HARTFORD – A massive, unwieldy budget implementation bill approved by the House of Representatives tonight is chock full of gimmicks, one-shot revenue deals that have created fiscal disasters in the past and special interest giveaways to Democratic constituencies, House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. said today in floor debate. The bill was passed largely along partisan lines after nearly five hours of debate by a 88-53 vote.
The Democrats who presented the bill swept accounts and siphoned off surplus to pay for their pet projects, polices that have led to huge deficits. “These are the same policies that led us astray before and will cause huge problems in the future,’’ Cafero said. “These are the same gimmicks that the majority party said it would never employ.’
At least $2.3 million was swept out of surplus in the state’s probate court system that has just undergone a major overhaul to get back on solid fiscal ground. That money is being used for various social programs, including a prison writing workshop, a fatherhood initiative and other expanded education courses.
Buried at nearly the end of the 15,000 lines in one documents is a $3.5 million giveaway to Bridgeport schools. In exchange for the $3.5 million, Bridgeport must select a new superintendent of schools and chief financial officer from a list approved by the state Commissioner of Education. Cafero called the provision unprecedented that was never aired publicly.
“At least 40 of the 111 different ‘concepts’ included in this bill never had a public hearing,” Cafero said. “And we are not done yet.”
Cafero decried the process that excluded Republicans from having anything to say about creating the legislation and likened it to the divisive politics that plague Washington. “Are we any different? This document says we are not,” Cafero said.
Another $200,000 was earmarked from fuel assistance program grants to pay salaries and administrative costs. Cafero said that was an accounting slight of hand to ease the burden on the state’s overall budget that continues to crumble due to increasing spending and diminishing revenues. He said money initially dedicated to heat peoples’ homes was diverted to pay state employee salaries.
The bills, written behind closed doors with no input from Republicans, amounted to more than 600 pages and made public just prior to floor debate.
The so-called Jobs Bill that is part of the legislation will not create a single new job, Cafero said, because most of the money dedicated to expanding company payrolls through grants and loans has already been spoken for. “Let us be clear about what we are doing here. The jobs program is in place, this bill simply changes the administrative functions,” Cafero said.