Wilton reps vote for state budget
All three of Wilton’s state legislators — Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26), Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) — voted in favor of a compromise budget adjustment plan during the final hours of May 9, the last day of the 2018 legislative session. Gov. Dannel Malloy signed it into law on May 15.
The budget, which benefited from a one-time influx of tax revenue, contains no tolls and no new taxes, and prevents the cuts Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker had threatened, including rail fare hikes and a cut in service on the Danbury branch line.
It provides the lowest average growth rate in the state budget’s general fund in several decades, the governor said.
That may be so, but Lavielle told The Bulletin this budget does little good for the future.
“As a current budget, if we didn’t have to exist in the future, it would have been great,” she said. “We are going to continue to run into trouble and the enormous unfunded liabilities of the state are going to grow.
“It would be misleading to say this budget solves any but our most immediate problems,” she said. “All the others are still there untouched.”
“The budget adjustment we passed last week had just enough positives in it to win my support, but I will admit that the Republican amendment we proposed was much better,” O’Dea said in a press release.
“The adjustment restores funding for the Medicare Savings Program, which assists over 100,000 seniors in the state, and provides municipal aid and education funding to our towns all without increasing taxes. We also fully fund scheduled transportation projects without resorting to tolls.”
Among the items in it, the compromise budget:
- Restores full funding for municipal aid — $28.4 million more than appropriated in fiscal year 2019 (as originally enacted) and $70.5 million more than in fiscal year 2018.
- Fully funds the fiscal year 2019 Education Cost Sharing grants.
- Fully funds the Special Transportation Fund.
- Provides $16 million to the Retired Teachers’ Healthcare Fund for a full statutory contribution of 33%. (The state’s contribution had dropped to 18%.)
- Realizes $7 million in savings by adopting a hard hiring freeze.
- Provides $5 million for emergency placements for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Includes a rainy day fund that is set to reach more than $1 billion next year.
Nevertheless, the state will end fiscal year 2018 without having closed its $386.7-million deficit. That will have to be addressed with money from the state’s budget reserve fund.
According to Malloy, the state faces out-year deficits of $1.96 billion in fiscal year 2020, growing nearly $600 million per year thereafter. The budget reserve fund will be at $1.16 billion by the end of fiscal year 2019.
“I think we can do much better in future budget sessions, specifically in regard to union labor contracts, our unfunded liabilities, and tax reform, but I believe we made progress this session and I am proud of that,” O’Dea said.
Both O’Dea and Lavielle supported the GOP budget, which was called on the House floor as an amendment.
“What we had done in our budget was to say of what’s left in the rainy day fund, let’s leave a third, take a third and pay down long-term liabilities on the state retirement pension fund ,and use another third to pay down the teachers’ retirement fund,” Lavielle said. “That would have stopped those things from growing and make a significant reduction in the liabilities we’ve accumulated.”
As it stands, those liabilities, along with bonded debt, will grow to close to $100 billion.
SB 543, An Act Concerning Revisions to the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 and Deficiency Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018, passed the House 142-8 and the Senate unanimously.