Budget cuts may be twice as deep as this year

- FILE - State Capitol building in Hartford. (WTNH / Noelle Gardner)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — One prominent state lawmaker called it “a collision course, ready to explode.” He was talking about the explosive amount of red ink next year.

While Governor Malloy was in Washington Wednesday, state government’s top two numbers guys gave lawmakers the bleak budget news that could result in cuts twice as deep as the ones made this year. More than 2,000 jobs were cut this year and many social programs were slashed and it is not nearly enough.

“It’s going to be twice the amount that we did last year because the pot that we’re gong to be reducing is a lot smaller,” said Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven) the co-chair of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

“It’s a collision course with like a train wreck. It’s gonna happen, it’s just a question of when,” said Sen. Scott Frantz (R-Greenwich) the ranking member of the legislature’s Finance Revenue and Bonding Committtee.

Those were some of the conclusions after the state’s two top budget gurus painted the grim picture of the budget challenges next year for lawmakers and the Governor.

About half of the one-and-a-quarter billion dollars in red ink facing state government are expenses that can’t be cut. Bills that must be paid.

“There’s very little we can do. We have a contractual, legally enforceable commitment to make payments to existing retirees,” the Governor’s budget director, Ben Barnes told lawmakers.

That bill that must be paid is not for any current state employee pensions, but for the approximately 30,000 state employees that are already retired and have state guaranteed pension promises that were never funded in the past. Plus, for thousands of retired public school teachers that have the same legally binding pension promise.

That means the billion dollars in spending cuts must come from just half of the state’s expenses.

And that’s not all; the rich in Connecticut are not getting richer so they’re paying less and less in taxes.

“The top fifty taxpayers alone lost $2.9 billion in income which translates into a state budget revenue loss of $217 million last year.

“We cannot ignore any options that are out there that can bring revenues to the state of Connecticut because we can not eliminate services and expect the state to thrive,” said Rep. Walker.

Gov. Malloy has already said that he plans to propose some sort of changes in the state’s tax structure.

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