State Budget Battle Far From Over

 The State Senate passed a budget in a special session by a narrow margin, but the spending plan faces some road blocks.

Tax increases and cutbacks were combined in the spending plan. After three hours of debate, the budget passed 19-16, with four democrats joining Senate republicans in rejecting the plan.

"This budget will impose on Connecticut citizens and businesses an additional two point five billion dollars in new taxes, beyond what they're already paying," said Sen. Andrew Roraback, a republican from Goshen.

The Democrats have prepared a budget that they argue spares the needy and avoids taxes as severe as in most nearby states. Still, tax increases include $.75 cents a pack more for cigarettes, and new 6-7.5% income tax increases for the wealthy.

"It increases at five hundred thousand to six percent, at six hundred thousand to six point five percent, and at seven hundred fifty thousand to seven point five percent," said Sen. Eileen Daily, a democrat from Westbrook.

The wealthy also face a 30% surcharge for three years on the inheritance tax, and businesses face a 25% percent surcharge for three years on the corporate income tax.

Republicans said businesses will pass on in higher prices.

"And the average family in Connecticut will pay $500 to $1,000 more a year in taxes under this budget," said Sen. Dan Debicella, a republican from Stratford.

Spending cuts over the next two years include cuts of $190 million in payments to outside consultants, $70 million by tightening corrections spending and closing two prisons now that prison inmates are being released on parole, and to save $125 million the state suspends its payments to teachers' pensions and health insurance funds.

Democrats said it's a responsible budget the state can enact before the end of the fiscal year.

"More than that, we sought to reinvent government and come up with and develop a more efficient government for the people of this state," said Sen. Toni Harp, a democrat from New Haven.

The budget goes to the house on Friday. Gov. M. Jodi Rell is expected to veto the bill, if it passes in the House.

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