Half of State Agencies Submit Their Budget Proposals
Posted to: Environment, State Budget, Criminal Justice, Education Cost Sharing, Taxes, State Capitol, Transparency
HARTFORD, CT — A $10 vehicle registration fee, prison closings, state employee retirements, funding cuts to elderly property relief programs and to employment opportunities for the blind and disabled are just a few of the budget reduction and revenue options proposed by half of the state’s 40 agencies.
In September, Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, asked all state agencies to submit proposals that would result in a 10 percent reduction in the 2018-19 budget. The reductions may be included as part of the governor’s two-year budget proposal that he will give to the General Assembly in February.
Some of the proposed cuts, like $790,000 in spending that helps fund employment opportunities for the blind and disabled, will be hard to swallow, but the state is facing what looks like a $1.4 billion deficit over the biennium.
State agencies proposed not filling vacancies to reduce personnel costs and proposed reductions in spending to various programs, but they weren’t limited to spending cuts. They also put forward some revenue proposals.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection pitched a $10 registration fee for every vehicle in the state. The fee would act as a state park access pass and help provide about $2.8 million to the state every year to help fund the operation of the state parks. The fee would be collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles when a vehicle is registered. Out-of-state park visitors would continue to pay for parking, which is estimated to bring in an additional $1.2 million annually.
The DEEP also proposed ending its longstanding relationships with various regional commissions, such as the New England Interstate Water Pollution Commission, Interstate Environmental Commission, and the Connecticut River Valley Flood Commission. Dues to belong to all three of those organizations cost the state more than $101,000 a year.
The DEEP is one of 20 state agencies whose proposals to cut 10 percent of their budget were posted on the Office of Policy and Management website.
The Department of Correction, according to its proposal, is looking at possibly closing another facility and partially closing two others based on projections that the state inmate population will continue to decline by about 1,110 inmates.
Last month, State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell pitched the closure of two vocational-technical high schools as part of her agency’s solutions to cutting 10 percent from its budget over the next year.
A 10 percent cut to Wentzell’s agency amounts to an $82 million reduction in the Education Department’s budget. The department’s proposal did not include cuts to state education grants to cities and towns.
The proposal to reduce funding to the vo-tech schools was immediately panned by Democratic legislative leadership, but Malloy dismissed the criticism.
“We can’t be thought police,” Malloy said in response to an Oct. 6 press conference hosted by Democratic lawmakers. “It’s a discussion. Not a plan.”
Malloy’s own office proposed reducing the amount of money it spends to send the governor and his staff to the National Governors Association conference and the Conference of Northeastern Governors.
As part of his agency’s cuts Barnes proposed reducing a property tax relief fund for elderly homeowners by $4.7 million and also a property tax relief for elderly renters by $4 million.
The State Library is proposing an increase in the land recording filing fee from $3 to $6. It’s been 16 years since the fee was established. It estimates that doubling the fee would raise an additional $859,000, which could be used to help preserve historical documents.
Those are just a few of the budget solutions state agencies pitched as of Friday.
The budget options were supposed to be submitted to the Office of Policy and Management by Oct. 7.
Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said the plans are being reviewed for completeness and accuracy before they are posted to the website.
“In some cases, the agencies have asked for more time to submit options,” McClure said.
He said they are working with the agencies to get the documents completed and online for public review.