GOP budget: no new taxes, cut state's workforce
Alternative plan: Republicans propose no new taxes, slashing state work force
Updated 4:44 pm, Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The budget would reduce the state's 54,000-person workforce by 5 percent, including 1,380 highly-paid managers; restore the popular $500 property-tax credit; and consolidate 36 state agencies into nine.
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, introduced their alternative budget just days before the Democratic-dominated Appropriations and Finance committees are expected to approve spending and tax packages closely resembling Malloy's February budget proposal.
The Republican budget could surface as amendments in committee or on the floor of the House and Senate. It focuses on the state's spending habits, which in recent years -- when tax revenue dropped off in the recession -- created a multi-billion-dollar deficit.
In reaction, majority Democrats including Malloy were polite about the GOP proposal, but discounted it as "gimmicks." Malloy's top adviser warned that it would tear apart the state's social-service safety net and is unacceptable.
Cafero and McKinney said the budget was the result of their own statewide meetings with taxpayers that paralleled Malloy's recent tour of 17 town hall-style meetings on his spending package, which includes $1.5 billion in new sales and income taxes and $780 million in program reductions as part of the governor's "shared sacrifice" plan.
"Our unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent," McKinney said during a noontime news conference in the Capitol complex.
"I've got people who lost their jobs because of consolidation or restructuring or bankruptcy, who can't find new ones," he said. "That person has sacrificed. Those families have sacrificed. They've learned to live with less. The only area where there has been no sacrifice is government. Government hasn't sacrificed a nickel. It's time."
While there would be no reductions in municipal aid, the Republicans' two-year, $36.4 billion budget would cut Medicaid spending by more than $840 million. The GOP leaders said federal reimbursements would help make up for the social-service program reductions with an infusion of $210 million over the biennium.
More InformationGOP alternative budget Cut more than 2,700 state workers. Retain state aid levels to towns and cities. Restore the $500 property tax credit that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to cut to $300. Scour Medicaid fraud to save $224 million. Borrow $200 million in short-term lending to pay off higher-interest long-term debt. Eliminate the Citizens Election Fund, the program that finances General Assembly and top-of-the-ticket races.
In addition to more than 2,700 fewer jobs through layoffs, attrition and a "hard" hiring freeze, the Republican budget anticipates the same $1 billion a year in concessions and agreed-upon savings from state unions that Malloy's administration is currently negotiating.
"The unemployment rate in state government is zero," Cafero said. "So you tell me who's sacrificed and who hasn't."
After recent years in which Democrats had veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans gained back seats in November and subsequent special elections. Democrats now have a 99-52 edge in the House and a 22-14 majority in the Senate.
"Let's be realistic," Cafero said, assessing the role of minority lawmakers. "It's certainly not a numerical advantage in any way, shape or form. But I believe and I think you'll probably see this with certain votes on other issues, maybe the death penalty, et cetera. There has been an ideological shift that might not mirror the numerical shift in both chambers. And I think you will see many more people receptive and very interested and supportive of this concept on the other side of the aisle."
In reaction, Malloy, speaking to several reporters in the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, said he hadn't reviewed the Republican alternative, but he voiced opposition to one of their ideas: closing the state's seasonal ferry boats across the Connecticut River.
Malloy indicated that as his early May deadline for passage of a budget gets closer, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to be accelerating their negotiations.
"I think there's a lot of work going on in the building," Malloy said. "I'm participating in a fair amount of that."
Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor's senior adviser, said later that the GOP budget isn't balanced, would hurt job growth and cut education programming.
Senate President Donald E. Williams, D-Brooklyn, joined Occhiogrosso in charging that the Republican budget depends on "gimmicks," including half a billion dollars in unspecified savings.
"This budget slashes nearly $900 million in Medicaid and shreds the safety net, which the governor is committed to protecting," Occhiogrosso said in a statement. "And to top it all off, this budget eliminates the Citizens Election Program, which fundamentally undermines the state's landmark election reform which lessens the influence of special interests and puts elections back where they belong: in the hands of the people of Connecticut."