The Capitol Beat: February 4-8, 2013

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

February 4, 2013 – February 8, 2013

Governor Dannel Malloy this week unveiled his proposed budget for the next two years, covering 2014 and 2015.  As you can imagine in the pressure cooker that is the Capitol, most people had an opinion about it, not all favorable and not all unfavorable, which means he provided the Legislature with a blueprint from which to begin budget negotiations in earnest.

First the Budget in Abbreviated Form 

Governor Malloy’s budget calls for spending $21.5 billion in 2014—a 5.1 percent increase over last year, and $22.3 billion in 2015, which is a 3.9 percent increase.  The Governor’s proposal is balanced built on the assumption that revenues will increase by 3.7 percent in 2014 and 4.7 percent in 2015, and that the Legislature will approve – by a 3/5ths majority – an adjustment in statute that will enable certain expenses to be removed from under the spending cap and defined as bonded indebtedness (i.e. accrued pension liability). The statutory change would also allow all new 100-percent federally funded programs to be exempt from the cap in 2014.  If approved as presented, these measures would keep the budget under the constitutional spending cap by $1.4 million in 2014, and $91 million in 2015.

The single biggest cuts to the budget proposed by the Governor come from carrying forward the $250 million in deficit mitigation reductions approved in the December Special Session and the $70 million in recessions he put forth in November.  Finally, in addition to extending the Electric Generation Tax and the 20% Corporate surcharge (both scheduled to sunset), and maintaining changes to the Insurance Premium Tax adopted in December, the biennial budget calls for extending from 2016 to 2018 (saving $200 million in each year of biennium) the state’s payment on the Economic Recovery bonds used to cover the deficit back in 2009.  Who remembers that? Go to the head of the class!

Other issues and concepts that were the topic of committees, public hearings and news conferences this week included proposals to:

  • Require labeling any product that contains or comes in contact with genetically-engineered substances – get rid of all that Canola oil folks. (News conference foreshadows proposals likely to come from Environment or Public Health committee).
  • Beat childhood obesity.  Still in the conceptual stage, but the Children’s Committee this week took steps to begin drafting a bill aimed at childhood obesity; they will not, however, according to the House chair, be taking a cue from Mayor Bloomberg on this one but instead are likely to take a more global view of the issue.
  • Move Connecticut to a single-payer health care system – a bill near and dear to former House Speaker Chris Donovan – but one that never quite made the cut.  Stay tuned.
  • Outlaw political “robo calls,” or at least make them subject to the “Do Not Call” list.
  • Prevent or punish those who practice price gouging during storms. Gauging from its title this proposal is aimed at those who cross the supply-and-demand threshold.
  • Require background checks on certain gun owners and restrict, license or otherwise ban certain types of firearms.
  • Offer incentives for municipalities to promote so-called Transit- Oriented Development and smart growth project

Finally, highlights in the week ahead include:

Monday, February, 11, 2013:  The following committees: Program Review and Investigations; Government, Administration and Elections; and Environment will hold public hearings and/or meetings at various times at the LOB.  Go to our website:  “Happenings at the Capitol” for times and locations.

Tuesday February 12, 2013:  State holiday (for some public employees and offices). LOB offices closed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013:  The Appropriations Committee will begin hearings on the Governor’s budget at 9:30 a.m.  The Regulations and Protection and Transportation agencies will lead off. Public testimony on these portions of the budget will begin at 6:30 p.m.  The hearings will continue through February 22.

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