Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CT - Governor Rell Presents Her Budget Plan

Here is the text of Governor Rell's speech today, "Budget Address for Fiscal Years 2010-2011"

Main points:

- NO tax increases for the next two fiscal years. None.... Some fee increases, the use of various unspent fund balances and the securitization of clean energy funds. But no tax increases.

- Initiatives to shrink government
  • It starts with fewer state agencies. My budget eliminates 10 of them. All serve worthy purposes on paper, but all have functions largely duplicated by regular state agencies.
  • My budget also eliminates 10 other agencies through logical consolidations. Stand-alone entities are simply not needed.
  • More than 300 boards and commissions have been established by executive order or legislative or judicial fiat. ...budget eliminates 70 of these and merges others. We’re reducing the bloat of bureaucracy and making do with less.
  • Cuts to fleet of state cars by 20 percent. State cars are not an entitlement. If an employee doesn’t really need one, he or she won’t have one.
  • And we can do with fewer laws on the books. ... take 130 unnecessary laws off the books.
-Cancellation of state bond authorizations of hundreds of projects, mostly earmark projects, totaling almost $400 million.

- Putting a hold on construction at UConn and our state colleges and universities to save debt costs.

- Repeal or modify a host of state and municipal mandates. ... First, no costly new mandate should be allowed without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Second, we should suspend for two years the so-called “raise-the-age” law and the new in-school suspension law.

- Suspension of binding arbitration requirements for two years while we confront our economic troubles. At the end of the two-year suspension, I propose that we limit mandatory subjects of binding arbitration to salaries and benefits only – not scheduling, the size of parking spaces, picnics and parties on state time and the dozens of other subjects currently included.

- Flat funds – state aid to municipalities for the next 2 years.

- No cuts to education aid. No cuts to any state grant program. None.

- Help cities and towns through regionalism, a much discussed concept that must finally be put into action. Municipalities can and should cut costs by sharing – sharing equipment, facilities, schools, personnel and more.

- Budget provides $40 million in new grants for infrastructure and equipment for municipalities that want to join together to provide services like recycling, tax collection and payroll. And a new $10 million grant will be available to purchase shared equipment – snow plows, dump trucks, garbage trucks. .. LOCIP and TAR – will be adjusted, at current funding levels, to provide 10 percent bonuses to those towns which join together on regionally beneficial programs.

- Reform of our probate court system... overhaul that will reduce the number of courts, improve services and increase the hours of operation.

- Creating an Office of Accountability and asking each state agency to appoint an Accountability Officer... will be responsible for detecting – up front – fraud and waste by personnel and in the use of state property. They will ensure that resources, including cars, phones and computers, are used for legitimate purposes.

- Budget will include an additional $1.7 million in new monies to expand elderly nutrition programs, including home delivery and congregate meals, as well as for stocking food pantries and shelters around the state. ... expanding eligibility for federal food assistance so as to help an additional 19,000 people.

- Setting aside $7.5 million in the budget to bring back the concept of Civilian Conservation Corps...Connecticut Conservation Corps would hire people in need of work, particularly those with dependents, and pay them a decent wage to help with projects such as cleaning beaches and clearing trails at state parks ... put it into place by July 1.

- We cannot raise taxes on employers at this time. ... If we hold firm and neighboring states raise business taxes, as they are talking about doing, then we will be at a competitive advantage very quickly.

- “Green collar jobs”. Engineers, plumbers, chemists, scientists, HVAC technicians and builders all will benefit in a clean and green future.... introduce green principles into education, manufacturing, engineering and other aspects of business and industry... focus on specialized green job training.

- Expanding our bottle bill law to include non-carbonated beverages like water.

- Overhaul of the state’s business agencies – bringing all of our efforts, from start-up financing to business recruitment, the arts, tourism and film programs, under unified leadership at DECD – the Department of Economic and Community Development. DECD to take over responsibility for the Small Business Innovation Research program and the variety of state programs intended to encourage the development and clean-up of brownfields.

- Combine our two financing agencies – the Connecticut Development Authority and Connecticut Innovations – into the new Connecticut Economic Innovations Authority... eliminate duplication of services, ease confusion among business leaders about where to go to for help and untangle the variety of agencies, acronyms and applications that slow the process of job creation.

- Merge the vo-tech high school and community college systems, together with the state’s Office of Workforce Competitiveness, to create the Middle College System – a system of coordinated academic programs that bridge the gap between high school and higher education, allowing students to earn 60 college credits within five years of starting high school...would have access to state-of-the-art facilities and gain college-level experience tuition free.
"To State employees: You are not the reason, not the cause, of our economic troubles. But you must be a part of the solution – and sooner rather than later.

Overall: Doing more with less. Making government more affordable. No tax increases. No cuts to state aid. Mandate reform. Probate reform. Green collar jobs. Regionalization. Food and job assistance. A new Middle College system.

To those who would disparage or dismiss the cuts or reforms my budget contains: You have that right. But you also have the obligation to put your specific alternatives on the public table – and to do so soon."

Well, it sounds like a decent plan, with some interesting reductions. Can't say I am thrilled about raising certain state fees or any thought of state mandated regionalism. I haven't seen the actual budget numbers, and people are saying that the numbers don't work.

Overall, let's see what the Democrat majority does with it. Chances are we'll see plenty of squabbling. Hopefully, we'll see some action as opposed to the inaction we have experienced from past sessions.

Let the games begin.