Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Rell Budget

Governor Rell just unveiled her budget proposal (full text here, greatest hits here), and to tell the truth, we are still going through it. Heidi will probably give some pointers on the good, the bad and the ugly on it; for know, it seems that I was mistaken and there are no cuts (at least no big ones) on help for cities and education funding. A good thing. In addition, Rell has talked quite a bit on cooperation between towns, positive if well implemented; in that I am a bit less confident.

The amount of reorganizing is pretty substantial on a first look, with a pretty indiscriminate trimming of the miriad of commissions that populate the state. In terms of services, higher education got big cuts, and low income people will be asked to pay more for health care.

Reaction by legislators has been mixed; Jonathan Pelto really, really doesn´t like it, though, and my Left Nutmegg calls it "awful".

Aside of all that, one random question: what´s up with the legislature obsession with a bottle bill? I know it is important, but it is really that important? Can anyone explain?


  1. The Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) has posted its analysis of Governor Rell’s budget proposal:

    Bob Genuario, Secretary of the Office of Policy & Management, presented the Governor’s budget to the Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon. Committee members had plenty of questions about the budget. One of the largest concerns is that the Governor’s budget estimates a budget deficit of $6 billion over two years while the Office of Fiscal Analysis is projecting a much larger two-year deficit of about $8.7 billion. In effect, there is concern that the Governor’s budget is not balanced. The $2.7 billion gap, if accurate, means that the legislature must address this discrepancy when it crafts its budget proposal.

    Concerns were also raised at the Appropriations Committee meeting that the Governor’s budget relies heavily on one-time revenue, which will not be available in past FY10-11.

    For those interested in examining how the media is covering the Governor’s budget proposal in different parts of the state, below are links to a sampling of newspaper stories and editorials:

    Hartford Courant:
    Governor Proposes To Reshape Government
    A look at the impact on state agencies: A Closer Look At The State Budget
    'Middle College' System Proposed
    Rell's Budget Politically Appealing: Does It Add Up?
    Business Leaders Supportive, Yet Wary, Of Rell Plans
    Some Officials Oppose Eliminating State Consumer Counsel's Office
    Dan Haar opinion: Business Can Offer Lessons, To A Point
    Editorial: Gov. Rell's Truly Bold Budget
    State Budget Searchable Database

    Manchester Journal Inquirer:
    Rell’s budget under fire
    Governor’s budget draws confusion, complaints
    MCC a model for Rell college plan
    Editorial: Rell gets real

    CT News Junkie:
    Opinion by Jonathan Pelto: OP-ED: It's Budget Day In Connecticut
    Husky Population Asked To Share BurdenOffice of Health Care Advocate Gets the Ax
    Rell's Higher Ed CutsCould Mean Tuition Hike

    Connecticut Post:
    Rell returns fire on health care cuts
    Budget cuts could kill local projects
    Editorial: Rell to Assembly: A blueprint for leaner government

    New London Day:
    Rell proposes deep spending cuts
    Rell looks to state unions for $295M in savings 'Green jobs' may be at risk
    Editorial: Rell's budget offers chance for change

    Stamford Advocate:
    Rell budget plan to slash jobs
    Mixed reaction from Fairfield County
    Rell wants to merge Wright Tech, NCC
    Rell wants to cap tax credits for film companies
    Rell seeks $295M in union concessions

    Rell's budget draws mixed reviews
    Editorial: Gov. Rell talks the right talk

  2. Governor M. Jodi Rell presented her proposed budget earlier this week. She said the budget makes for a leaner more efficient government that would position the state to soar when the economy recovers.

    Connecticut’s future prosperity and competitiveness hinges on developing robust downtowns and urban centers; fostering desirable communities where millennials can start their careers, Gen X-ers can start their families, and baby boomers can transition to the challenges of aging within walking distance of shopping, recreation, education opportunities and easy access to transit. That behooves the state to play a significant role in reducing cities and towns’ reliance on the property tax to pay for government services; improve regional cooperation to realize efficiencies in government service delivery and coordinate land use & economic development at a sustainable scale; and invest strategically in assets that guarantee a positive long-run return to the state’s economy, environment and society – investments in transit, transit oriented development, brownfield revitalization, affordable housing, and priority property preservation.
    Does the Governor’s proposed budget advance smart growth in the next biennium? Not so much.

    The Governor proposes a one-year $40 million grant program that encourages towns to provide services like trash collection, road maintenance, animal control, etc. regionally.

    At the same time, the budget:
    • reduces bonding to cities and towns,
    • eliminates planning grants to municipalities,
    • reduces previous bond authorizations for planning by half,
    • eliminates state-sponsored education for land use commissioners,
    • eliminates funding for regional planning organizations,
    • eliminates the regional incentive grant program,
    • zeros the regional performance grant,
    • cuts Payments in Lieu of Taxes for colleges and hospitals and PILOT for state-owned property in all of our major cities except Hartford.

    For smart growth advocates, other worrisome items in the budget include a proposal to switch all Department of Environmental Protection special funds to the General Fund – this includes the emergency spill response program and underground storage tank cleanup. The budget narrative says this would open the funds to the transparency of the appropriations process. 1000 FRIENDS vociferously supports greater transparency and accountability in government but clearly there’s more going on here than openness.

    DEP loses its dedicated funds and its lines in the Governor’s budget reflect a 7.44 percent cut in the biennium with $12 million lost in 09/10 only $7.1 million of which would be recovered in 10/11.

    The Governor proposes big changes to the Department of Economic and Community Development. It will absorb the Office of Workforce Competitiveness and the Commission on Culture and Tourism. DECD is currently responsible for a number of growth and development programs. They include:
    • brownfield remediation and redevelopment,
    • affordable housing,
    • Main Street development, and
    • urban redevelopment.
    • The Commission on Culture and Tourism is responsible for historic preservation – a key concern when redeveloping older neighborhoods.

    DECD takes on significantly more responsibility with the Governor’s proposed budget, but it loses $10.3 million in 09/10 and another $4 million in 10/11. And the CCT loses all $33 million of its funds.

    Transportation fares little better. The Transportation Strategy Board is eliminated and the Special Transportation Fund receives an anemic four percent infusion.

    The Governor includes $1.9 billion in federal stimulus dollars in her budget. Given this week’s tussling in the U.S. Senate, this amount seems optimistic. The current deficit projected by the Office of Fiscal Analysis is close to $3 billion deeper than the Governor’s budget reflects. Obviously, the Connecticut General Assembly will have to consider both cuts and revenue enhancements in the coming weeks.

    Smart growth advocates need to help them keep the endgame in sight as they do. If they chose well, we can grow smart and sustainably. We can weather the recession and come out stronger. If not, we’ll see further urban disinvestment, lose even more land, be stuck in our cars in traffic and no one will relocate their homes or businesses here because they won’t be able to afford our housing!