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To the Community:
A package of “Half a loaf."
The Legislature and governor have had a busy off-session, attempting to address a new budget deficit for the current fiscal year. The $350 million deficit package we passed this week plugs the gap, but no one could reasonably claim that we have addressed the underlying budget program.
The budget package was composed of many compromises, forged through negotiations that included the House, the Senate, the governor and, yes, even the Republicans.
The Republicans chose to abandon the negotiations at the end, unwilling to be flexible on a few points, but a good number of their suggestions were incorporated into the final deal. That’s a good thing.
The Moderates Caucus, with the Democrat Caucus, which I lead, also played a role in shaping the package. Our recommendation that we take back a significant portion of a new, accrued but not dispersed funding source, led to over $100 million less being cut from critical services.
Hence, the “half a loaf” allusion.
No one should be happy about this outcome. Many worthy programs and initiatives will be affected.
So, if this effort wasn’t really a solution, what do we do next? I say we should start tomorrow thinking about how we establish a truly sustainable state budget.
The obvious answer is addressing spending. The challenge is that we’re dealing with roughly half the entire state budget. If you combine pension and benefits obligations, debt service and Medicaid spending, that takes up about half our $20 billion budget. So, savings totaling billions of dollars need to come from the other half. That suggests double-digit percentage cuts to many of the basic programs and services. Yes, that also means municipal aid.
This will mean that the Legislature will have to shoulder more of the load, with legislators taking ownership to become more expert about agencies and programs so that we can work with them to discover how to save money while sustaining quality service.
I’m ready to do the heavy lifting. I call on my colleagues to make such a commitment.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, Westport
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