Are Republicans “living in a land of make-believe” when it comes to their new budget proposal, unveiled on Wednesday, as Gov. Dannel Malloy alleges? Or is Malloy “more concerned with attacking Republicans than fixing the mess he created,” as Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano maintains?
A war of words between the two leaders erupted yesterday over the revised GOP budget proposal, which Fasano and others in his party said will balance next year’s budget, reduce future deficits, restore funding for the core functions of government, and implement policies to achieve long-term savings – all without increasing taxes. Republicans say the proposal will, after mitigating the fiscal year 2018 deficit by utilizing revenue in the state’s budget reserve fund, still leave it with $864.5 million at the end of fiscal year 2019.
GOP lawmakers say the plan will result in a surplus in fiscal year 2019 of $17 million and contains policy recommendations that reduce the fiscal year 2020 deficit by $800 million.
The revised Republican budget:
- Restores funding for the Medicare Savings Program in full, allowing all 169,450 seniors to maintain current coverage, at a cost of $130 million.
- Provides a 1 percent private provider COLA to all non-profit providers effective July 1, 2018.
- Restores $18.5 million to magnet schools.
- Increases Vocational Agriculture per pupil grants by $1,000 per slot.
- Contains two recommendations to reduce unfunded liabilities and achieve long term savings as contained in the previous Republican budget, while not attributing any immediate savings to those policies as the last proposal did:
- Dedicates more funding to the state’s unfunded liabilities including state employee retirement funds, but does not include immediate ARC payment savings.
- Makes two changes to state employee benefits beginning after 2027 by eliminating COLAs unless legislatively directed and eliminating overtime from calculation of final average salary, while not assuming any immediate savings from those changes.
- Provides $16 million to the Retired Teachers’ Healthcare Fund to provide a full statutory contribution of 33 percent.
- Increases funding for the Judicial Branch court support staff to $5.8 million.
- Allows the car tax cap grant to be maintained at 39 mills and fully funds towns and cities.
- Restores full funding for municipal aid with $28.4 million more than appropriated in FY 2019 as originally enacted, resulting in $70.5 million more in municipal aid than FY 2018.
- Provides $5 million for emergency placements for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Provides $1 million for Connecticut Valley Hospital and Whiting Forensic Institute.
- Fully funds rail and bus operations and provides protection to funding for transit districts. Should any deficiencies in this account materialize, this budget would require funds to be taken from CTfastrak to assist in other transit areas.
- Higher Education:
- Reduces the UConn block grant by $10.4 million; one way that UConn can achieve that savings is by requiring professors to teach an additional course.
- Eliminates the $13.5 million UCHC fringe benefit differential
- Provides an additional $6.25 million to the Community Technical College System
- Provides $16.2 million to the Board of Regents for fringe benefit support
- Contains no new tax increases.
- Results in a surplus of $17 million in FY 2019.
- Contains policy recommendations that reduce the fiscal year 2020 deficit by $800 million.
In addition, the following items contained in the previous Republican budget were maintained in the revised plan:
- Fully funds the Special Transportation Fund resulting in surpluses in the fund in each of the next five years (accelerates the diversion of sales tax from sale of automobiles at car dealerships into FY 2019 at 2.5 percent), thus allowing transportation infrastructure projects to be fully funded. The budget also enacts Prioritize Progress, a long-term transportation funding plan that would result in over $63 billion in transportation funding over the next 30 years without new taxes or tolls.
- Maintains new retiree tax breaks contained in bipartisan budget for pension and Social Security income.
- Rejects the governor’s proposal to eliminate the $200 property tax credit, which supports elderly and working families.
- Fully funds the FY 2019 enacted Education Cost Sharing grants.
- Fully funds Renters Rebate program, protecting 48,000 people, no longer shifting the expense onto municipalities.
- Restores funding for the Elderly Nutrition Program, providing $2 million and rejecting the governor’s proposed cut to the service. It also makes the ENP a separate line item to better protect its funding in the future.
- Preserves grants for substance abuse treatment and mental health care.
- Protects funding for fire training schools and eliminates the governor’s cut.
- Restores funding for school-based health clinics.
- Protects the Roberta Willis Scholarship for all current student recipients and future student recipients attending public schools.
- Restores funding for the Connecticard Program.
- Restores funding for the Hispanic Programs in DSS providing funding to nonprofits.
- Includes funding for regional workforce development boards.
- Provides funding for the Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit, responsible for approving school security plans.
