Budget Debate

There is talk at the state capitol that many members are trying to plan their summer vacations around the idea that they may be stuck into special session to complete work on the state budget long after the regular session has concluded.

The challenge of producing a balanced budget this year is so difficult, political observers suspect any final deal will be crafted and agreed to behind closed doors in negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders.

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Open Data

A legislative committee is considering whether to put into law an executive order requiring state government agencies to make certain sets of data open and available to the public.

Codifying the practice into law would likely improve data sharing by state government and make it easier for the general public, watch dog groups and policymakers to take advantage of large amounts of electronic data the state controls - which could in turn lead to new ideas to more efficiently manage state and local government.

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Toll Debate Open

The legislature's Transportation Committee has advanced a bill that would bring electronic tolls to some state highways.

Tolls were eliminated from state roads in the late 1980's over safety concerns and the legislature has been reluctant to bring them back because they are seen as an new form of taxation. The state's chronic shortfall in funding is driving the debate to reconsider the issue. Some lawmakers believe tolls are the only way to raise the revenue needed to maintain Connecticut's highways and bridges.

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Tolls?

In the middle of a legislative session dominated by debate over the state budget, the influential Hartford Business Journal editorial page is arguing in favor of the re-institution of tolls on Connecticut highways.

The paper says it is the only way to re-build the state's roads and bridges and invest in the transportation projects of the future.

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Time Running Out

In an op-ed on the CT Mirror's Viewpoints page, David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General, says he sees positive signs as Connecticut considers its budget. But he also says, time is running out on sensible solutions.

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Extension

For weeks there have been rumors at the state capitol that the depth of Connecticut's budget challenges may force the legislature into a summertime special session. Any delay would make it difficult for local governments to plan their budgets.

There is word today that the governor and legislative leaders may pass a special act to give cities and towns more time to complete their budgets while they wait for the legislature to determine local aid formulas.

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Is It Time for Regionalism?

With few good options available to balance budgets, necessity may force the legislature and Connecticut cities and towns to embrace regionalism.

The concept of cost sharing between local governments is one of the founding principles behind CT21. Veteran reporter Tom Condon looks at the issue for the Connecticut Mirror.

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Budget Forecast

Comptroller Kevin Lembo says the state budget remains "marginally in the black."

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Education Funding

The plaintiffs in the court case that has put Connecticut's education funding system at the center of the budget debate are calling for a study of the entire system.

As the legislature weighs how to react to a Superior Court decision highly critical of school funding the plaintiffs say the only way to get it right is to study a rebuild of state school funding from the ground up.

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Deficit Grows

The Office of Fiscal Analysis is forecasting a $65 million budget deficit for this year.

There is also word that smaller payments from wealthy Connecticut residents is having an impact on this year's income tax revenues. The news comes as lawmakers try to plug what they recognize as a $1.5 billion gap in revenues and requested spending.

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Fundamental Differences

An analysis of a meeting of the legislature's Education Committee this week reveals how difficult it is to change the legislature's approach to budgeting. 

As the CT Mirror reports, the Malloy administration has been attempting to stress the need to make spending decisions based on "available resources." Many in the legislature are more likely to try to assess needs first and then find the money to match those needs.

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HBJ Backs Malloy's Budget

The influential Hartford Business Journal is praising Governor Malloy's February budget proposal.

In an editorial this week, the business weekly says "no one was going to be held harmless" in a budget world dominated by multi-billion dollar shortfalls. The HBJ says Malloy was right to hold the line on individual and corporate tax increases citing the need to maintain a positive business climate.

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Griebel: Confidence an Issue

In an interview with the Connecticut Mirror, Oz Griebel of the MetroHartford Alliance and a member of the board of CT21, says business confidence is still a top issue in Connecticut.

Griebel says it is important for policy-makers to take steps to instill confidence in the private sector about Connecticut's future.

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School Funding Debate

It is unclear whether the legislature will seriously consider Governor Malloy's proposal to re-balance state funding for local education.

However, the issue is at the center of the debate over the state budget as major committees begin their work this legislative session.

