An appeal last week from 15 moderate Democratic lawmakers urging the General Assembly to take quick action together with Gov. M. Jodi Rell to eliminate this year's projected budget deficit of $518 million without borrowing was welcome on two counts.
The letter from the four Senate and 11 House Democrats to their party's leaders was an invitation to pursue bipartisan cooperation that has been missing from budget deliberations for far too long. And it was redolent of fiscal sobriety, also absent for far too long.
Now is the time to act. This fiscal year ends in less than four months, on June 30.
In bridging the deficit gap, there can be no more papering over deficits with accounting tricks, securitization and bonding. "The only way we can responsibly address the current deficit," the moderates' letter said, "is to immediately reduce spending."
As for House Democratic leaders, the message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Speaker Christopher G. Donovan and Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman John Geragosian say most House Democrats are opposed to further cuts to social services and aid to municipalities.
That unrealistic stance will lead to more gridlock - between the House and Senate, perhaps, and certainly between the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Republican governor.
Everything must be on the table, including town aid, social services cuts and state worker longevity bonuses.
Mrs. Rell must yield, too. In December, she vetoed a Democratic deficit-mitigation bill that would have canceled a scheduled reduction in the tax on wealthy estates that would have meant more than $70 million in additional revenue. That tax cut should be reversed.
In her proposed deficit-mitigation plan, the governor would cut taxes for rich people while cutting health care for poor people and slashing aid to cash-strapped towns. She would benefit the wealthy while withholding a $100 million payment from the already-underfunded state employee pension plan. That's not equitable.
Both sides have to give to get a smart, fair agreement to balance this year's budget without borrowing.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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