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Hot Topics: Opening Day and State of the Union Concessions

Here's the latest from Hartford.

When the General Assembly reconvenes on Wednesday, Feb. 8, local lawmakers plan to mark the day with more simplicity than spectacle.

“I’ve nothing planned so far for Opening Day,” said state Rep. Fred Camillo, a Republican representing Greenwich in the 151st House District. “I usually bring several friends and family members up, but this year, I have been busy with projects and work in the home district so I need to think about that in the coming days!”

State Sen. Beth Bye, a Democrat representing several municipalities in the 5th Senate District including West Hartford, usually brings her family to hear the State of the State. However, this year she is bringing a 5th-grade student from Morely School.

“I talked with her parents ...it turns out she is very interested in government so I invited Soiban Boyle, and she is very excited,” Bye said.

“As for Opening Day, this will be my 14th, but it still remains very exciting and humbling to begin a new year of service to my constituents and state,” said state Rep. TR Rowe, a Republican representing Trumbull in the 123rd House District. “I've saved all my opening day tickets and display them proudly in my office, and will have another one to add on the 8th.” 

“This year will actually be my first "opening day," as I was elected in a special election last February - thus I do not yet have any traditions,” said state Rep. James Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District. “I had not planned on anything special, just continuing to work hard to make sure my bills are ready.”

STATE OF THE UNION CONCESSIONS

Connecticut's financial problems will likely extend beyond the current biennium's projected deficits, said local lawmakers.

Fred Carstensen, Director for the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at UConn said he doesn't think the April 2011 consensus revenue forecast from the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Policy Management is correct. That forecast says revenue, under the tax structure, should improve 5.1 percent FY 2012-2013.

“That seems highly unlikely as it relies on rapid economic growth of the same magnitude. Growth is unlikely to be more than 2 or 2.5 percent–which can not credibly generate 5.1 percent growth in revenue,” Carstensen said. “Moreover, Wall Street is shifting to more salary, less bonus, which means that those living in Connecticut but working in NYC will have less non-wage income on which to pay tax in Connecticut. So I anticipate revenues will be significantly lower than OFA/OPM projections, and that the budget will therefore slide back into deficit–as is now projected for FY 2012. FY 2013 will be significantly worse.”

Local lawmakers weighed in on how the state should deal with the economic situation.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican representing Bethel, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton in the 26th Senate District wants the unions to sit back down at the negotiating table. She said though a deal was reached last session, there are ways to get them to renegotiate, starting with asking them to come on good faith.

Carstensen doesn’t expect that to happen, but he does expect changes in the budget nonetheless.

“I doubt there would be any renegotiation. It does mean there will be probably be more budget adjustments,” Carstensen said. “The unknown is how quickly the major bonded capital projects will kick into the revenue stream. The busway and Bioscience/Jackson labs will both boost tax revenue in the short term.” 

“I think the Governor, is being conservative with projections about potential deficit and making revisions now instead of later. I think, given the past few years, conservative is good,” Bye said. “As for union concessions, they conceded about a billion. Many are still very angry with Governor.”  

Rowe said he think the state's fiscal situation is worse than the Governor says.

“The recent is an obvious sign of that. The Governor and his majority democrats passed the largest tax hike in state history, refused to cut spending, and only months later, we find ourselves back in the red,” Rowe said. “That failure to responsibly address our budget woes speaks for itself. We can cut spending and maintain a proper safety net–we simply need the willpower to do so.”

Going into the next session, Albis said everything must be considered, whether it’s asking the unions to renegotiate or cutting more spending.

“We didn't get into a $3.5 billion deficit entering the current fiscal year overnight and we're not going to solve all of our financial problems overnight either,” Albis said. “I don't think it's a secret that Connecticut has a lot of work to do. We have debt upwards of $70 billion, much of it money borrowed to fund pension obligations. That being said, I think we've taken steps in the right direction since the beginning of 2011, such as not borrowing to fund obligations, and transitioning to GAAP accounting.”

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