Since state Rep. Bill Hamzy took office 15 years ago, the state budget has nearly tripled while Connecticut’s population has barely grown.
And now that it’s facing at least a $7 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year, the Plymouth Republican said, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly only wants to raise taxes again and “not cut one dime” in spending.
But Bristol’s Democrats say that’s not true.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a 79th District Democrat, said he’s gotten “hundreds and hundreds of emails” urging him not to cut state services.
“But we can’t avoid cuts,” he said, “or taxation will be unbelievable.”
But Democrats admit they’re ready to consider tax hikes.
“We can’t be cutting all over the place,” state Rep. Betty Boukus, a 22nd District Democrat said.
Another Bristol Democrat, the 77th District’s Chris Wright, said that lawmakers are going through the budget line by line to figure out if there are tax breaks they can toss out or revise to secure more money.
Scaling back sales tax exemptions, which cost the state $5 billion a year, is one possibility, Wright said.
“For some reason, we don’t tax yarn,” said state House Speaker Chris Donovan, a Meriden Democrat. “We also don’t tax yachts.”
“So we’re looking for some more Y things,” he joked.
State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who has represented the 31st District since 1992, said that resolving the budget crisis is not a partisan issue.
“We’re all in this boat together,” Colapietro said.
The senator said the goal is “to hurt the least amount of people possible.”
Colapietro said the Democrats “don’t disagree with what” Gov. Jodi Rell “has to say about the pain” that’s going to be necessary.
“We’d just allocate it differently,” said Colapietro, whose district includes Plymouth, Plainville, Bristol and part of Harwinton.
He said the trick is to use a scalpel, not a meat cleaver, to pare the state’s spending.
Nicastro said that Democrats understand they can’t “drive business away” or the economy won’t recover.
Wright said that “a more progressive income tax” is certainly one possible source of extra revenue.
There’s a chance, too, that the state might hike the sale tax generally, Wright said.
Boukus said that taxes will rise for sure. “But there will be cuts, too,” she said.
Hamzy said the Democrats have to drop their arrogance and make a serious effort to deal with the budget crisis.
He said he thinks that people “are waking up” to what’s been happening in Hartford for years.
The Democrats plan to present an initial state budget plan this week. It is likely to diverge from Rell’s proposal in a number of areas, they said.
“It’s a challenge,” Donovan said. “But, hey, it’s Connecticut. We’ll get through it.”
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org