Governor Dannel Malloy presented his plan to close the state’s $3.2 billion budget gap to a joint session of the state legislature today.
Malloy has spent much of the past two weeks rolling out plans to shrink state government, cut spending, and raise taxes. So by the time the Democrat took to the podium, there wasn’t a whole lot of mystery left. But there was a little rhetorical fun. “We have more than ten agencies whose job it is to make sure that other agencies do their job. Now I thought that was my job.” He also pointed out some strange twists in the state’s tax codes. “We tax pilates studios. But we don’t tax yoga studios. Is it because yoga people have a better lobbyist? We tax people who use valet parking unless they happening to be parking at an airport. Is there a reasonable explanation for that?” But despite all that, Malloy sounded serious notes when it came to two main items in his budget. The first is asking for $2 billion in savings from state employees. He called those savings sacrifices. “Now I know they’ve made them in the past, and I appreciate those sacrifices. But I need to ask them to do what I’m asking everyone else in this state to do: more. Because their current wage, health care, and pension benefit levels are not simply sustainable.” Despite early criticism from people who say his figures are unreasonable, Malloy said he’s not bluffing. “The alternative to [the] $2 billion figure would require us to completely shred the safety net of our fellow citizens. And it would require us to lay off thousands of state workers. Which is to say there is no alternative.” Malloy is also seeking roughly $1.5 billion dollars from new taxes. “Asking virtually everyone to share a slightly higher tax burden is the only way that we can ensure that no one group of people bears a much higher burden.” Now, it’s up to Malloy to negotiate with Democratic leaders in the state house and senate. The legislature is in session until early the Spring. For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.