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Lawmakers Say Tax Hike Would Have Helped Preserve Spending

by Christine Stuart | Apr 19, 2013 2:43pm
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: State Budget

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. Toni Walker

Appropriations Committee Co-Chairs Toni Walker and Toni Harp of New Haven said that after seven days of public hearings they crafted the best budget they could, but were confined by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desire not to increase taxes and a contract he negotiated with state employees two years ago.

“The biggest expenditure reflects the SEBAC [State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition] agreement that was negotiated a few years ago,” Harp said.

The legislature has no ability to cut state employee salaries or benefits negotiated by the governor as part of that contract, which explains why the committee’s hands were partially tied in crafting the spending side of the budget proposal.

Changes Coming from ACA

The two co-chairs also agreed with Malloy’s administration on its decision to cut hospital funding by about $550 million.

Walker said the federal Affordable Care Act will increase the number of insured in the state, which means hospitals will eventually make up the money through private insurance payments.

But even though they agreed to the hospital funding cut, she said they are still looking at ways to help hospitals that really are struggling because they serve a patient base with a higher Medicaid and Medicare mix. She said some of those funds would be shifted back to about 11 of the 29 acute care hospitals, although no details were offered on how that would be accomplished.

Walker said the overall budget goal was to match the governor’s bottom line and in order to do that they needed to maintain his cuts to state hospitals, even if they didn’t necessarily like them.

“I will say this about the hospital cut — I think it’s too much, but I don’t think we could address it . . . without having a conversation about revenue,” Harp said. “Until we have a conversation about revenue in our state, I just don’t see how we address it.”

She said hospital executives’ pay makes it hard for lawmakers who don’t want to necessarily harm their community hospitals, but who also don’t want to cut after-school programs.

“The way that they think about money is different than most of us do,” Harp said of hospital executives.

The comment drew criticism from Republican lawmakers, who held a press conference immediately after Harp and Walker to address the legislature spending and tax proposal.

“I’m not so sure the Democrats or the governor’s office should be talking about executive salaries,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said. “Not when this governor’s office negotiated a salary with the president of the Board of Regents that was $400,000.”

Christine Stuart photo

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney

Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said they do “massive damage to our hospitals” and they use as their excuse executive compensation.

McKinney said the state pays the chief executive at the University of Connecticut Health Center $930,000 a year, so what private hospitals pay their executives should not play a role in the decision making.

“This issue is not about executive compensation, it is about $550 million worth of cuts to patients and their communities,” said Michele Sharp, communications director for the Connecticut Hospital Association. “Thousands of Connecticut families depend on well-run hospitals not only for their health, but also for their livelihood and economic welfare.” 

Scholarships and Priorities

But it wasn’t the hospital cuts that got Republicans worked up. It was smaller line items.

McKinney said he was upset that the Democrats protected the legislative commissions and they cut scholarships for students who attend Connecticut’s private colleges and universities.

“How in God’s name can you say you are representing the people of the state of Connecticut and have your priorities intact when you take scholarships and the opportunity to go to college away from these young men and women?” McKinney asked. “It is abominable that they would protect the government class and the legislative commissions at the expense of young men and women going to college.”

This will lead to deficits in the next biennium because eliminating certain funding from the spending cap only incentivizes further underfunding of the pension plan.

Cafero said Walker and Harp said it themselves — in order to do everything they want to do they have to raise taxes.

“That’s a deep philosophical difference,” Cafero said. “It is painful for them to have to avoid revenues.”

The Finance Committee approved the tax package 31-17 and Appropriations Committees voted 32-17 in favor of the proposal.

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(12) Comments

posted by: timelord | April 19, 2013  3:45pm

Hey Ms Harp and Ms Walker, that’s the WHOLE POINT!  We don’t want to preserve spending because we want to CUT TAXES!

