NEW BRITAIN -With Gov. Dannel Malloy promising to veto the Republican budget plan that passed the Senate and House over the weekend, legislators are getting back to work with the intention of adopting a budget as soon as possible.
“I’m just hoping leadership on both sides let go of the bickering,” said state Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain. “The people want a budget, and we should serve and work for the people we represent.”
The House of Representatives voted in favor of the GOP’s two-year, $40.7 billion budget early Saturday morning, a few hours after the Senate did the same.
Citing questions surrounding its details, Sanchez joined many Democrats in voting against the proposed budget, but enough Democrats crossed the partisan divide to give it enough votes for passage.
“ECS (Education Cost Sharing) funding was up for New Britain, but what would happen to Alliance Grant money and other grants like that?” Sanchez asked, repeating doubts he had had when presented with the budget. “There were so many questions that were not answered.”
Sanchez told The Herald that cuts to scholarship funds and higher education concerned him. He also said that he didn’t like that there was no line item for teen pregnancy programs, despite promises by Republicans that it would be included elsewhere.
State Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, also had concerns and questions.
“Funding for Pathways/Senderos apparently disappears in the budget, as does funding for all teen pregnancy programs,” Tercyak told The Herald.
Tercyak emphasized the importance of passing a budget before October 1 that includes a tax hike for hospitals. The increase, suggested by Malloy and included in the GOP proposal, would increase taxes on hospitals with a promise to redistribute the funds back into the industry. This would allow the state to qualify for millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for Medicaid, increasing revenue.
State Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain, said he was concerned with cuts included in the GOP budget as well as the increases in the state’s vehicle tax that would result. New Britain’s property tax rate would go up 13 mills, Lopes said.
“The city would need to send out supplemental car tax bills since they’ve already been sent out,” Lopes told The Herald.
Lopes also took issue with Mayor Erin Stewart’s statement in a story published Tuesday, He said that New Britain would fare better under the Democratic budget proposal. Stewart said the GOP plan would serve the city best.
“The net sum total of funding for the city in the Democratic budget is more than the Republican budget,” Lopes said.
Lopes said the GOP budget would “decimate” social services in the state for the elderly, disabled and poor.
State Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, shared a similar concern for safety net programs.
“It would be devastating for many agencies and nonprofits in our area,” Gerratana said.
Gerratana also said she didn’t like the elimination of the state’s Citizens Election program, a voluntary program that provides full public financing to qualified candidates should they agree to abide by certain guidelines, including contribution and expenditure limits and disclosure requirements.
State Rep. William Petit Jr., R-Plainville, was not available for interview Tuesday, but released a statement.
“The budget we passed restores the funding cuts that were made to municipalities and education, and implements the structural changes necessary to stop the fiscal bleeding and cycle of perpetual annual deficits. It also keeps critical programs in our safety net, which so many of our residents rely on, intact,” Petit wrote. “This budget was endorsed by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Council of Small Towns and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, who recognize that this budget will help move us toward prosperity.”
Legislators are hopeful that bipartisan talks will restart soon.
“This forces us to get back together and do something,” Tercyak said.
“I have faith that we will get a budget done by the first week of October,” Lopes said.
Gerratana said that it is important that all parties, including the governor, are part of the budget discussion.
“I certainly hope there will be a workable budget in the near future,” Gerratana said.
Sanchez emphasized the importance of bipartisan talks to finally adopt a budget.
“They need to get to the table and get a deal done,” Sanchez said.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.