Malloy’s budget draws mixed reactions around the state
CONNECTICUT — As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy continues a tour across Connecticut to discuss his proposed 2012-13 state budget, residents from opposing sides have complained about both higher taxes and proposed spending cuts that may affect public services. But supporters of the governor’s plan have called it an honest budget that puts the state on track for financial recovery.The combination of taxes and cuts amounts to what the governor calls a “shared sacrifice” that will address the massive budget crisis that has left Connecticut with a $3.3 billion deficit. Supporting the governor’s claim that his $19.7 billion budget spreads the pain, no specific group has come out to say it is being unfairly treated — even as the governor calls for $2 billion in concessions from the state’s unions. But there are some creative revenue-producing tactics that almost no one likes, such as the “coupon tax,” taxing items based on their original price when consumers use coupons, and eliminating the property tax credit.State Rep. John Rigby (R-63) was one of the first legislators to oppose Malloy’s budget last month, calling it “out of touch with the times” because it includes spending increases and raises the budget from $19.3 billion to $19.7 billion in its first year and to $20.2 billion in its second year.House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero (R-142 ) agreed last week, saying Malloy isn’t doing enough to reduce government spending.Still, both Republicans and Democrats praised Malloy for offering an honest, “gimmick-free” budget that does not borrow to cover operating expenses. The governor also fulfilled his promise to use Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) to produce a more transparent and understandable budget.Rigby said his primary concern with the budget is that it doesn’t include enough spending cuts. “The governor has spoken repeatedly about cuts and ‘shared sacrifice,’” he said. “The budget calls for taxpayer sacrifice but does not offer a proportionate amount of government spending cuts. It is not reasonable to expect my constituents to pay more taxes when the government is not doing its part in reducing spending.”Others on the Republican side of the aisle have complained that Malloy’s budget does not let a 10-percent surcharge on corporate income expire and that the proposed tax rate on high-wage earners grows to nearly 7 percent. Many GOP representatives claim increased taxes on businesses and wealthy citizens will drive taxpayers out of the state.At the other end of the political spectrum, hundreds of students descended on the Capitol Monday, Feb. 28, to oppose cuts to the state’s community colleges and universities. Representatives from the community colleges and universities spoke at public hearings, telling legislators that spending cuts will be felt in classrooms throughout the system. Students noted that they are already struggling to pay for higher education, which is their ticket to making more money and contributing to the state economy.Attendees at the governor’s budget talks have noted that Connecticut is faring much better than states like Wisconsin and Florida when it comes to maintaining civility in the budget debate. No lines have been drawn in the sand and union members have yet to organize protests at the state Capitol. Malloy’s aides began meeting with union representatives this week to discuss details of possible concessions that may be implemented to help balance the budget, while the governor himself continued his tour of Connecticut towns to explain his side of the story and hear people’s concerns.