8:19 PM EDT, April 19, 2013
A spokesman for Connecticut's cities and towns called the biennial budget proposed by the legislature's Appropriations Committee "a mixed bag" for his constituency on Friday. Actually, that's pretty good, considering the fiscal pall that hangs over the state.
There is no ever-flowing gusher of revenue to make budgeting easy. If only state employees contracts were reopened to give the taxpayers some relief.
Other than for judges, who would get a 5.3 percent raise under the committee proposal, and the advocacy agencies such as the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (some of which, astoundingly, get spending increases), nearly everybody else funded by the state can claim no better than "a mixed bag."
And that's even considering the fact that the Appropriations Committee blueprint is about $50 million higher than the $43 billion two-year budget proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in February. That the committee is proposing to spend $50 million more than the governor is an added slap in the face of taxpayers.
In total, its proposal would push state spending up by nearly 10 percent over two years. That's too much. Mr. Malloy and the legislature need to get spending under control.
Municipalities are yelping even though the committee restores some of the money taken from them under the governor's budget — while committee budget writers left intact the harmful half a billion dollars in cuts to the state's hospitals.
The Appropriations Committee's other big mistake was to cut much of the funding that Mr. Malloy had allocated to education reform, the governor's highest priority. Education — elimination of the achievement gap, better student performance, higher graduation rates, an end to failing schools, developing a highly trained workforce — is key to Connecticut's growth and to a high quality of life over the long term.
After the progress made in the last two years, reform advocates say the committee's budget cuts "take Connecticut back to square one."
Education should be a high priority. And less spending in other areas — such as employees' post-retirement benefits, longevity payments and overtime — is a must.
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