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School Funding Debate

It is unclear whether the legislature will seriously consider Governor Malloy's proposal to re-balance state funding for local education.

However, the issue is at the center of the debate over the state budget as major committees begin their work this legislative session.

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Bail Reform

Governor Malloy is once again pushing a plan to reform Connecticut's bail system and change some juvenile justice laws to give younger offenders a better chance to start over.

The governor's proposals are part of what he calls his "Second Chance Society" initiative. If the legislature goes along the reforms may end up reducing costs, a goal supported by CT21 and backed up by previous research.

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Strategic Analysis

So far the reaction to Governor Malloy's budget proposal has ranged from outrage to disbelief.

In an attempt to balance the budget based on the reality of available revenues Malloy is arguing the old formulas no longer work and everyone has to share in the effort to re-write Connecticut's policy book. Now the budget falls into the hands of the legislature which shows no signs of having any interest in Malloy's approach.

This means it is likely that any budget agreement will need to be reached between the governor and legislative leaders later this year. A big question that may influence the outcome: How will the power sharing agreement in the Senate and the narrow partisan divide in the House play into those negotiations?

Conventional wisdom says that if there is going to be a fundamental policy shift it needs to occur during this year's session before the pressure of the next campaign season makes difficult choices impossible to make.

Challenge Welcomed

Long-time conservative columnist Chris Powell, of the Journal Inquirer newspaper, is welcoming Governor Malloy's latest budget proposal and sees it as a challenge to the status quo.

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Malloy Starts Budget Debate

Governor Malloy's shared sacrifice budget for the next two years places the biggest sacrifice at the feet of state employee labor unions.

In a budget proposal outlined Wednesday afternoon, Malloy asked for $1.5 billion in labor concessions. He also wants municipalities to pay a larger share of the cost of pension costs and has suggested about $400 million in new taxes.

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Budget Battle Begins

Governor Malloy will unveil his budget proposal for the next two years during a speech this afternoon to the legislature.

From what we know so far the plan will seek to close cumulative projected deficits of more than $3 billion through spending reductions, cost sharing with municipalities and union concessions. For the most part, Malloy is not offering any major tax increases to enhance state revenues, although he has confirmed he will suggest the elimination of the $200 property tax credit.

The governor's budget proposal will be officially unveiled at noon.

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Malloy's Crisis

The legacy of governors is often defined by the crises they face.

In the case of Governor Dan Malloy, the one consistent crisis of his time in office has been Connecticut's out of balance state budget. The Hartford Business Journal's editorial this week suggests that in the on-going effort to address this crisis Malloy is beginning to sound more like a Republican than the highly partisan Democrat he is seen as on the national stage.

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Budget Week

The week ahead will be dominated by Governor Malloy's budget proposal for the next two years and reaction to it.

One thing is certain: the governor seems committed to the idea of a fundamental re-working of state finances. He really has no choice, because doing things as they have always been done just doesn't add up. Reaction is certain to carry with it the usual howling from various special interests, but those interests and lawmakers, are in a position similar to the one facing the governor.

The challenges facing the state require new solutions. The ritual resistance of the annual budget process cannot be given the same weight by lawmakers, because there is not enough revenue to satisfy everyone.

As each budget cycle of the Malloy administration becomes more difficult, previously unpopular choices are becoming more palatable.

Hole Dug Deep in Time

Keith Phaneuf, a reporter for the CT Mirror who has dedicated the last ten years or so of his career to understanding the Connecticut state budget, has published the first of several stories explaining the state's current fiscal predicament.

Phaneuf reports Connecticut faces difficult choices over the next 20 years or more as a result of poor decisions made by legislatures and governors during the preceding 80 years.

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Pain Required

A Hartford Business Journal editorial this week makes an obvious, yet necessary statement few are willing to make: Whatever the legislature does to balance the budget this year, the economy will suffer in some way. The challenge facing lawmakers is that deep. There are no good options.

The HBJ argues however that tax hikes are at the top of the list of painful remedies to be avoided if possible.

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