Close The Deal: Governor, Democrats Not So Far Apart On Budget
May 17, 2009
Democratic leaders and Gov. M. Jodi Rell, while squabbling fruitlessly for months over a budget, agree that Connecticut is facing perhaps the worst financial crisis ever — and, we assume, they agree that leadership has never been more necessary.
They're also closer on the budget than their war of words would make it seem.
Both sides say they want to get a budget agreement done by the time the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn, June 3. "I want a budget; I want the legislature to adjourn on time," Mrs. Rell said Thursday. "Let's get this done; let's not push it off into the summer and fall," state Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams said the same day.
What's more, the Republican governor and her budget office have come closer than ever to the mostly Democratic legislature on a key figure: the projected deficit for the next two-year budget.
Mrs. Rell had for months been forecasting a deficit of $6 billion. The legislature's Office of Fiscal Analysis says it will be $8.7 billion. Recently, the governor's budget office changed its projected deficit for fiscal 2010 and 2011 to $7.95 billion. The shrunken bottom-line difference between the two sides shouldn't be allowed to continue to stall negotiations.
And although it's hard for them to admit, Mrs. Rell and the majority party really aren't that far apart on how to bridge the $1 billion gap between revenue and expenses in the budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Even in their most contentious areas, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Mrs. Rell "won't accept" the Democrats' proposed $3.5 billion in tax increases and the amount of money they would borrow to get to a balanced budget. But she hasn't ruled out an income tax hike altogether. And Mr. Williams said Democrats would revisit their revenue proposals. "We're flexible," he promised.
The Democrats have accused the governor of failing to identify enough specific spending cuts to balance the budget her way. This week she promised a list of new spending cuts that would include reduced municipal aid, but not education aid. For his part, Mr. Williams said his caucus is open to reorganization proposals that save money and other spending cuts.
There are makings of a budget deal here, if adults are in the negotiating room and these leaders mean what they say.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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