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Hot Topics: Revenue Shortfall, Small Businesses, Voters' Rights

Lawmakers consider how to decrease a budget deficit and increase voters' rights.

VO-TECH VALUE

The October 2011 Jobs bill is supposed to help vo-tech schools educate skilled students needed for manufacturing growth.

“I think the jobs bill does a lot to promote workplace skills that match high demand jobs,” said state Rep. James Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District. “In addition to requiring that inform students of the programs and opportunities available at vo-tech schools, the legislature required that manufacturing technology programs be established at three vo-tech schools and three community colleges.”

State Rep. Tony Hwang, a Republican representing Fairfield and Trumbull in the 134th House District, said the bill duly recognizes the schools ability to meet the demands for manufacturing growth.

“CT Precision manufacturing is competitive and provide a much needed boost/support to our economy,” Hwang said. “Examples are Lacey Manufacturing and Covidien Healthcare – both are in the healthcare precision manufacturing and have current job openings and are looking to hire vo-tech trained students.”

Albis also said the bill encourages state colleges and universities to offer programs in high demand jobs. That should help keep students in the state upon graduation.

State Sen. Beth Bye, a Democrat representing West Hartford in the 5th Senate District, said she thinks the expansion of manufacturing programs are starting to meet workforce demand, but it isn’t enough.

“We need to encourage more of our students to consider manufacturing and create the demand for programs as well,” Bye said.

Revenue Projections Fall Short

The Office of Policy and Management and the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis crunched the numbers and came up short.

The agencies announced an agreement on consensus revenue that shows a decline of $94.9 million in FY12, or one-half of one percent of the annual budget, according to a press release. Additionally, the estimates for FY13 show a decline of $139 million or seven-tenths of a percent of the annual budget.

Because of this, many in the GOP are seeing red.

“The state budget is teetering on the edge of the deficit cliff, even though everyone is paying $1.7 billion more in taxes this year,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and Norwalk in the 143rd House District, said. “Now we find the revenue is not coming in as we expected. So there is a scramble for additional revenue like on-line gaming and Sunday sales.”

Lavielle said the union contracts reduce the state’s ability to make cuts. Vital programs are at risk.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy balanced the budget through a series of measures, including the highest tax increase in state history. Still the anticipated revenue hasn’t come.

Malloy’s office said that the state is in far better shape than it was a year ago when it was $3.5 billion down. In addition, Malloy said the budget would be balanced without further tax hikes. Instead, he said, there will be spending cuts. It remains to be seen from where those cuts will come.

The budget will be addressed during the next regular legislative session, which opens Feb. 8. Because of the shortfall Malloy won’t be able to institute Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), or pay back debt.

OPM said the revenue decline comes from an income tax revenue decline, particularly among higher income taxpayers that file quarterly returns. 

“The most likely explanation is that this is a result of taxpayers shifting capital gains and income as a result uncertainty at the federal level, specifically the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Bush-Era tax cuts,” according to the OPM. “Declines in bonus levels in the financial service industry are also a contributing factor.”

Still, that the administration appears to point to taxpayers shifting capital gains and income is problematic, Lavielle said.

“If you are depending on revenue from investments then you are in serious trouble,” she said. “I am not surprised by this. The only thing I am surprised about is hearing about it now.”

Small Business Support

“Connecticut seems to be doing better as proven by our recent bipartisan jobs bill,” said state Rep. Paul Davis, a Democrat representing Milford, Orange and West Haven in the 117th House District.We continue to work on improving the small business climate. Regulations, which may have imposed challenging mandates for business, are being more carefully scrutinized for their impact. We have already passed legislation which requires a small business impact statement when they are proposed.”

Details of Small Business Assistance Programs now in effect:

  • Revolving Loan Fund provides loans to small businesses for the purchase of machinery and equipment, construction, relocation expenses, working capital and other business-related expenses. Amounts can range from $10,000 to $100,000 for each company.
  • Job Creation Incentive Program provides loans for job creation to small businesses. Amounts range from $10,000 to $250,000 for each company. Loans may be forgiven depending on the company’s ability to create and maintain the new jobs.
  • Job Creation Matching Grant Program requires businesses to provide matching grants to any state funds awarded under this program. Amounts range from $10,000 to $100,000 for each company. Loans may be completely or partially forgiven depending on the company’s ability to create and maintain the new jobs.

Voters’ Rights (Of Way)

Gov. Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy WymanSecretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Common Cause Board Chairman Dr. Bilal Sekou want to simplify voter registration and increase access.

“I’m somebody who needs to see evidence,” Merrill said. “If we pass Election Day registration we’d join ten other states. It makes all the difference for younger voters, there’s an increase of 8 to 12 percent. That’s pretty significant.”

Proposed legislation includes:

  • Allowing for online voting registration for all Connecticut citizens with a valid and current driver’s license
  • Election Day registration to improve voter turnout
  • Statutes to govern absentee ballots, which would allow legislators to adopt laws that address voters who can’t get to polling locations on Election Day. The legislation would also increase penalties on any effort to block or impede voter access.  

“I believe that allowing for folks to register to vote online is a common sense approach to adapt to the changing times. We will be encouraging voter participation by reaching out to younger generations who are more comfortable doing tasks online,” Albis said.

Merrill said of all the proposals, Election Day registration is the most controversial.

“People are worried that voters won’t be who they say they are. But you still need to present your identification,” Merrill said. “Some are also worried that people will vote in more than one town. Frankly we should be worried that not enough are voting as it is.”

A Constitutional Amendment would be required to change the law regarding absentee ballots. Should an amendment pass, all it will do is remove the restrictive language from the law and allow a statute to govern absentee ballots.

As for voter laws,” Bye said, “I still need to see the bills...but I am generally in favor of increasing voter access. I know Denise has been spending lots of time on proposals."

Time that's needed since this is an election year, and a presidential election year at that.

“A lot of political games will be played with the legislation,” she said. 

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