[Or for long-time Wait, What? readers file under – Not the Fricking School Bus Seat Belts again!]
After working through the night, the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the Connecticut State Senate finally twisted enough arms to take up the state budget plan that they negotiated with Governor Dannel Malloy.
After hours of debate, the House passed the $40.3 billion, two-year budget plan by a vote of 73 to 70 with eleven Democrats voting against their party’s leadership. Another five Republican and three Democratic state representatives simply failed to vote, some for reasons yet to be revealed.
Highlights include the fact that the infamous Steve Perry, with the convicted felon on his governing board gets the public money he wants to open his privately owned charter school, as does the Bronx charter school which is coming to save Stamford’s public education system.
Of course, the “biggest” news is on the overall tax and spending issue.
Throughout the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, candidate Dan Malloy promised, committed and swore that that we could all read his lips and count on the truth that, if elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services.
Now, safely tucked into his second term in office, Malloy has negotiated and will sign a budget that includes nearly two billion in new (tax) revenue and makes massive cuts to human services, education and other critically important services.
The State Senate is expected to pass the budget bill before the legislature’s midnight deadline is reached tonight.
You can read more about the new state budget via one of the following article links; House adopts controversial state budget and House Democrats Pull An All-Nighter to Push Their Budget Through and House Passes Two-Year, $40 Billion Budget.
However, for those who slow down to look at a terrible car wreck, it is worth remembering that while most legislators, reporters and onlookers focus on the big numbers listed in the budget, one can usually find far more interesting developments at the “back” of the budget.
This year’s budget includes 223 Sections. Most contain the legislative language needed to “implement” the changes needed to raise and spend the money contained in the budget but some…
Alas most legislators never take the time to read through all the words, numbers and verbiage.
For that matter, neither do most reporters.
Initial “tidbits” of note in the document that is presently being rushed through the legislature include changes that allow liquor stores to be open until 10pm and a change in the law that limits the number of liquor stores an individual may own. (It was three but someone must have wanted more because the new number is five.)
Better still is Sec. 173 of House Bill 7061 (The Budget Bill)
The section reads, “Not later than June 30, 2016, the Comptroller may designate up to $25,000,000 of the resources of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, to be accounted for as revenue of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.
In English this seems to say that some point in the next fiscal real (FY16), Connecticut’s State Comptroller will take out a magic wand and pronounce that 25 million dollars in state revenue that has come in during Fiscal Year 2016 is really, truly, actually revenue that will come in during Fiscal Year 2017.
Why would Governor Malloy and the Democratic legislators require that revenue that came in one year be declared revenue in a different year?
The simplified answer is that it is way to balance the budget in FY17 without having to deal with some of the uncomfortable limitations of the state’s screwed up spending cap. Rather than simply deal with the spending cap issues, one way to sneak past the problem is to say revenue from one year is actually revenue in another.
But if that one doesn’t leave you shaking your head…
Try this one…
Section 55(d) of the budget requires that,
“On or before June 30, 2015, the sum of $ 3,000,000 shall be transferred from the school bus seat belt account, established in section 14-50b of the general statutes, and credited to the resources of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.
These people would actually steal the money that is dedicated install seat belts into school buses and dump it into this year’s General Fund to make the state deficit look smaller?
Who on earth would do such a terrible thing?
On wait, I remember?
And so will long time Wait, What? readers.
If you don’t remember the “school seat belt issue” just read the following Wait, What? posts.
Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? (Wait, What? 12/20/12) and School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (Wait,What? 1/22/14)
Here is the text from the 2012 post
Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? Aka: No that was then, this is now…
Following the tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford in January 2010 that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools, the legislature kicked into action.
On May 1 of that year the General Assembly passed what was to become Public Act 10-83.
The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to administer a program to use the funds in the account to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.
To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.
Fast forward two and a half years…and the fund now has $4.7 million.
Yesterday, the Legislature’s deficit mitigation bill including language overriding the previous law and transferring the $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt account into the General Fund to help eliminate this year’s $415 million deficit.
Gone is the money for school seat belts.
That tragedy was yesterday’s news.
And besides, who would remember that the account in question grew out of the concern elected officials had for the safety of our children.