From the CT Mirror. Nice job by reporter Keith Phaneuf. For entire article go to www.ctmirror.com.
The state Senate adopted a deficit reduction plan shortly before 5:20 a.m. today that aims to close a $518 million gap in the current year budget, despite the promise of a veto by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Although Democratic leaders of the Senate said they would not be deterred by Rell’s threat, it was enough to prompt the House Democrats to cancel today’s scheduled vote on the plan, since the Senate failed to pass it by a veto-proof margin.
That would have required that all 24 Democrats in the Senate vote for the bill. But following a 4 1/2-hour debate the measure passed 21-15 as three Democratic senators, Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Jonathan Harris of West Hartford, joined with 12 Republicans in opposing it.
Among other cuts, the plan would eliminate 21 deputy commissioners in Rell’s administration, saving $3.1 million annually. It also would cancel seniority bonuses and require another furlough day for non-union workers, cut back health care, social service and education programs and make other reductions worth nearly $115 million across this fiscal year and next combined.
Another $63 million assigned to various special funds and accounts would be reassigned to bolster the General Fund. Among those transfers are $10.4 million to be taken from the Special Transportation Fund, $6 million cut to the public financing program for state elections, and $3.5 million from the popular biomedical trust fund. It does not include Rell’s earlier proposal to reassign funds reserved for stem cell research.
But in a statement released by her office late Friday, Rell said the plan doesn’t cut spending enough and counts on unreliable funding sources.
“It is woefully short on real spending cuts and burdensomely high on tax increases,” Rell said in the statement. She is vacationing in Colorado.
The plan also relies $76 million in new revenue by reversing a January 1 reduction in the tax on wealthy estates.
“The governor’s veto threat is unproductive and irresponsible,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn. “The governor is simply shielding multimillionaires at the expense of middle-class families and those who want to end this fiscal crisis.”
A second tax increase in the bill, a 5.5 percent rate on hospital gross revenues, is the linchpin of a Democratic plan to bring more than $165 million in additional federal aid into Connecticut.
All totaled, the Senate measure would wipe nearly $420 million in red ink off the budget. When combined with a recent $100 million reduction in state employee pension fund contributions and an $80 million increase in federal aid tied to prescription drug benefits, state government could eliminate this year’s shortfall entirely, and cut more than $73 million off the $725.7 million deficit projected for 2010-11, Senate Democrats said.
Technically, the spending cuts, tax increases and federal revenue growth included in the Democrats’ bill wouldn’t be able to cancel the entire current deficit before the fiscal year expires in just over three months. But most of those proposals would continue to cut costs or boost revenue after June 30.
So this bill effectively raids next year’s budget now by transferring into the current budget $263 million in emergency reserves originally dedicated to 2010-11. But that raid would be offset by a matching amount of new revenues and cost-savings the plan would create next fiscal year.