Rell's budget cuts jobs, commissions

February 4, 2009 12:18:46 PM PST
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell unveiled a two-year, $38.4 billion budget Wednesday that avoids tax increases but cuts hundreds of state jobs and numerous commissions and agencies to help cover the states's growing deficit. Rell, addressing the General Assembly, said her budget shrinks state government, which grew too much during the good fiscal times.

"Yes, there is pain, there is sacrifice and there is some long overdue trimming," Rell said of her tax-and-spending plan. "Simply put: The bloat of bureaucracy is no longer affordable."

While Rell's budget chief said the proposal covers the deficits projected for the two fiscal years, starting July 1, adminstration's estimates differ from the legislature's deficit projections - which could pose challenges as the Republican governor and the Democratic-led General Assembly spend the next several months trying to reach a budget compromise.

Rell's budget office predicts a $6 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years while the Office of Fiscal Analysis says it's $8.6 billion.

Rell's budget eliminates or consolidates 23 commissions and agencies, eliminating 400 jobs through possible layoffs, attrition or reorganization. It also eliminates nearly 450 other vacant jobs.

Additional job cuts are likely in higher education.

Rell wants to eliminate commissions such as the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, the Asian-Pacific Affairs Commission, the African-American Affairs Commission and the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.

The governor is also asking for $275 million in concessions from state unions.

Her budget also raises most license fees and impose new license surcharges for bad drivers and people convicted of serious motor vehicle crimes.

Rell hopes the state will get $2 billion in federal stimulus money over three years.

The budget must be approved by the General Assembly, which has enough members in both the House and Senate to override vetoes.

Democratic leaders have already questioned whether it's possible to avoid tax increases with such a large deficit.

Rell does plan to propose some new spending - $7.5 million to create the new Connecticut Civilian Conservation Corps for the state's growing unemployed, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The new program would be mirrored after one created during the Great Depression to help young men find work. Connecticut's unemployment rate is about 7 percent.

Eligible men and women would earn wages while working on state and local public works projects such as clearing trails and cleaning parks, beaches and polluted properties. Some could work on projects funded by the expected federal stimulus money the state will receive.

Congressional analysts estimate Connecticut would get an extra $1.8 billion in federal grants from the economic stimulus package now being debated in Congress.

An analysis by the House Appropriations Committee says the money would include $1.16 billion for infrastructure improvements including highway, bridge and sewer construction, and $403 million for school renovations, Pell grants and other education programs.