- Provides funding for the Special Licensing and Firearms Unit to ensure valid sales are entered into its database in a timely fashion.
- Provides funding for Puerto Rico evacuees.
- Maintains money for STRIVE, rejecting the governor’s proposal to eliminate that funding. This program helps people coming out of prison get back into the workforce.
- Restores $2 million to fully staff the Connecticut state veterans hospital’s critical care unit.
- Continues tourism and cultural programs funding.
- Does not implement any cuts to Care 4 Kids.
- Continues enhanced reimbursement rate for primary care providers.
- Maintains a $7 million savings target for a hard hiring freeze
- Provides a selective reduction to the size of government with policies such as limiting deputy secretaries, executive secretaries, eliminating executive assistants, and consolidating legislative and communication functions under the governor.
- Provides selective privatization options such as DMHAS option to outsource geriatric and detox beds statewide.
- Reduces grants totaling $8.6 million to the City of Hartford so that actual aid provided to Hartford is kept at the $40 million agreed to in the bipartisan budget.
- Removes the $30 million loan from the casinos contained in the bipartisan budget.
“While on paper it may appear that the state is suddenly flush with new cash in fiscal year 2019 as a result of the hospital deal delay, we cannot let the overspending mistakes of the past be repeated,” Fasano said. “We have to be responsible about how we budget if we want our state to grow, thrive and prosper. Year after year Connecticut has made promises it cannot afford to keep. This budget stops that practice. It gets our fiscal house in order today and puts Connecticut on a path to stability and predictability for generations to come.”
“This proposal not only balances the budget today, but results in significant long-term savings,” House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said. “Instead of making new promises that the state cannot afford in future years, it resolves today’s issues, upholds the state’s commitments to vulnerable populations, and reduces Connecticut’s future deficits and unfunded liabilities.”
Malloy, however, wasn’t having it.
“Let’s be very clear on what just happened,” he said. “With new consensus revenue figures showing additional tax revenue coming into our state, Republicans immediately spent it. The party of so-called fiscal responsibility added spending to their original plan. In fact, this current version of their budget spends $120 million more than the governor’s proposed budget in fiscal year 2019. It does that while somehow decimating funding for the University of Connecticut, decimating funding for the Department of Children and Families, and decimating our Special Transportation Fund.
“Amazingly, they did all this while also claiming – literally – the current year deficit was ‘impossible’ to fix,” Malloy continued. “Again, the party of so-called fiscal responsibility said this after being in session since February with an existing current year deficit that they’ve known about, and for which the governor gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in options to solve. And yet, they’ve simply given up – Republicans have tried nothing and they’re all out of ideas.
“Connecticut Republicans are living in a land of make-believe, where their values and their priorities change by the hour,” he concluded. “They’ve officially become the party of Paul Ryan.”
“Considering how well Gov. Malloy has run our state, the fact that he doesn’t like our budget is perhaps a sign we are on the right track,” Fasano riposted. “Gov. Malloy is quick to criticize without even understanding what our budget does.
“The truth is Gov. Malloy has always wanted to see the legislature’s bipartisan budget fail and has done everything in his power to try to make that happen, ignoring savings recommendations made by the legislature and failing to implement the budget as lawmakers intended,” he continued.
“As a result, we are now facing a deficit in the current year so large we are left with no choice. The governor should be honest and acknowledge that his deficit mitigation proposals, even if you totaled them all up together, would not have resolved today’s deficit. He has also failed to put forward any workable plan that could pass the legislature.
“It’s unfortunate that Gov. Malloy is more concerned with attacking Republicans than fixing the mess he created,” Fasano concluded.
Malloy’s Director of Communications Kelly Donnelly responded in kind: “Sen. Fasano can say what he wants about Gov. Malloy, but regardless of his opinion, no one can claim that Gov. Malloy hasn’t presented a balanced budget every year, even when there were only tough choices.
“No one can claim that he has ever said that fiscal challenges were so great that they were ‘impossible’ to solve,” Donnelly continued. “No one can claim that he has ever offered up a ‘mea culpa’ for not doing what was required of him – of what he was elected to do by the people of the state.
“In nearly eight years,” she added, “as Gov. Dan Malloy has done none of those things, Len Fasano has done them all in the last six months.”
Malloy proposed a deficit mitigation plan in December 2017 for what at the time was estimated to be a $225 million deficit. That deficit, according to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, has grown to $386.7 million.
The current fiscal year ends on June 30. The legislature’s regular session ends on May 9.