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Senator Boucher: More Detailed Information About the Republican ‘Blueprint for Prosperity’

While most other states have recovered from the deep recession and are prospering, Connecticut faces another $121 million deficit in the budget that ends June 30, 2015 and more than a billion dollar deficit in each of the next 2 years. Borrowing, fringe and pension benefits have reached unsustainable levels that have rating agencies giving the state a negative outlook and Connecticut’s unfunded liabilities are at a crisis stage.

Report by Paula Antolini
April 24, 2015 8:55AM EDT

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BLUEPRINT FOR PROSPERITY

While most other states have recovered from the deep recession and are prospering, Connecticut faces another $121 million deficit in the budget that ends June 30, 2015 and more than a billion dollar deficit in each of the next 2 years. Borrowing, fringe and pension benefits have reached unsustainable levels that have rating agencies giving the state a negative outlook and Connecticut’s unfunded liabilities are at a crisis stage.

The Governor took a different path than other governors by giving raises of up to 12% to his employees while the state drowns in red ink and rolling deficits. Some have even referred to our state as “Detroit on the Sound”. The financial condition is so bad -worse than the income state year of 1991, according to state financial experts-that that administration has thrown up its hands and punted its budget responsibilities to the legislature. This situation has Democrats equally frustrated.

As they did in 2011, the Minority Party has once again taken the lead, crafting a balanced budget that restores the safety net and doesn’t increase the burden on families – all in the mist of this financial angst. This better budget proposal is an alternative to the higher taxes, tolls, and other layers of sales or car property taxes that the Governor and others have put forward. Those burdens will only add to the outflow of the jobs and people the state is already witnessing as families leave for taxpayer friendly states.

While the vernor offered an unbalanced budget which protects government employees and guts social services, hurt businesses and hospitals and the very heart of what makes Connecticut a great place to live – the Republican’s “Blueprint for Prosperity” includes the following:

SUPPORTING CONNECTICUT

Restores Funding, Supports Private Providers & Relief to DDS Waiting List

  • Restores Medicaid Husky A to approximately 12,100 people including all pregnant women currently covered and those at lower end of the income spectrum
  • Restores current burial benefits for indigent individuals
  • Restores funding for safety net services
  • Restores funding for nutrition assistance
  • Restores the Youth Services Prevention Grant
  • Restores $18.7 million in mental health and substance abuse funding including Regional Action Councils
  • Funds a 2% private provider COLA to benefit nursing homes, care facilities and nonprofit social services providers
  • Funds CT’s Youth Employment Program
  • Funds 47 neighborhood youth centers
  • Recommends funding under DDS for community programs for high-school graduates
  • Appropriates an additional $15 million to help alleviate DDS wait list for services for 185 intellectually disabled

Restores Support for Municipalities & Public Safety

  • Restores current funding for resident state troopers
  • Restores all funding for regional fire training schools
  • Funds the Cold Case Unit and Shooting Taskforce

Restores Support for Seniors

  • Restores current copay percentages and keeps CT Home Care Program open to new entries
  • Restores funding for blind and disabled
  • Restores funding for long-term care residents’ personal needs allowances from $50 to $60
  • Does not recommend reductions to any of the respite care programs

Restores Funds for the Environment

  • Funds CT State Parks
  • Does not transfer revenue from the Community Investment Act, thereby protects affordable housing, farmland preservation, open space and historic preservation activities
  • Funds the Kensington fish hatchery & pheasant stocking program

Restores Funds for Humanities & Tourism

  • Restores funding for CT’s Regional Tourism Districts
  • Restores funding for local venues and groups including CT Humanities Council, Mystic Aquarium, & local arts councils
  • Restores funding for libraries

Reforms Department of Children & Families

  • Does not roll forward governor’s rescissions to DCF
  • Requires legislative oversight before DCF can close a group home and does not count future savings from closing group homes made by the governor
  • Creates a truly independent ombudsman office
  • Strengthens child fatality review process, implements a quality assurance program and funds an independent review
  • Moves juvenile justice programs from DCF to the Judicial Branch

Honoring our Veterans

  • Restores Funds for Veterans’ Funeral Horse Guard
  • Restores Fund to the Honor Guard

Restores 80% of Probate Court funding

Restores Support for Cities

  • Removes the governor’s cap on Urban and Industrial Site Reinvestment Credits, therefore providing hospitals with tax relief
  • Funds the Cold Case Unit and Shooting Taskforce

TAX REFORMS

Business Tax Relief

  • Eliminates cap on business tax credits, ensuring businesses continue to invest in Connecticut
  • Eliminates the corporate tax surcharge in FY 2017 making CT more business friendly
  • Eliminates Business Entity Tax making CT more business friendly
  • Does not restrict net operating loss carryforward by corporations, ensuring businesses continue to invest in CT

