From the Capitol / Sen. Bob Duff
Reasonable, bipartisan action resolved deficit
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, May 6, 2010
In tough times, we have to make tough choices, and it's in everyone's best interest to work together toward a common goal: resolving the fiscal crisis for the people of Connecticut. I'm proud to say that, on April 13, members of the General Assembly came together with the support of the Executive Branch to accomplish the mutual goal of resolving this year's deficit.
In that action -- on a bipartisan basis -- we were successful.
On April 13, the state Senate unanimously approved a deficit mitigation plan. The plan was previously approved 147-to-1 in the House of Representatives and was signed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell that very same day.
The plan included a total of $236 million in net spending reductions and fund transfers. It also included $53 million in maximized federal funding, $79 million in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds and $100 million from Gov. Rell's unilateral deferral of payment to the state's employee pension fund.
The plan rejected deep cuts to school-based health centers, Early Childhood Learning and school transportation for children. It also rejected the governor's proposed increase in Medicare Part D co-pays for low-income seniors.
Further, the plan did not include a proposed $45 million reduction in aid to Connecticut's cities and towns -- a move that would have hurt many of our municipalities and, ultimately, would have lead to increases in property taxes on the local level. Such increases would only hurt the hard working families in Connecticut, who are already struggling in this economy.
Additionally, the bill effectively reduced fees for fishing and hunting permits and for state parks and campsite reservations, which many of my colleagues and I believed were too high. The fees were raised in response to the budget problems the state faced last year; however, the increases fell heavily on those who enjoy hunting and fishing and take advantage of the beautiful state parks that Connecticut has to offer.
Under the bill, those permit fees were rolled back to a more acceptable level, and fines for certain motor vehicle offenses that have not gone up in decades -- like failure to wear a seatbelt -- were increased to cover the difference.
Finally, the plan included funding for the state's highly successful foreclosure mediation program, which has helped keep more than 3,300 residents across the state in their homes since 2008. The plan is scheduled to sunset this year and needed adequate funding to continue.
The action taken this month puts that funding in place. This program is a national model and represents an effective means to combat the tide of home foreclosures that have caused serious damage to our economy, our neighborhoods and our families. With this funding, the program will continue to assist those who need it most.
While this plan did not solve all of our problems, it was a tremendous step forward. With the regular legislative session ending yesterday, I'm hopeful that the governor and the legislature will continue working together to find reasonable solutions to decisively address our current fiscal problems.
State Sen. Bob Duff represents Darien and Norwalk.