Gov. Dannel Malloy delivered his budget proposal on Wednesday morning, which includes more than $590 million in cuts, cutting the sales tax and sheds more light on his 30-year transportation plan.
Malloy’s budget, a 3.1 percent increase from the last fiscal year, cuts the sales tax to less than 6 percent for the first time since 1971, which the governor plans to fund by “simplifying our tax code, removing some exemptions, and by reigning in loopholes and corporate tax credits.“
The proposed budget maintains current Educational Cost Sharing funding aid to cities in towns, and he is proposing that every child in Connecticut will receive full-day kindergarten by the fall of 2017.
“Over the next two years, we’ll work with towns that don’t yet offer full day Kindergarten. We'll make sure all our youngsters receive the time they need to learn and reach their full potential – right from the moment they enter elementary school, Malloy said.
He is also proposing enabling Connecticut’s Higher Education Student Loan Authority to refinance the loans of state residents.
Malloy has already released some plans for criminal just reform, and touched upon that proposal during his speech on Wednesday, saying his bill reduces penalties “for simple drug possession to a misdemeanor,” eliminates mandatory minimums judges much sentence offenders to and “streamlines our pardon and paroles process for non-violent offenders.”
“Now, I know some will be critical of these proposals. But the truth is, these aren’t Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. These ideas are part of a growing national conversation on how to end a generational cycle of poverty, addiction, and crime. The kind of reforms I’m proposing are already happening – from Texas to California, and from Mississippi to Washington D.C.,” Malloy said.
Malloy has also said a large-scale transportation plan is coming and said the state’s economic future and ability to grow jobs is tied directly to the condition of our roads, bridges, ports, buses, rails, as well as walkways and bikeways.
Part of the 30-year transportation plan includes fixing Hartford’s I-84 viaduct to reduce congestion on I-84 and reshape Hartford neighborhoods. Malloy also said the state needs to fix the Charter Oak Bridge over the Connecticut River.
“Because of its deficiencies, cars and trucks routinely back up into travel lanes, posing a safety concern and causing more than 85 accidents every year,” Malloy said.
He proposed the following transportation upgrades:
- Route 9 in Middletown to eliminate crashes and congestion
- Replacing the “Mixmaster” in Waterbury
- Building new ramps to the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford to eliminate accidents and traffic delays
- Widening the five-mile, two-lane stretch of I-84 in Danbury between exits 3 and 8 to alleviate congestion
- Widening I-95 between Bridgeport and Greenwich
- Completing the Merritt Parkway interchange on Route 7 in Norwalk
- Widening I-95 from Old Saybrook to New London, including the interchange with I-395
- Completing Route 11
- Upgrading the Gold Star Bridge on I-95 between Groton and New London
- Boosting funding to cities and towns by doubling the Local Transportation Improvement Program
- Increasing local bridge funding
- Creating a new state-funded traffic signalization program.
Malloy is also proposing a number of rail projects:
- Expanding the capacity and improving the infrastructure of the New Haven Line
- Building train stations up and down the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line, bringing commuter rail service to Enfield, West Hartford, Newington, North Haven and Hamden
- Ddouble-tracking the entire Hartford Line from New Haven to Springfield
- Constructing new stations along the New Haven Line, including the new Barnum Station in Bridgeport, reconstruction of the Merritt 7 station in Norwalk on the Danbury Branch, and a new station in Orange
- Completing a new parking garage at Union station in New Haven to expand ridership
- Rreplacing the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, as well as rehabilitating or replacing the Devon, SAGA and Cos Cob moveable bridges on the New Haven Line
- Making improvements to the Waterbury Branch, including a new signal system, sidings and equipment to allow for increased capacity and more frequent service
- Expanding local and express bus service as well as paratransit across the state to reach unserved urban areas and markets.
The plan also takes into account walkways and bikeways, including creating a new program to help cities and towns install bike and pedestrian safety improvements, repairing existing trails that have fallen into disrepair and completing new bike and pedestrian trails across the state.
The SEIU 1199 union released a statement about Malloy's proposed budget on Wednesday afternoon:
“We understand Connecticut faces many difficult financial decisions,” said Jennifer Schneider spokesperson for SEIU 1199. “However, today’s proposed budget offers no hope for the over 2,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on Connecticut’s waiting list for residential placement services. We support the Governor’s desire to grow good jobs with good benefits and believe the best way to create home grown Connecticut jobs is to pay fair wages to caregivers at group homes for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. These caregivers do noble, brave work and do not deserve to live in poverty. We will work to convince the administration and legislators that funding to the waiting list and providing fair wages to caregivers will help build stronger communities and a brighter future for our state.”