The House Democrats released a revised a state budget proposal on Wednesday morning that includes an increase in sales tax.
It's been seven weeks since the fiscal year began and Connecticut still does not have a state budget. Activists spoke out in the state capital on Wednesday to call on lawmakers to pass one. The state is close to $100 million in the red.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the Democrats said the tax increase would "significantly reduce the impact of the governor’s recommended cuts in education aid to cities and towns." Democrats said they want to increase it from 6.35 percent to 6.85 percent.
“This is an honest, balanced proposal that reflects the many and diverse priorities of the families and businesses of our state, and with continued good faith negotiations by all parties will help us cross the finish line in the next few weeks. No one thinks the governor’s executive order is an acceptable option, so everyone bears the responsibility to get a sustainable budget in place, and this proposal provides a solid basis to move us forward," Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin/Southington) said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
Even though a state budget proposal was released and weeks of talking, Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on some issues such as raising the state sales tax. They met on Tuesday afternoon, but it could still be several more weeks before lawmakers agree on a budget. As of Wednesday, the plan for lawmakers was to vote on something during the second week of September.
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In the proposal, Democrats said it incorporates a number of recommendations from each of the other three legislative caucuses including requiring votes on union contracts and a new 'Passport to Parks' program."
“The thing we have heard loud and clear from our caucus and our constituents is that one of Connecticut’s greatest assets is our public schools and the quality of education our students receive. Although raising revenue is always a last resort, it is a necessary step to ensure that we continue to have a great education system that attracts so many young families to our state. Our goal is not to simply protect our school systems, it’s to make them even stronger in every town across the state. I look forward to further discussions with the governor and all four caucuses on this proposal,” House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
The proposal includes a "comprehensive program to support homeowners with crumbling foundations in eastern Connecticut" and "cap on bonding to reduce long term debt."
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano said he was "glad" that the House Democrats released a budget proposal on Wednesday.
"Bringing ideas to the table certainly helps to move the process along and is what Republicans have been waiting for. I just received the proposal and will be reviewing it in greater detail. At this point, my comments on specific elements of this proposal are best left for the negotiation table. Republicans have been transparent about what our priorities are in each of the complete budget proposals we have offered and I hope that Democrats have taken these elements into consideration. I still believe strongly that we need to reach a budget that creates stability, protects core services, and protects residents from damaging tax increases, and hope to continue conversations to achieve this goal now that House Democrats have shared their ideas," Fasano said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
Gov. Dannel Malloy's director of communications released a statement on the governor's behalf.
“We appreciate that the House Democrats put forward a full proposal and will analyze it in detail over the coming days," said Kelly Donnelly. "At first blush, this budget is not something the governor could support in its current form. With that said, it is well understood that they intend to negotiate many of the specific suggestions in this document. We look forward to a budget passing the General Assembly that is both balanced and responsible.”
House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said the "massive tax increases" in the proposal "would lead to even greater fiscal chaos in the state."
“It took the House Democrats eight months to come up with another $1 billion tax hike as the only means to solve the state’s financial crisis. These tax hikes will slam the middle class and further erode our quality of life in Connecticut. The Democrats want to continue down the path that has led us to the precipice of fiscal ruin,’’ Klarides said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
Klarides said items such as from cigarettes, luxury items, prescription drugs and digital downloads will be taxed at higher rates. Klarides said the Republicans "have put forth numerous balanced budgets that included no new taxes and are in the process of further reviving their latest budget plan."
“I sincerely doubt whether this budget will survive much scrutiny and is not likely to be taken up in the Senate,’’ Klarides said.
The "All Hands on Deck Coalition" met in Hartford to bring ideas about ways to bring in revenue. The coalition said it is made up of local nonprofit organizations, education providers, and citizen action groups. It said those are some of the people who've been hit the hardest by the budget crisis.
To read the full revised state budget proposal, click here.
For more information on the financial aid for all Connecticut towns and the Education Cost Sharing, click here.
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