HARTFORD – Saying House Republican support for the deficit mitigation plan was a step forward in getting the state’s finances in order, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides today said the GOP was successful in restoring millions for hospitals, preventing cuts to towns and cities and minimizing cuts to social programs.
But Klarides warned that dire budget projections will prove true unless major structural changes in the way Connecticut puts together its fiscal plans are made. Estimates place the red ink next year at $900 million
“Today was a good compromise because towns and cities were spared millions in cuts that Democrats proposed. We all agreed to restore money for hospitals and we succeeded in minimizing deep cuts to the social services safety nets,’’ she said. “But we still face a massive deficit beginning July 1.”
Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the $220 million deficit mitigation plan that will only cover the last three months of the year. With hundreds of state workers protesting outside the Capitol, Klarides again called for state employee unions to negotiate givebacks or else the likelihood of major layoffs becomes a foregone conclusion.
A bipartisan solution to the deficit remained in doubt until the last days leading up to Tuesday’s session because Democrats were still proposing at least $8 million in municipal aid cuts that would have slashed local budgets as the fiscal year was ending June 30. Republicans on Monday pushed for additional negotiations and by Monday night, Democrats decided to join them.
Republicans proposed covering that cut with money from a separate municipal reserve fund that was not even targeted for towns and cities until the next fiscal year. Klarides said it would have been a simple “swap’’ of funds from fiscal year 2017 to 2016, but Democrats did not want to go along. In the end, money from four other off budget accounts were swept to cover the municipal aid loss.
“Republicans were committed to finding money in the budget so that towns and cities would not have to absorb another hit from the state,’’ Klarides said.
The deficit mitigation plan was approved in the House by a 127-16 vote.