Bristol legislators State Reps. Whit Betts (R-78) and Cara Pavalock (R-77), and State Sen. Henri Martin (R-31) joined their legislative colleagues in the General Assembly in convening for a special session on Dec. 8 called by Gov. Dannel Malloy to deal with what the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projects to be deficits of $358 million for FY17 and $3.5 billion in the years following.
A press release from the Republicans explained that for the last two months, Republican and Democrat leadership and Malloy have engaged in budget discussions to try and close the budget hole and fix Malloy’s recent cuts aimed at hospitals, Medicaid and “our most-vulnerable residents.”
The news release said the governor agreed to hold bi-partisan talks to address the problem, finally giving Republicans a seat at the table, but talks failed when Democrats “refused to include long-term structural reforms as part of the final deficit mitigation plan,” said the press release. Included in that plan were additional funding cuts to Bristol Hospital in the amount of $2.6 million.
“I cannot and will not support a budget that continues the five year trend of taking away millions of dollars from our community hospitals – especially Bristol Hospital where their employees work so hard to provide the best possible care to all our families,” said Betts, according to the press relase. “Moreover, this budget does nothing to address the critical need for serious structural reform to control government spending. Again, we are merely putting a Band-Aid in place, which does not address the massive deficit we are facing next year of $500 million or in the out years of $3.5 billion.”
“Only five months following the budget passed by the majority-party and Governor Malloy, we are now trying to fix a problem which they have created in passing a horrible budget which I and my colleagues fought against, said Pavalock in the press release. “This proposed plan a short-sighted fix which almost guarantees that we will be dealing with deficits again in the future because the majority party refused to include the necessary, long-term structural changes that would bring about meaningful reform.”
“I was encouraged that Republicans, who have long been shut out of budget discussions, were invited into the negotiation room to share our ideas and solutions,” said Martin in the press release. “Those bipartisan talks must continue going forward. Unfortunately, Republicans’ ideas about reducing the size and scope of Connecticut government were not included in the budget bill. The bill I voted no on uses a Band-Aid to stop the state’s budget bleeding when we should be using a tourniquet. Going into 2016, I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on those necessary structural budget changes. We have got to get off this treadmill of higher taxes if we want to turn our anemic economy around and stop the exodus of jobs and residents from our state. That will continue to be my top priority as state senator. I am fed up with tax hikes and annual budget crises. I know the people of greater Bristol are fed up, too. I was also disappointed that this budget bill makes a large cut to Bristol Hospital – our top community resource which serves our most vulnerable residents so well and so efficiently. That shortsighted cut makes absolutely no sense at all. We can and must do better.”
An amendment was put forth by House Republicans which included the same changes to the business taxes as the proposed plan, said the GOP press release. However, the release said, the Republican plan did not make any cuts to hospitals or to vital social services, and instead focused on long-term structural changes. Both Betts and Pavalock supported the amendment, which was defeated along party lines by a vote of 77 to 63.