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Malloy's Deficit Cutting Budget Features Transportation And Social Goals

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Governor Dannel Malloy has detailed his two-year budget for Connecticut meant to close a $1 billion deficit. The Democrat outlined a revamp of the state’s transportation systems and social initiatives aimed at reintegrating people leaving the criminal justice system.Governor Malloy outlined a two-year, $40 billion spending plan before the Democratic-controlled General Assembly Wednesday. The proposal represents a three percent increase, but includes cuts to current services mostly in education and social services totaling more than $590 million. Declaring the budget balanced, Secretary of Office Policy and Management Ben Barnes says an aggressive $35 million hiring lapse would require agencies to hold 300 to 400 positions open.

“We will expect to see the workforce under the control of the governor reduced by one to two percent through attrition over the course of this coming fiscal year and to remain at approximately that level through the second year of the biennium,” said Barnes.

Governor Malloy is proposing dropping the sales tax from 6.35 percent to 5.95 percent by 2017, making it the lowest since 1971. A renewed tax exemption on clothing purchases under $50 would not be implemented, something Republican Senator Rob Kane says will hurt middle class families.

“A lot of families use that to buy their kids school clothes and shoes,” Kane said. “He [Malloy} has reduced the sales tax free week that typically happens in the fall. Again a lot of families use that to buy their kids clothes for the school year. He’s reduced that from $300 to$100.”

Under Malloy’s plan town fees for solid waste removal and patrol by state troopers would increase. The administration expects to raise $357 million in taxes by closing what it calls loopholes for businesses and limiting hospitals from buying tax credits.

“Within this framework, I will listen to anyone who has serious ideas on how we can make this budget better,” Malloy said. “If you’re willing to offer detailed proposals for saving money and growing our economy, you will be heard. But if it’s just about partisan gamesmanship, I’m not interested – and I don’t think Connecticut families are interested either.”

Mentioning the issue during his State of the State in January, Malloy released a transportation plan called Let’s Go CT! It calls for improvements to congested roads like the Route 8 and I-84 interchange known as the “mixmaster” and double-tracking the entire rail line from New Haven to Springfield.

“Federal funds have only gotten us to Windsor,” Malloy said. “Now the state needs to step up and close the gap. Double-tracking will allow more frequent and faster service, and open up the possibility of new routes to Boston and Montreal.”

The five-year, $10 billion initiative includes more than $2.8 billion in new capital funding. With fuel efficiency dropping motor fuel tax revenue, Secretary Barnes says the state’s special transportation fund would be broke by 2020 just maintaining current systems. Malloy says he will form a nonpartisan commission to find ways to fund $100 billion in transportation investments over the next 30 years as well as set up a lock box to be used for just transit.

“I am glad to see that proposal has been met with bipartisan support,” the governor said. “I look forward to signing it into law.”

Republicans released a 30-year, $37 billion transportation funding plan last week.

“There are ways to meet in the middle,” Senator Kane said. “I think that’s what our constituents want anyway. They’re tired of the bickering that goes on in Washington, D.C. and they don’t want to see it in Hartford.”

Noting falling crime rates and inmate populations, Malloy announced a Second Chance Society he expects will save $24 million by closing a prison, though he did not say which one. The plan calls for adding parole staff along with shifting responsibilities and some 1,500 positions from the courts to the departments of corrections and children and families with hopes of better reintegrating offenders into public life.

“Now, I know some will be critical of these proposals,” Malloy said. “But the truth is, these aren’t Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. These ideas are part of a growing national conversation on how to end a generational cycle of poverty, addiction, and crime.”

Senator Kane says shifting the positions is a mistake.

“We have a lot of problems in the Department of Children and Families and many of them still need to be adjusted,” Kane said. “We’re still under a federal court order, a court decree. We have not had improvements in the outcomes of dealing with families. We’ve had a lot of child deaths that are very tragic. We’ve got a lot of problems in that area and to add more to their plate just doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Malloy is also calling for full-day kindergarten across Connecticut by 2017. The budget plan now goes to the legislature. Debate typically lasts through June.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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