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Rep. Lavielle: State Budget is 'Teetering on the Edge'

Lawmakers consider how to right the budget and voters' rights.

WE’RE NOT IN THE MONEY

The Office of Policy Management and the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis crunched the numbers and came up short.

The agencies announced an agreement on consensus revenue that shows a decline of $94.9 million in FY12 or one-half of one percent of the annual budget, according to a press release. Additionally, the estimates for FY13 show a decline of $139 million, or seven-tenths of a percent of the annual budget.

This announcement had many GOP legislators seeing red.

“The state budget is teetering on the edge of the deficit cliff, even though everyone is paying $1.7 billion more in taxes this year,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and Norwalk in the 143rd House District, said. “Now we find the revenue is not coming in as we expected. So there is a scramble for additional revenue like and .” 

Lavielle said the union contracts threaten the state’s ability to make cuts. As such vital programs, such as transportation improvements, could be at risk.

The Ridgefield RTC also made its feelings clear. “Malloy is sure racking up some great accomplishments!” according to its Facebook post.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy balanced the budget through a series of measures, including the highest tax increase in state history. Still the anticipated revenue hasn’t come.

Malloy’s office said Connecticut is in far better shape than it was a year ago when it had a $3.5 billion deficit. In addition, Malloy said the budget would be balanced without further tax hikes. Instead, Malloy said there will be spending cuts. It remains to be seen from where those cuts will come.

The budget will be addressed during the next regular legislative session, which opens Feb. 8. Because of the shortfall Malloy won’t be able to institute Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, GAAP, or pay back debt.

OPM said the revenue decline comes from an income tax revenue decline, particularly among higher income taxpayers that file quarterly returns. 

“The most likely explanation is that this is a result of taxpayers shifting capital gains and income as a result uncertainty at the federal level, specifically the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Bush-Era tax cuts,” according to the OPM.  “Declines in bonus levels in the financial service industry are also a contributing factor.”

That the administration said the shortfall comes from taxpayers shifting capital gains and income is problematic, Lavielle said.

“If you are depending on revenue from investments then you are in serious trouble,” she said. “I am not surprised by this. The only thing I am surprised about is hearing about it now.”

VO-TECH VALUE 

Part of the October 2011 Jobs bill aims to help vo-tech schools educate skilled students needed for manufacturing growth.

“I suppose there will always be more we can do, this issue of job creation is a fluid one and one that we will constantly have to engage,” said state Rep. Kim Fawcett, a Democrat representing Fairfield in the 133rd House District. “The jobs bill requires the vo-tech education to be more appropriately aligned with the types of actual skills that are needed in the Connecticut workforce. So there will be a lot of coordinating between the business sector and the schools to make sure the students graduate with skills ready to work.”

Fawcett said she also likes the bill's requirement that public schools notify students about vo-tech options.  

State Rep. Tony Hwang, republican representing Fairfield in the 134th House District said the bill duly recognizes the schools ability to meet the demands for manufacturing growth.

“CT Precision manufacturing is competitive and provide a much needed boost/support to our economy,” Hwang said. “Examples are Lacey Manufacturing and Covidien Healthcare — both are in the healthcare precision manufacturing, have current job openings and are looking to hire vo-tech trained students.”

SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

About 24 people recently attended a job forum that Fawcett hosted, which is “actually a huge crowd for this type of event,” she said. “The best part of the forum was getting these small business owners directly connected with DECD and the programs that are in place to help them. I will be following up with many of them in the months to come.”

Details of Small Business Assistance Programs now in effect:

Revolving Loan Fund provides loans to small businesses for the purchase of machinery and equipment, construction, relocation expenses, working capital and other business-related expenses. Amounts can range from $10,000 to $100,000 for each company.

Job Creation Incentive Program provides loans for job creation to small businesses. Amounts range from $10,000 to $250,000 for each company. Loans may be forgiven depending on the company’s ability to create and maintain the new jobs.

Job Creation Matching Grant Program requires businesses to provide matching grants to any state funds awarded under this program. Amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000 for each company. Loans may be completely or partially forgiven depending on the company’s ability to create and maintain the new jobs.

“Connecticut seems to be doing better as proven by our recent bipartisan jobs bill,” said state Rep. Paul Davis, a Democrat representing Milford, Orange and West Haven in the 117th House District. “We continue to work on improving the small business climate. Regulations, which may have imposed challenging mandates for business, are being more carefully scrutinized for their impact. We have already passed legislation, which requires a small business impact statement when they are proposed.”

VOTERS’ RIGHTS (OF WAY)

Gov. Malloy Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Common Cause Board Chair Dr. Bilal Sekou want to and increase access.

“I’m somebody who needs to see evidence,” Merrill said. “If we pass Election Day registration we’d join ten other states. It makes all the difference for younger voters, there’s an increase of 8 to 12 percent. That’s pretty significant.”

Proposed legislation includes allowing for online voting registration for all Connecticut citizens with a valid and current driver’s license, Election Day registration to improve voter turnout, statutes to govern absentee ballots, which would allow legislators to adopt laws that address voters who can’t get to polling locations on Election Day. The legislation would also increase penalties on any effort to block or impede voter access. 

“I support all forms of absentee voting, people should be able to vote absentee if they choose to. The online voting is still a tough discussion,” Fawcett said.  “I think we need to have the discussion and open it up so everyone can understand how we can protect the integrity of elections when and if we vote online. I don’t think we are there yet on this issue.”

Merrill said of all the proposals, Election Day registration is the most controversial.

“People are worried that voters won’t be who they say they are. But you still need to present your identification,” Merrill said. “Some are also worried that people will vote in more than one town. Frankly we should be worried that not enough are voting as it is.”

A Constitutional Amendment would be required to change the law regarding absentee ballots. Before an amendment can be voted on in a statewide election, the proposal must pass a 3/4 majority in both houses. Should an amendment pass, all it will do is remove the restrictive language from the law and allow a statute to govern absentee ballots.

But this is an election year, and a presidential election year at that and, Merrill said "a lot of political games will be played with the legislation."

Steve Symonds January 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Gail -- Ok, I get the "Perils of Pauline" story line. And you propose exactly what?

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