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Commentary and Opinion Jun 14, 2013 - 3:19:37 PM

Molgano: Budget desecrates spending cap

By Rep. Molgano

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The below opinion is that of the writer and does not represent the opinion and views of Canaiden LLC, its associates and entities.

Hartford, CT - Due to a recent health issue, I was unable to vote on many issues towards the end of session, including the budget. However, I would like to let my constituents know my vote would have been a firm “No.” This budget does everything but “balance” and uses a variety of dishonest ploys to prove it does; it raids special funds, especially Connecticut’s Special Transportation Fund, generates new revenue from the gambling game “Keno,” and increases the gas tax to about 4 cents/gal immediately. All of these actions further leave Connecticut in a state of crisis and guide us toward an uncertain future.

In order to escape staying under the cap and continuing the trend of uncontrollable spending, democrats used the method of “net appropriating” federal Medicaid reimbursements the state will receive under the Affordable Care Act and other federal programs. This effectively removes about $2.9 billion in 2014 and $3.5 billion in 2015 out from under the cap. This is the first year Connecticut will treat these funds differently than in years past.

The budget relies heavily on borrowing just to pay for day to day operating expenses, including $750 million in borrowing for cash flow. It kicks the can further down the road by delaying nearly $400 million of scheduled debt payments that will cost tens of millions in interest. Lastly, the budget desperately tries to create revenue by legalizing the gambling game of “Keno,” something the two major casinos in this state have not made a formal agreement on as of the vote Sunday morning.

Other controversial pieces of the budget include:

Taking about $3 billion a year out of Medicaid spending, thereby ignoring the spending cap.

Containing no structural cuts, but including spending increases, which creates a deficit of more than $600 million in the first year after the next biennium.

Sweeping $100 million from the Special Transportation Fund and transferring it into the General Fund, thereby reducing the money available for repair of our bridges and roads.

Sweeping this year’s entire $220 million projected surplus.

Sweeping other funds, including $30.4 million from the Clean Energy Financing and Investment Authority, $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative account, $25 million from the banking fund, and $12 million from the tobacco and health trust fund.

The budget also extends a 20% surcharge on corporate profits that businesses had expected to expire, further proving Connecticut is not open for business.

Many have criticized Republicans for not coming up with an alternative budget, even though in year’s past we have created such a budget plan only to have it thrown to the wayside. It should be noted that my colleagues made sound attempts to cut spending in this budget and stay under the spending cap. Republicans began to lay out their vision for the future, including comprehensive fraud reform and reforming state employee fringe benefits to include pension and health plans patterned more in line with benefits seen in the private sector, instead of the exclusive benefit packages currently enjoyed by state employees. These ideas alone would save more money than the reductions in the Democrats’ entire budget.

In an economy like this, we should be cutting spending, not increasing it. Rather than providing the people of this state some relief, we are putting more of a burden on them. To conclude, this budget leads the state in the wrong direction, and I concur with my colleague, Rep. Vincent J. Candelora. R-Durham, Guilford, North Branford, and Wallingford, “We are going to come back here two years from now much worse off than we are today.”

Rep. Molgano represents the 144th General Assembly District covering Stamford.

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