would save $337 million, according to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Republicans said the long-term restructuring of pension benefits for state employees would require them to contribute more to their retirement packages and would raise the retirement age.
Other features of the Republican plan:
• Merging 43 agencies into 11, including combining all Legislative Management agencies into one entity;
• Reducing the number of managers using private industry standards to determine the proper ratio to rank and file workers;
• Limiting bonding to 10 percent of state budget. Connecticut borrowed $1.6 billion to pay for operating expenses in the last two years;
• Eliminate the 10 percent corporate surcharge and the business entity tax;
• Provide tax credits to companies that hire off unemployment rolls.
Watch the news conference here: