State Rep. Bill Aman voices concern with governor's budget
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Wed., Feb. 20, 2013
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) presented his Fiscal Year 2014/15 budget to the General Assembly, he described it as an ambitious agenda that will build on job creation and education without raising new taxes. While the proposal includes $1.8 billion in spending reductions, the $41 billion biennial budget will increase spending by more than $1.77 billion and will bond $3.1 billion over the next two years. The budget has many legislators and local officials concerned, including state Rep. Bill Aman (R-14) of South Windsor.
For Aman, the budget is the latest example of the state spending faster than residents are improving income. “It's about a 9-percent increase of spending over a two-year period of time,” said Aman. “If you look at a graph of the growth of the population in the state over the last 20 to 30 years, it hasn't grown. Incomes have increased, but at a much slower percentage rate per year than state spending has.” While Malloy believes the budget will address serious deficit concerns on the horizon, Aman is less confident. “I think there will be a deficit because he has revenue projections for next year that I think are highly optimistic,” Aman said.
In a letter to mayors, first selectmen and local leaders, Malloy wrote, “At a time when states across the country are decimating local aid, no city or town in Connecticut will receive less total funding from the state than it did last year, and many will receive more.” This assertion will be made possible, he said, by $1.8 billion savings from the current state budget.
In South Windsor, Aman believes the town could be in a “break-even” position, but he won't be able to verify this with certainty until the final numbers come out. “Money is being switched around. You lose in one category and gain in another,” he said. “I don't think it's going to be substantially different from what we received last year.”
State discussion has focused on the transfer of Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or the PILOT fund, into education funding such as the Educational Cost Sharing grant. This issue is less relevant in South Windsor, as the town does not receive much PILOT money because there are not many state facilities in town. “For Hartford and New Haven, this is a huge change in their revenue structure,” Aman said.
Aman has also expressed concern that South Windsor will only receive $17,726 in additional school funding. “I would like to see an increase at least keeping with the rate of inflation, but seeing the start of the state budget, I doubt this will be possible,” he said.
One of the most discussed components of the governor's budget has been the proposed elimination of the car tax for vehicles valued under $28,000. The proposal was designed to offer relief to middle-class Connecticut families, lower costs to municipalities which will no longer be responsible for collecting those taxes, and level the playing field in a state where the mill rate on cars varies greatly from municipality to municipality.
“The car tax itself is a very inefficient and expensive tax for the town of South Windsor to collect,” said Aman. “That being said, one of the problems with eliminating the car tax as such is that – especially in the cities – the only local tax renters pay at all is the automobile tax.” Municipalities, hurting for that lost revenue, will raise property taxes on homes, and landlords in turn will raise rent fees. As a result, the renter is still paying a similar amount, but blames the landlord instead of the municipality.
“If the car tax did not exist at all, I wouldn't vote to put it in. But if you remove it at this point, I think the municipalities are going to have a lot of problems with it,” Aman said. “I don't know how you would wean the towns and cities off of it, and I definitely don't think you can do it in a two-year period.”
Aman also finds it questionable that the budget exceeds the Constitutional Spending Cap by moving $900 million in spending outside of the cap. “When the income went in in the '90s, one of the reasons why it was passed was on the agreement that the spending cap would keep government spending down, and except in emergency situations it was not supposed to be gone beyond,” he said.
“The legislature has been very creative in declaring what is an emergency situation over the years,” he said. “I'm very concerned that this sort of blatant, obvious skirting of the spending cap is going to set a trend of 'Oh, we did it this way, now we can do all the rest and get around it.'”
Aman also has strong feelings against bonding money to cover operating costs at the University of Connecticut – a move he described as spending money for two years, and paying for it for 20. “For me, that's not right to do to my grandchildren,” he said.
With these misgivings and others, Aman believes that the legislature would have to implement major changes to the budget before he could vote to pass it. However, he is not overly optimistic that the legislature would accomplish this move. “The only thing I've heard from people over at the Capitol is a desire to spend more money than Malloy put into his budget,” he said.