Unfinished Business As Connecticut Lawmakers End Regular Legislative Session

May 5, 2016

The Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Conn.
Credit Michelle Lee / Flickr

Connecticut’s regular legislative session ended on Wednesday without a final vote on the State’s budget.

Financial challenges have been at the forefront of lawmakers’ work this session as the state faced a mounting budget deficit that’s now projected to be close to $1 billion for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Democratic legislative leaders, who control the General Assembly, reached a budget deal with the State’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy late Tuesday night but said they did not have time to get the bill to all members before the end of the regular session at midnight on Wednesday.

They say they’ll likely take up the plan in a special session next week.

WSHU’s Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma sat down with Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser for an update.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.

TOM: Ebong, what’s in the plan?

EBONG: It looks like a lot more cuts to social services. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Derby Republican, says the plan contains deep cuts to addiction services, $36 million is cut from local school funding and special education and $13 million in cuts to state payments for hospitals.

She says it cuts $8.7 million from mental health and substance abuse programs and $2.2 million from assistance for the poor. And it eliminates all funding for school transportation.

TOM: So Ebong, what was the problem?

EBONG: The revenue that’s coming in is about 10 percent lower than what was projected.

I’ll give you an example. According to the Legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis, the adjusted gross income of the state's top 50 taxpayers dropped 30 percent in the last year. That represents a loss of $217 million in state revenue. And this is mainly due to a downturn in the stock market.

TOM: So how can the state turn this around?

EBONG: According to House Minority Leader Klarides there has got to be some structural changes to how we budget. She’s proposing more long-term budgets, even a five-year plan. Here’s what Klarides said.

KLARIDES: “We are going to be able to move forward as a state when we give the state predictability and sustainability and that trickles down to everybody, to the towns, to our non-profits, that’s when change will be made. Doing these fiscal year deficit mitigations every other month is just, it has to be done, but its not changing anything.”

TOM: That’s quite interesting?

EBONG: It is. Some economists say we’re not devoting enough for capital expenditures, such as health and infrastructure development. Here’s what Peter Gunther, an author of the Connecticut Economic Outlook, which is published by the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at UConn, told me.

GUNTHER: ‘”You don’t necessarily have to balance the capital budget annually. You’ve just got to make that the investments you’re are making are solid, and are going to contribute to the future growth of the state.”

EBONG: Gunther says enhancing the quality of life in Connecticut would encourage more people to want to live in the state and grow the tax base.

TOM: Any chance that will happen anytime soon?

EBONG: No. The Democrats who control the legislature are hoping to get a quick fix and leave the heavy lifting to the next General Assembly that will take office after the November elections. Here’s how Senate President Martin Looney, he’s a New Haven Democrat. He describes what they are hoping to get out of the deal they reached with the governor on Tuesday. They are just trying to hold it together until they vote next week.

LOONEY: Somebody likens something that stays out on the counter too long, like a fish that stays out there and may start to smell after a few days. So we think that this one will hold its freshness long enough to get it voted next week.  

TOM: That doesn’t seem very optimistic.

EBONG: It doesn’t.

TOM:  Thanks, Ebong.

EBONG: Thank you, Tom.