The General Assembly passed a third round of cuts to decrease this year's deficit, which tops a billion dollars. About half of that gap will be filled with federal stimulus money and $281 million from the rainy day fund.
The bill cuts $54 million from state agencies, and calls for $220 million in new cuts from accounts not included in the General Fund. According to a comptroller report, there are more than 600 of these so-called "off-budget" funds. The bill does not specify exactly which ones will be cut. It will be up to the Appropriations Committee to make that recommendation.
Rep. John Geragosian is the committee's House chairman.
"We did find about 1.6 billion dollars in funds out there many of them have been around for many years, and we believe there's a couple hundred million dollars in savings there that would help us plug the deficit this year, and we're going to use the Appropriations to go through those funds, to find out if there's money within those funds to help plug our budget gap.
The bill also creates a 5-cent deposit on water bottles, and raises the income limit for aid for seniors' pharmacy costs.
It passed unanimously in the House, but it got no Republican votes in the Senate. Governor Jodi Rell said the bill falls short of what is needed because it does not include authorization of her proposed early retirement incentive package.
“Ironically, they have put the savings in there, but the legislature has to put its vote of approval in order for me to actually have a retirement plan. I need their vote to make that happen.”
The Democrats' $1.2 billion deficit mitigation plan counts on 110 million dollars in labor savings, but Geragosian says it's up to the governor to negotiate the specifics with state employee unions.
"We're putting it in our plan because we've been talking about this for a couple of months now. It's her job to negotiate with the unions. She's gone nowhere with them at this point. And we know they're going to part of the solution. They always have been in the past, but she's got to do the hard work of negotiating."
Rell administration officials are scheduled to meet with the coalition of state employee unions on Thursday and again on Saturday.
The bill's passage still leaves the work of closing the deficit for the next two years. That currently exceeds $8.5 billion.