‘We’ve not lived within our means,’ says Gov. Malloy
By Martha Marteney-Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., Mar. 30, 2011
Residents from Manchester and surrounding towns came out in great numbers to hear Gov. Daniel P. Malloy speak about his proposed biennial budget on Tuesday, March 29. The town hall-style meeting was held at the SBM Charitable Foundation auditorium at Manchester Community College. This was the 12th of Malloy’s 17 meetings, and the only one in this area of the state.
Attendance overfilled the auditorium and two overflow rooms. Originally, the meeting was to be held in the Lincoln Center. Manchester General Manager Scott Shanley said he had contacted the governor’s office to suggest a larger venue, based on the volume of calls received by the town.
After a brief opening statement, Malloy responded to questions from the audience. Subjects discussed included the need for job training, better and more affordable care for veterans, suggestions for improving the healthcare system, efficiencies in state government, and protecting the so-called safety net for people with mental health issues.
“I thought it was well-balanced,” said Manchester Director Cheri Pelletier, regarding the range of topics discussed. Although much of the budget itself was not discussed in detail, she was glad to hear community members offering so many suggestions for cost savings and improvements to efficiencies.
Bolton Selectman Bob Morra expressed concerns about the removal of the $500 home tax credit. “I thought long and hard about the tax credit,” replied Malloy, noting that the state will gain $365 million in revenue from the removal of the tax credit.
“It’s the difficult reality that I’ve laid out a budget that everyone hates,” commented Malloy at the end of the meeting. “What I’m doing here today is a testament to my hope that the framework I’ve laid out will really work.”
Several people questioned specific aspects of Malloy’s budget, and others offered suggestions for cost savings or improvements in efficiencies. Malloy asked certified public accountant Donna Roberto of Manchester for a copy of her comments and concerns about the oversight of tax filings of the proposed expansion of the earned income tax credit. Likewise, Malloy asked long-time state employee Debra Freund for her concerns over the language in his budget dealing with affirmative action and independent investigation of complaints.
"I thought the general reaction was positive,” said state Rep. Geoff Luxenberg. He said he felt that Manchester residents appreciated the governor coming here, giving them the opportunity to offer their input, and his giving them reasonable responses. “People just want to know they’re being listened to,” he said.
Malloy said the proposed budget does not include any spending increases, except for two items. The budget includes a 0.7 (seven-tenths of one percent) increase for transportation, which he said would be “alternatively funded.” According to the governor, the bulk of the spending increase relates to the so-called hospital tax, which he said is being imposed in order to receive more federal dollars to match the state’s Medicaid program.
In order to offset the increased spending, the governor is seeking concessions from state employees, and is proposing both sales and income tax increases. “We have a 3.3 billion dollar deficit,” said Malloy. “I don’t think there’s 3.3 billion dollars in cuts.”
“I thought the audience was graceful,” said state Sen. Steve Cassano, “and his [Malloy’s] answers were sincere and well thought-out.” Having budget experience himself as mayor of Manchester, Cassano noted that it is very hard for people to conceive a figure of 3.3 billion dollars. People have experience with dealing with a deficit of $3,300, but not 3.3 billion dollars.