Connecticut state budget proposals released

Both Connecticut Democrats and Republicans have released their budget proposals for the near future.

The College Democrats of Connecticut was critical of the Republican plan. Miles Halpine, a University of Connecticut student and the President of the College Democrats of Connecticut, disagreed with how Republicans would make up for reduced taxes in their budget.

“Once again, like their counterparts in Washington, D.C., Republican legislators in Hartford are proposing a budget that would provide tax breaks to businesses by implementing severe cuts to higher education funding,” Halpine said. “We understand that fiscal realities dictate shared sacrifice. And while supporting businesses is important, doing so almost entirely on the backs of students is the entirely wrong idea.”

Halpine is referring to the large cuts to public college funding, which in their budget Republicans suggest should be even deeper than Governor Malloy originally recommended. Republicans have advocated for all state colleges to have their funding reduced by $22.4 million, nearly $2 million more than Malloy’s plan. UConn would have $11.8 million of their funding taken away, $2.1 million more than Malloy’s recommendation. President Herbst of UConn said that the university would possibly pursue staff layoffs in response to Malloy’s cuts to funding.

The two-year, $39.5 billion Republican budget would mandate state employee pay freezes and give state higher education institutions the option of functioning as independent bodies.

In accordance with Gov. Malloy’s ideas in February, Republicans have in their budget a restoration of tax-free week in August for retail less than $50, as well as funding for State Police staff, libraries and state parks.

Republicans argue for slashing overtime pay for state employees in the new budget, totaling a $200 million decrease for those workers. Connecticut employee unions have been vehemently against any givebacks since their 2009 deal. It is also important to note the Republican minority in both the State House and the State Senate, so the budget as a whole will almost certainly not be passed through by Democratic lawmakers, including the Governor. Still, liberal legislators had a positive reaction to the proposal.

“The Republican alternative budget contains many of the same cost savings and re-institution of necessary state programs that you’ll see in the Democratic budget proposal,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said in a publicly released statement. “Our budget, like theirs, was developed over many bipartisan work sessions. As they said today, this is the beginning of a conversation and compromise, and I welcome that collaborative spirit.”

“This is an extremely challenging budget year, and the Republicans deserve credit for sharing their ideas instead of simply sniping from the sidelines,” House Democrats Brendan Sharkey and Joe Aresimowics said in a joint statement.

With a $1 billion deficit in the state, Democratic politicians are more receptive to Republican budget ideas than they have been in years past.

Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, defended saving state money through state employee cuts.

“We are not asking state union employees to give up anything more than what was promised several years ago by the governor,” Fasano said.

A few more aspects of the Republican proposal include scaling back cuts proposed by Malloy for disabled people, the elderly, those in a nursing home and pregnant women who use Medicaid.

The Democratic budget, which is still in its beginning stages, was decided upon in committee Monday. It is worth $40.5 billion and also reverses many cuts suggested by Malloy in the areas of healthcare and social services.

Like the Republican proposal, the Democratic proposal reestablishes funding for state parks and libraries, as well as tourism.

The Democratic budget also proposes a change in the state’s spending cap, this being that state employee unfunded pension liabilities for teachers, judges, and state employees would not count toward overall state spending.

UConn’s College Republicans could not be reached before press time.

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