- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

BOSTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) — Lawmakers in Connecticut and Massachusetts were taking different approaches Wednesday as to how to address budget deficits.

In Rhode Island, meanwhile, the governor is vowing to close a revenue shortfall with a budget proposal that actually increases spending but requires no layoffs and no new taxes.

R.I. Gov. Don Carcieri, in his first State of the State address Tuesday night, proposed spending $11 million more for education and to create jobs.

He also pledged his budget would avoid layoffs, preserve social service programs, and close a deficit estimated at $200 million, all with no new taxes.

“Our future success depends upon the choices we make today,” the Republican governor said. “We must be willing to redirect the money we are already spending.”

Carcieri said that to reduce the real cost of government, “we must redesign the way we do it.”

Carcieri provided no details of his cost-savings plans, but will do so in a budget address later this month, according to the Providence Journal.

Senate President William V. Irons offered an opinion as to how Carcieri would reconcile new spending and the deficit with no new taxes and no layoffs.

“With an ambitious attitude,” Irons said, “and an optimistic outlook.”

In Connecticut, the Democratic-controlled House was set to vote Wednesday on a compromise fiscal plan.

The proposal calls for more than $350 million in tax increases - including an increase of 40 cents per pack of cigarettes — $160 million in spending cuts and about $100 million in anticipated labor savings.

Among other things, the proposal would increase the state income tax for people making more than $53,125 a year.

Democrats last year proposed a so-called “millionaires’ tax” on those with incomes over $1 million, but with the budget deficit growing to more than $1.5 billion in fiscal 2004, the proposed new tax increase also would hit taxpayers in lower brackets.

According to the Hartford Courant, the tax hikes would start at $53,125 for single filers, $80,000 for heads of households and $100,000 for couples.

The tax increases also include imposition of the state’s 6 percent sales tax on newspapers, magazine subscriptions and health and athletic club services.

Even if the bill passes in the House, it faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Republican Gov. John G. Rowland has yet to express his opinion on the measure, but said, “If need be, and it meets my guidelines, I may have to go along.”

In Massachusetts, the Democratic-controlled House was basically ignoring Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s proposals for $143 million in additional cuts that need legislative approval, including cuts in the state’s Medicaid program, and an increase in state worker contributions to their health insurance.

Romney last week unilaterally made $343 million in cuts in state programs, but asked the Legislature to go along with another $143 million in cuts to address a projected $650-million deficit in this fiscal year’s budget.

Instead, the House was to debate Wednesday proposals to come up with savings through reserves and other “minor funds.”

Romney, meanwhile, planned to announce Wednesday an initiative to restructure government to help deal with a projected $3-billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.

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