To tie a ribbon around the 2012 session which ends Wednesday at midnight, I would have to give the session a “D” grade.
Going into this session our most important job was to make adjustments to the state budget. Unfortunately, the legislative wheels came completely off the track and ran into a ditch with all the distractions put forward this session.
The legislature gave Connecticut motorists false hope by saying we capped the gas tax in 2012 but refused to stop an automatic increase in that same tax next year. For the record, I voted for an amendment to permanently cap the gross receipts tax on petroleum which was rejected by the majority party.
Then the legislature tried to propose taxes in the committee process on everything from online music to online hotel bookings to the disposal of mattresses less than a year after the Governor raised taxes by $1.8 billion. I, along with Republicans in the legislature help beat back any new proposals to raise taxes.
Labeled the education session by Governor Malloy in his February State of the State speech only small steps of reform were taken in 2012. The very public fight between the Connecticut Education Association and the Governor over what education reform actually encompasses and the negative tone the Governor set from the beginning almost halted any chance of major education legislation this year.
Major issues discussed this session included the repeal of the Death Penalty. A repeal bill I did not support passed the General Assembly sparing future murderers their life. They will instead live out their days in prison getting free health care and meals all with not risk being put to death.
Lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol on Sunday was another proposal debated this session and proved contentious until the Governor dropped his idea to overhaul the liquor industry. A narrowly written bill on permitting liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sunday passed the legislature overwhelmingly.
Lastly, we finally found time for why we were in session to begin with; the state budget.
I opposed this budget because increased spending nearly 2 percent over current year’s level while not accounting for newly revised revenue estimates which show the state budget deficit is now at $285 million.
It also includes gimmicks to close the deficit 1) It reduces payments to the Teachers’ Retirement Health Care fund by paying for it out of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund. This will increase the unfunded liability within the teachers’ pension funds. 2) It also swipes $70 million from the Special Transportation Fund by taking $30 million from Town Road Aid, delaying bond sales and reducing the STF balance. 3) The plan allocates $13.5 million to help balance finances, particularly to cover employee fringe benefit costs, at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
I voted against this budget because I could not support borrowing money and using budget gimmicks to pay for ongoing operating expenses the state cannot afford to fund.
So in a nutshell that is the tale of the 2012 legislative session. I’m disappointed with the end product and hope the legislature learns from their mistakes. Let’s strive for an A!
If you would like to comment on this column or other issues of concern to you please do so by contacting my office at 1-800-842-1423 or visiting my website www.reppiscopo.com. I would love to hear from you.