HARTFORD — State Republicans recently outlined several of their priorities for the current session.
Republican lawmakers focused specifically on responsible budgeting, education reform, improved government transparency and continued progress on job creation, according to a release issued by state Rep. Len Greene’s (R-105) office.
Citing the legislature’s constitutional requirement to focus on budgetary, revenue and financial matters in even year sessions of the General Assembly, Republican leaders, who vehemently opposed Gov. Dannel Malloy’s two-year $3.7 billion tax increase in 2011, have set three goals for this year’s budget adjustment — no spending increases, strict adherence to the state’s constitutional spending cap, and no new taxes.
Republican leaders said the current Democratic budget is unsustainable and will lead to massive deficits unless responsible adjustments are made.
“We have a responsibility to our constituents to fix our budgetary problems properly. That means we have to face up to the fact that we never addressed the most basic fundamental problem, which is that we as a state spend more money than we can afford,” Greene said in the release. “The legislature last year passed the largest tax increase in state history, and we’re still facing a deficit. All of the evidence points to the fact that we spend too much. We need to reign in spending, increase efficiency, and prioritize what we need and what we don’t.”
While Republicans share several of Malloy’s education priorities, including teacher tenure reform and increasing school choice through the support of charter schools, they believe those reforms must be accomplished within existing state appropriations. Conversely, Malloy has proposed $329 million in new spending to pay for his education reforms and other initiatives.
Likewise, while Republicans have identified true pension reform as a priority and support the concept of paying down state debt faster, they do not believe Malloy should exceed spending cap limits in order to do so. Instead, Republican leaders want to begin to directly address the unaffordable state employee pension and health care benefits that are the heart of the problem.
Even if the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) agreement cannot be opened until 2022, the leaders propose immediately enrolling all new state hires in less expensive 401K-type retirement plans as opposed to the current defined benefits plans. They also want to end the practice of “pension padding,” whereby state employees are allowed to count overtime and longevity pay in their retirement calculations.
Republican leaders are concerned about projected deficits in the out-years of Malloy’s recommended budget, which the release stated, the administration presented to lawmakers and the public in an unconventional and misleading way on Feb 8.
Highlights of the Republican proposals include:
Balancing the Budget
• No tax or spending increases and strict adherence to the constitutional spending cap.
• Review of all 2011 Malloy tax hikes.
• Require consensus expenditure projections, just as consensus revenues are provided.
• Reduce pension liabilities through real pension reform.
• Enhance fraud detection in social service programs.
Economic Development and Job Creation
• Regulatory reform: moratorium on new regulations, expedited permitting, cost/benefit analysis of existing regulations.
• Targeted tax relief: tax incentives for companies who purchase commercial property in Connecticut; repeal the corporate tax surcharge; expand Learn Here Live Here; create a small business reinvestment account.
• Increase the dispensing fee for independent pharmacies and eliminate the mail-order requirement in SEBAC.
• Cap the gas tax.
• Fund the underground storage tank program.
• Reform teacher tenure to bring greater accountability into the classroom.
• Greater resources for charter schools.
• Reject the proposed mandatory regionalization that would force up to 31 small towns with fewer than 1,000 elementary school students to merge with other districts or face losing state aid.
Transparency and Accountability
• Redirect busway resources elsewhere.
• Require the Department of Corrections to report outcomes related to early release of prisoners.
• Reconstitute the watchdog agencies.
General Government Reform
• Improve response to natural disasters: centralize coordination of government efforts; performance standards for utilities; require utilities to train municipal employees in how to identify live wires.
• Establish Privatization Planning Committee to develop a plan to privatize direct-care.