Budget on agenda as lawmakers return for special session - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Budget on agenda as lawmakers return for special session

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tate lawmakers return to the State Capitol l for a special session on Monday. (WFSB file photo) tate lawmakers return to the State Capitol l for a special session on Monday. (WFSB file photo)

State lawmakers are considering rolling back some tax increases they approved earlier this month as they return to the Capitol for a special session.

The session started on Monday, and continued into the night.

Lawmakers returned after weeks of vocal criticism from businesses about the approximate $1.5 billion in tax increases included in the two-year, $40.3 billion budget that narrowly passed with only Democratic votes.

The budget was blasted earlier this month for taxing some businesses to the tune of several million dollars through additional taxes on data processing and internet services.

Some of the state's largest companies like GE and Aetna and Travelers publicly balked at the taxes and some even threatened to leave.

"We have lowered the taxes that have caused some of the corporations to have concerns," said Democratic Majority Leader State Senator Bob Duff. "We found money in the clean elections fund, we found money in what we're going to be doing in other various line items in the budget."

It is not the across the board 1.5 percent state department cut that was proposed last week.

Mental health and addiction services were worried about its bottom line but it appears they'll mostly be spared.

"We had to be very surgical about where we found those cuts, but we got to the number we needed to get to," Duff said.

Republicans said they are not satisfied because they said this is merely delaying another billion dollar deficit next year.

"We need to rethink what we're doing as a state, because the citizens are suffering, people are moving, Connecticut continues to be the most expensive state to live in the country. We need to change that," said Republican Minority Leader State Senator Len Fasano.

Votes were expected Monday on two budget-related bills that roll back some of the taxes, including a tax on computer and data processing. If no vote is taken on Monday the session will resume Tuesday.

The revised budget will most likely pass.

The revisions also include an additional $15 million in each year for hospitals. Some facilities have threatened to close clinics and lay off staff because of cuts in state funding to hospitals.

At the beginning of the month, hundreds were let go at Hartford HealthCare and more than one dozen were laid off at Bristol Hospital and those moves got the attention of legislators.

"I think the message was sent, but what they did to correct the budget, didn't correct the problem," Fasano said.

It is unclear if the changes will bring back the jobs that have been lost.

Two key bills did go through. The first is that Connecticut State Police will receive body cameras. Local cities and towns will decide if their officers should have them and they will receive state funding if they do.

"Body cameras will ensure that everybody is doing their job. Doing it respectfully and in accordance to the law," said State Rep. William Tong (D-Stamford)

Also, drug possession laws have been changed. Personal possession will be a misdemeanor, at least for the first two offenses. Three time offenders will be charged as felons with a one to three year prison sentence.

"We don't want to put people in prison who don't need to be in prison. We want to make sure if they have drug or alcohol problems that we put them into programs that actually will see positive results," Duff said.

Copyright 2015 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.