Sales Tax Relief

  • Restores the exemption on clothing and shoes under $50 starting June 1, 2016 to help middle income families
  • Restores full tax freedom week

Income Tax Relief

  • Phases out the Income Tax on Pension Income under $100,000 for joint filers to help retirees stay in CT
  • Eliminates governor’s proposed income tax hike on single filers beginning in income year 2017

Tax Exemption Reform

  • Eliminates the Admissions and Dues Tax exemption for the XL Center and Webster Bank Arena
  • Eliminates single taxpayer exemption under the Public Utilities Control Tax

Hospital Tax Reform

  • Provides a total benefit to hospitals of $102 million in FY 2016 and $142.6 million in FY 2017
  • Provides an equitable tax structure which will benefit our smaller, local community hospitals
  • Includes a tax reduction of $39.4 million compared to governor’s budget
  • Modifies the proposed Medicaid rate reduction from 5.6% to 2.8% in FY2016 and eliminates the reduction completely in FY2017(cuts governor’s proposal by 50% in FY 2016 and 100% in FY 2017)

LABOR REFORM

  • Requires the governor fulfill ‘shared sacrifice’ promise and find a way to reach $253 million in unmet savings. Savings options available to the governor to achieve the above include but not limited to: additional wage freeze in the first year of the biennium, increased contributions to pension system for current state employees, increased copays for healthcare, including prescription drugs, elimination of longevity payments.
  • Recommends not placing the $100 million into the account for raises before wages have been negotiated
  • Reduces funding for overtime by over $80 million in FY 2016 and over $140 million in FY 2017
  • Creates a new Office of Overtime Accountability with budget of $150,000
  • Requires a one-year wage freeze for all state employees beginning July 1, 2016
  • Transitions seasonal, temporary, part-time employees to contribute to Deferred Compensation Plans, in lieu of Social Security

ADDITIONAL SAVINGS

  • Eliminates governor’s staff salary increases
  • No wage increase for managers in 2016
  • Reforms the Board of Regents allowing individual colleges to operate independently for budgeting purposes but collectively for HR and administrative services
  • Cuts funds to state advertising campaign
  • Consolidates permanent commissions
  • State employee savings & reduction in overtime (as mentioned above)

LONG-TERM INITIATIVES

  • Reduces debt service by instituting a bond allocation cap and a new policy to use excessive bond premiums or any other lapse in the debt service account for the payment of outstanding debt, resulting in a reduction of debt service for the state and for future generations.
  • Identifies labor savings that roll out into the future including getting excessive overtime costs under control and creating a new Office of Overtime Accountability, getting control on state’s escalating overhead.
  • Addresses problems related to pension benefits by recommending the exclusion of overtime and legislative mileage from the calculation of pension benefits and by transitioning new employees to a new hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution pension plan. Identifies exorbitant taxpayer liabilities and reconciles them with current trends.
  • Recommends moving temporary, part-time seasonal state employees to FICA Alternate Retirement Plan, exercising an option grant to us by the federal government
  • Saves money in the future by reducing Citizens’ Election Fund by moving part of that burden to supporters of the respective legislator
  • Fully funds a $67 billion transportation improvement initiative over the next 30 years. A realistic transportation plan that can begin July 1, 2016
  • Shores up the STF beginning in FY 2018, thinking ahead and funding the projected shortfall instead of passing it on to the next legislature.
  • Recommends the installation of a Privatization Planning Committee to make sure taxpayer dollars are used in the best interest of CT constituents
  • Recommends expanding the implementation of the LEAN Efficiency Program
  • Recommends the creation of a web site so that citizens will be able to make recommendations about ways that state government can save money and make its operations more efficient.
  • Recommends reforming the State’s Vehicle Use Policy to provide less flexibility in union contracts, which are allowed to override the state’s policies in many cases.
  • Recommends Office of Policy and Management review state government fuel cost/usage and cell phone allowance
  • Requests the Department of Motor Vehicles to better track the savings of using AAA and to maximize the use of AAA services with goal of achieving greater savings in future budgets.

To learn more about the Blueprint for Prosperity, visit www.CTSenateRepublicans.com follow the Senate Republicans on Twitter @CTSenateGOP and www.Facebook.com/CTsenateGOP. Follow the conversation with #GOPblueprint and #CTprosperity.

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Senator Boucher represents the 26th district towns of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

State Senator Toni Boucher
300 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT. 06106
Phone: 1-800-842-1421

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