I still find it amusing that Mr. Cafero pretends that he wants to control the size and growth rate of government.  I haven’t see the Republican caucus propose a budget that cuts spending and taxes. Has anyone else?

posted by: Jesterr72 | April 19, 2013  4:43pm

The Republicans in CT are a total embarrassment.  They refuse to adhere to conservative principles and are just riding the decline of the State - and they have ticked off so many of their base, they will NEVER win another election. It is over for CT, which is why the smart people are moving out.  State Central for the Republicans is a complete joke .

posted by: dano860 | April 19, 2013  5:34pm

The Toni’s deserve a “Toni Award” for a movie they could be in, “Clueless”.
Where are the cuts?
These gals are part of the problem not the solution.
I ask again,” Would you let THEM manage your retirement funds?”
Forget that ,“Would you let them handle your household finances?”

posted by: Joebigjoe | April 19, 2013  7:25pm

I havent seen anything, but I do know that McKinney and Cafero arent real Republicans, as I only vote for real Republicans, and I will never vote for them.

I may actually vote totally liberal drunken over- spending Dem, just so I can help destroy this state before I leave it in 6 years.

posted by: Historian | April 19, 2013  10:41pm

“Preserve Spending - Increase taxes” ?  Stupid Really stupid.  There is a bottom to every well and this attitude and sense of false entitlement are reaching the bottom of the pipe quickly.  We have had fifty years of the “great society” that has not worked. 
  The geese have wings and have learned to fly away to other states and the pot of gold left - the New York based wall street firms that will soon learn to fly away also leaving nothing but debt and no income.  Only fools listen to those who have failed to take advantage of fifty years of state largesse. Tough love works.

posted by: Commuter | April 20, 2013  9:16am

God help the state of Connecticut if Larry Cafero was majority leader, forget governor. Why didn’t the Republicans spend their time caucusing their budget proposal while the Democrats were working on theirs? Instead they get up there and whine about not getting to play in the sandbox (because they can’t get it done at the ballot box). And then they try to say it is because the press isn’t reporting on it? Newsflash guys, the minority whining about being in the minority isn’t news. Another pathetic showing.

posted by: meridenite | April 20, 2013  10:57am

We are doomed or is it domed whatever with these two and the useless repubs its time to pack your bags sell the house and head south or west and out of the northeast.

posted by: Reasonable | April 20, 2013  7:18pm

Commuter:  Gov. Malloy couldn’t shine Larry Cafero’s shoes.  Give it a break with this Democrat-led prosperity that is putting our state in the poor house.  Try dealing with facts—not fiction.

posted by: BrianO | April 21, 2013  10:54am

Both political parties are in denial. 

Our state has a fundamental imbedded deficit based primarily on a lack of overall planning.  Money is spent with little analysis as to its impact.  Our government is a disparate collection of special interests where politicians play tit-for-tat about mistakes made.  Limited economic opportunity will tie politicians hands for generation to come. 

At this point, we need to focus on government inefficiencies, ie,  do our investments make sense? We rarely ask.

posted by: JH_1 | April 21, 2013  4:09pm

The only reason the Governor is refusing any tax increases right now is due to the upcoming election.  There is no doubt in my mind that if he is re-elected, the first item on his agenda will be another tax increase sometime in 2015.

And it will probably be retroactive to 2013.

posted by: timelord | April 22, 2013  11:22am

JH_1 is right.  Danny-boy Malloy would be outspending the Tonis if he weren’t trying to preserve his chances of re-election.  The saddest part is that a decent opponent ought to be able to beat Malloy with little effort.  Notice I never said “Republican” opponent - because CT Republicans are a lost cause on every issue from taxing and spending to gun control. (The oath-breaker Cafero even voted for the immoral gun control bill that just passed.)

If we’re lucky we’ll be able to vote for a libertarian candidate.

posted by: Reasonable | April 22, 2013  1:12pm

timelord: Perhaps it’s time for you to stop drinking that strong tea. When you say that “/repulicans are a lost cause on every issue from spending to gun control” it is appears that you thought process is perhaps impaired.  Since when can you classify our free-deficit-spending controlling Governor Dannel Malloy and his Genera; Assembly as REPUBLICANS?
It’s time for you to go back to drinking KoolAid.