Today the Connecticut Legislature finally passed a State budget. I voted Yes. With the House vote at 126-23 and the Senate at 33-3, this time we can easily override a Governor Malloy veto.
This budget was a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. Neither of us possess the strength to pass a budget on our own. Further confronted by an unreasonable Governor, who vetoed our September budget, legislators engaged in good faith give-and-take. The result is a budget that is close to the GOP September budget. Furthermore it spares Connecticut from Governor Malloy’s draconian edicts.
Below is a summary of the key points;
- Taxes. There are no income tax increases, no sales tax increases, no sales tax expansion, no gas tax increases, no tolls, no cell phone taxes and no second home taxes. The Estate tax ceiling phases up to the federal level.
- Balanced Budget. The $5 billion budget deficit is now fully dealt with, without employing financial gimmicks.
- Constitutional Spending Cap. Mandated by Connecticut voters in 1992, we finally in 2017, implemented it. This Cap prohibits run-away State spending.
- Bonding Cap. Governor Malloy’s excessive bond issuances are now threatening our bond ratings. We need bonding capacity to pay for needed transportation and capital projects. We cap annual bonding at $1.9 billion, down from the current $2.5 billion.
- IDD/Disability funding. Programs that protect our disabled and vulnerable citizens, such as Care 4 Kids and Meals on Wheels, are funded. We insisted on that.
- Mandatory voting on State union contracts. In the past the Legislature refused to vote on contracts covering 40% of the state budget. This gross dereliction of duty partially explains our current fiscal mess. Now legislative up/down votes are the law.
- Employee compensation. The disastrous SEBAC deal approved in July by the Governor and Democrats locks in employee benefits for ten years and prevents layoffs for four years. Being forced to work within that horrible reality, this budget implements a mandatory State hiring freeze. Also teacher contributions to their own pensions increase from 6 to 7 percent.
- Municipal reform. 80 percent of municipal budgets relate to employee compensation. Towns are hamstrung by State mandates that prevent them from adopting common sense reforms. In response our budget allows towns to engage volunteer citizens who want to help their own communities. It raises the prevailing wage threshold, which bloats town construction costs, from $400,000 to $1 million. Towns will no longer be penalized for having healthy Rainy Day funds plus union contract arbitrators can now split the difference in negotiations.
- ECS funding. Norwalk ECS school funding is fully protected. Furthermore the formula is now changed in Norwalk’s favor, taking into account our urban socio-economic characteristics.
In conclusion, most Connecticut citizens are fully engaged with our State’s fiscal crisis. Bad decisions over the past 20 years cannot be undone by any one budget. I believe our turnaround will take between 5 – 7 years. The State is like a supertanker heading in the wrong direction. We need to turn our ship of State around. This budget represents the first turn of the ship. We need one more turn to move in the right direction. But we have to start somewhere – and this budget represents that.