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Rell Says No Tax Hike; Budget Guru Calls That "Fantasy"
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Governor Jodi Rell has called the state's financial troubles scary, but she says it is also an opportunity to streamline government. She will lay out the specifics of how she wants to do that in Wednesday's budget address, but she started the week by inviting a national budget guru to lay out his approach.

David Osborne rose to prominence in the 1990s, when his book "Reinventing Government" catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list. It became a workplan of sorts for the Clinton administration.  Republican Governor Jodi Rell invited Osborne to speak to legislators in Hartford, because she says this fiscal crisis demands some reinventing here. 

"It is a golden opportunity for all of us to make remake a stronger Connecticut without losing our core missions - education, public safety, and caring for our needy."  But early in his talk, Osborne made clear that he disagrees with Rell about at least one thing. She says that raising taxes will only deepen the problems. Osborne says avoiding tax hikes is not an option. 

"Frankly, the idea that Connecticut can get through this without raising any taxes or fees, or without deep cuts in spending, is I think a fantasy." Osborne advocates turning the budgeting process on its head. Instead of starting with the last budget and cutting from there, he wants lawmakers to first determine how much they are willing to spend, and then set funding priorities. Then, agencies would be held accountable for meeting specific objectives.

"You get a process where all the energy focuses on what are we going to keep. 95 percent of the energy usually focuses on what are we going to cut, and what you keep just slides through unexamined. This process looks at everything, and the cuts just fall out."  Washington and Iowa are among the states using the approach. But if attendance at Osborne's talk was any indication, it does not look like a budgeting revamp is coming this year. Neither the Democratic House or Senate Appropriations chairs were there.

Governor Rell Addresses State in Evening Address

Despite Osborne's clear message about tax strategy, Gov. M. Jodi Rell says her new budget will not raise taxes and will make state government more efficient and less expensive. Given job losses and the worsening economy, the Republican governor says Connecticut taxpayers can't afford additional taxes.
 
Rell appeared live Monday night on the state's major television networks. Her five-minute address from the governor's residence comes two days before she unveils a two-year tax and spending plan that attempts to address the state's burgeoning budget deficit problems.  The next two fiscal years, beginning June 30, are projected to be $6 to $8 billion in the red. The current fiscal year is $1.1 billion in deficit.
 
The top two leaders of the Democratic-controlled legislature say they're skeptical of Rell's vow not to raise taxes, but they say they're willing to withhold judgment until they see the Republican governor's two-year budget plan Wednesday.  House Speaker Christopher Donovan, a Meriden Democrat, says discussing possible tax increases is the "responsible thing'' to do as legislators and the Republican governor try to cover billions of dollars in red ink. He says there lawmakers are already investigating several concepts, such as ending tax loopholes. Both Donovan and Senate President Donald Williams Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, say they're willing to work with Rell on reaching a budget deal.
 
Watch video of the Governor's address below:

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