Budget plan includes eventual closure of juvenile prison
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut legislators will return to the Capitol on Tuesday to fix the state’s out-of-balance budget, overhaul business taxes, protect transportation revenues and begin closing the state’s juvenile detention center and a facility for severely developmentally disabled adults.
The midyear special legislative session comes six months after the General Assembly adjourned its regular session, which was marked by struggles to pass a balanced state budget.
While legislative leaders could not reach a bipartisan agreement in recent weeks on how to close an approximate $350 million shortfall that has developed in this year’s $20 billion budget, the General Assembly’s majority Democrats said they believe they will have enough support from their members to pass a package Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will sign into law. Democrats said the plan, the details of which they did not release on Monday, incorporates ideas from the legislature’s minority Republicans.
“While this may or may not be a bipartisan vote, it is a bipartisan package,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said it’s unclear whether any GOP lawmakers will vote Tuesday for the final version of the package, which was still being ironed out Monday afternoon. He said he hadn’t seen the language.
Democratic Senate leaders said the proposal includes $350 million in cuts for the current fiscal year and at least $212 million in subsequent reductions for fiscal year 2017. At the same time, it restores some of the unpopular reductions Malloy already made to hospitals and social service agencies. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the cuts are more spread out across state government and “nick” programs rather than “cut deeply.”
Democrats said the plan also makes “structural changes” to the budget that will have long-term effects, such as a plan to eventually close the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown for delinquent youths and the Southbury Training School for disabled adults.
Republicans made similar suggestions during the recent budget-cutting talks.
Fasano said it currently costs the state about $543,000 a year to house each delinquent youth at CJTS, which has come under recent criticism for its use of isolation and restraints. Fasano said there are about 68 youths at the facility, about 20 or 23 of whom are considered violent. He said the state should find alternatives.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers also plan to vote on a separate bill that could lead to a “lock box,” which is supposed to prevent transportation revenues from being spent on other programs. That’s something Malloy, who has proposed a 20-year, $100 billion transportation overhaul, has requested. Ultimately, it will require voters to approve an amendment to Connecticut’s constitution.
A major component of the midyear budget plan includes changes to the state’s business taxes, which have been criticized by companies as anti-business. The list includes modifications to various taxes, credits and exemptions, including how corporate taxes are calculated and a higher cap on corporate tax credits that certain businesses can take.
Malloy, who called lawmakers back to the Capitol for Tuesday’s special session, has said such steps are needed to make Connecticut’s business climate “one of the strongest in the region.” The proposed changes come as the state tries to persuade General Electric Co. to keep its headquarters in Connecticut.