- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

HARTFORD, Conn., March 5 (UPI) — Connecticut lawmakers Wednesday had before them what Gov. John Rowland called a "tough budget for tough times."

In his budget address Tuesday night, the Republican governor proposed a $27-billion, two-year plan that calls for increased taxes and cuts in state spending to resolve a deficit crisis.

"My budget is a tough budget for tough times, but it is balanced, and I believe it's fair," Rowland told the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

He said he expected harsh criticism and rhetoric about the cuts, but suggested that before lawmakers criticize, "put your own alternative on the table."

Even with deep cuts and the elimination of some agencies and commissions, Rowland's proposal would still increase state spending by 2.4 percent, from $13.2 billion in the current year to $13.5 billion for the budget year that begins July 1, the Hartford Courant reported Wednesday.

Legislative leaders said they plan to work closely with Rowland to come up with a compromise to resolve the budget crisis before the start of the new fiscal year.

If Rowland's proposal were approved by the legislature, the budget would increase to $13.54 billion in the year starting July 1 and $14.1 billion in the second year of the two-year budget.

Rowland proposed more than $100 million in new taxes on individuals, profitable corporations, insurance companies, home-sellers, and everyone who watches cable TV.

When combined with increases passed last week to help cover the current deficit, the total would reach about $800 million.

In addition, bus fares would rise 25 cents next year and rail fares would be increased by about 15 percent this fall.

According to Rowland's aides, his proposal also calls for cutting services by eliminating such agencies as the Office of Victim Advocate and the Council on Environmental Quality, and combining the state's ethics, elections and freedom of information commissions.

The governor also said for the first time he favors imposing a sales tax on Internet purchases, which could generate $300 million to $400 million annually for the state. His budget proposal, however, did not call for such an Internet tax.

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