HARTFORD—State Rep. Whit Betts (R- Bristol) late last night voted against a two-year state budget proposal from majority Democrats that’s built on house-of-cards revenue schemes, increased government spending and middle class tax hikes that threaten Connecticut’s fragile economic recovery.
Democrats pushed their $40 billion budget pact with Gov. Dannel Malloy through the Senate by a vote of 19-17 and the House 83 to 67 voting against the Republican “no tax increase” budget along the way.
“This budget is bad for business, bad for working families, bad for recovery and bad for Connecticut,” said Betts. “How we can justify this tax package when the budget increases spending is beyond me. It really is frustrating.”
The Democratic budget raises close to $ 4 billion in new taxes over the next two years while increasing spending over FY11 levels by more than $1.2 billion. Additional taxes will be collected on the income tax, sales tax, non-prescription drugs, concert tickets, alcohol, yoga, pet grooming, electrical generation and community hospital. Additionally, the Democrats have stripped the tax-free exemption for shoes and clothing under $50 and slashed the $500 property tax exemption.
“Certain exemptions such as the tax free week mean a lot to families that are struggling to get by,” said Betts. “And I know many people in my district see their pets as members of their family. Well now the tax exemption on pet grooming is gone- that’s going to hurt.”
Betts said he was encouraged when Malloy took office that government might take a different approach than the tax and spend policies of recent years. He said the “shared sacrifice” message actually gave him hope, only to see it dashed when Malloy proposed his budget.
“I don’t see much ‘shared sacrifice’ in this budget. All the taxes included in the Democrats’ budget is money that is coming straight out of our pockets,” Betts said. “I held three town hall meetings, spoke to hundreds of constituents and they all told me they can’t afford more taxes. They told me government needs to take the pay cut. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Last month, Betts joined legislative Republicans in offering a balanced, “no tax increase” budget proposal that spent $900 million less than the plan approved Tuesday by Democrats.
“We chose not to raise taxes because, at this time, taxes can have such a detrimental effect,” Betts said. “For example, we didn’t tax hospitals such as Bristol Hospital because we believe they provide a foundation for the community, they provide our safety net.”
Among the steps Republicans used for savings in their “no tax increase” budget:
- Enhanced Medicaid fraud detection units will save roughly $224 million in wrongful payments.
- Republicans plan to save more than $46 million through agency consolidations.
- State government will be streamlined through attrition and reduction in the 54,000- state payroll.
- No money will be borrowed for day-to-day state operations.
- More than $200 million in the state’s highest cost debt will be pre-paid, thus allowing for greater flexibility in budgeting throughout state agencies.
Betts said he plans on having more town hall style meetings after the session ends to help constituents understand the changes that will be coming under the new budget.