By Keith M. Phaneuf, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Arielle Levin Becker – CTMirror.org
Connecticut’s long-running budget drama began drawing to a close early on June 3, as the House of Representatives adopted a $40.3 billion, two-year budget package that largely restores deep cuts to social services and expands municipal aid while bolstering tax revenues by almost $2 billion.
Just after 10:30 a.m., the House approved the plan in a narrow 73-70 vote following a five-hour debate. Eleven Democrats sided with all 59 Republicans present to fall just short of defeating the package. Missing the vote were five Republican and three Democratic state representatives, including several who had been absent for days with health problems.
The debate followed a marathon House session as Democratic leaders kept the members in all night as they struggled to lobby enough support for the controversial plan. Leaders originally hoped to debate the budget around mid-day on June 2.
The budget, which was negotiated by Democratic majorities in both chambers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office, now moves on to the Senate, which has until the legislative session hits its adjournment deadline at midnight to act.
The new budget would order one of the largest increases in municipal aid in state history, dedicating almost $436 million in sales tax receipts to cities and towns over the next two years. While a portion would be dedicated exclusively to cap municipal taxes on vehicles, advocates predicted most of the new funds would help communities control property taxes across the board.
The package also makes an initial investment — albeit a limited one — in Malloy’s initiative to rebuild and enhance Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
The budget, which spends $19.82 billion in 2015-16 and $20.47 billion in 2016-17, also relies on a controversial interpretation of the constitutional spending cap to avoid shattering that limit. The package would boost spending in the general fund — which covers the bulk of annual operating costs — by 4 percent in the first year and by 3.1 percent in the second.
Closing deficits totaling almost $3 billion over the biennium, the budget increases income taxes on the wealthy and the middle class, while also boosting taxes on corporations, hospitals, cigarettes, data processing services, car washes and luxury items.
Of the $2 billion in new tax revenue, $475 million involved previously approved tax cuts for shoppers, businesses, insurance companies and the working poor that were canceled before they could be implemented.
Those tax policy changes sparked protests and threats from some of Connecticut’s largest employers, who warned that the overall tax burden — and particularly controversial sales and corporation tax hikes — would drive employers from the state.
Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, reminded Malloy during the debate that he pledged while campaigning for re-election last year not to raise taxes. And if the governor does veto the budget, the GOP has enough votes to back him to ensure the legislature could not override that.
“He made a promise,” Miner said. “He should resist signing this budget.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, reminded legislators that they and Malloy ordered more than $1.8 billion in tax hikes four years ago, and nonpartisan analysts again are projecting huge deficits in the next two fiscal years.
“For that shared sacrifice, we were going to get a better Connecticut,” she said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Klarides added that “this is not the land of opportunity any longer. Some would say this is the land of despair.”
Two Democratic representatives who voted against the budget, Daniel Rovero of Killingly and David Alexander of Enfield, both… TO READ THE FULL STORY CLICK HERE