Boucher: Why is there no budget? One party controls the process and the votes

Turn on the news or read a newspaper opinion page and you are likely to see residents and writers urge the “legislature” to do its job and pass a state budget. They’re right. Our state desperately needs a budget.

However, the whole legislature didn’t fail to pass a budget. One party, the Democrat majority party failed.

Connecticut Republicans proposed multiple budgets and offered revisions throughout the year. Our proposals would increase funding for education and protect services for the most vulnerable. We offered structural changes to achieve savings without tax increases.

When Democrats failed to produce their own budget, we offered to work with them to update our budget with their suggestions. We called for votes on our budgets and the governor’s budget. Republicans have done everything possible to move the legislature to act.  

But Democrat lawmakers shut all our efforts down.

Despite electoral gains by Republicans, Democrats retain the slimmest of a majority in state government and, therefore, control of the process.

The most direct evidence of this is the hastily called session to approve nearly 30 state employee union agreements brokered by the Governor. Not a single Republican voted for this ten-year, no layoff package. It still passed the Senate by a 19-18 vote.

Democrats can do the same with a budget. So, why have the Governor and the majority party not called us to vote instead of purposely delaying funding for schools and social services?

It begs the question: Are they using our schools and property taxpayers as hostages to force wavering Democrats into approving even more and higher taxes to pay for those state labor contracts that will create future deficits?

That would be more of the same.

Democrats controlled this process for more than 38 years. Most recently, they’ve had two terms of control of the legislative and executive branches of government simultaneously. This Governor and Democrats had an historic opportunity to address Connecticut’s fiscal problems and put it on sound financial footing. But that hasn’t happened.

This week, House Democrats released a new budget proposal that raises and expands the sales tax. Again, more of the same.

Increasing and expanding the sales tax is not the answer. Connecticut residents and businesses already are taxed too much! Additionally, those hurt most by this regressive measure will be seniors on fixed incomes and those with the lowest incomes.

Because the poor and fixed income residents have limited money to spend, they have to make every dollar count. Increasing the sales tax further limits what they can afford.

Additionally, an increase could reduce instead of increase sales tax revenues; much like increasing income tax rates caused taxpayer exoduses and eroding revenue.

Even the Governor said he doesn’t believe we should increase the sales tax. I’ve heard similar rumblings from some of my Democrat colleagues.

Which explains why we don’t have a state budget.

Democrats have a majority, but a majority of Democrats cannot agree how to solve the state’s financial problems.

Democrats agreed on passing a labor agreement that leaves us with fewer options to close the budget deficit and makes it more difficult to provide the necessary services to vulnerable populations without tax increases.

The new House Democrat budget contains more than a sales tax increase and legislators need to study what is in it. However, we need to act fast.

Governor Malloy has proposed stripping state education funding from 85 of Connecticut’s 169 communities. Another 54 communities will have funding drastically reduced.

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano asked the state Attorney General whether the executive order containing these draconian cuts is even legal. We believe it’s not.

As budget conversations continue, Republicans continue to advocate for the policies we outlined in our budgets. We continue to fight for a new, fair Education Cost Sharing formula, which distributes funding based on poverty, population, need and other factors without decimating our towns as Democrat proposals would.  

Republicans have not prevented approval of a state budget. We stand by our proposals and continue to advocate for the state’s best interests. We won’t stop until a new budget passes.

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.