Chamber roasts Malloy plan; Mental health funding slashed.

Greater Waterbury 03/05/2013

Chamber roasts Malloy plan

Town officials, business leaders question Wyman on budget

BY PAUL HUGHES

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

SOUTHBURY — Gov. Daniel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman are trying hard to sell the spending and tax changes in the governor’s latest two-year budget plan.

First Selectman Edward V. Mone of Thomaston told Wyman on Monday night that he is not buying Malloy’s plan to eliminate local car taxes on all but the most expensive makes and models.

Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of Waterbury Hospital, urged the Malloy administration to rethink the $550 million in cuts to hospital funding it is recommending.

Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore Behavioral Help, questioned Wyman’s assertion that the governor’s budget plan does not zero out grants for mental health programs.

Wyman took questions from Mone, Stromstad, Steck and other members of the Waterbury Regional Chamber who attended its annual legislative dinner Monday night at the Crowne Plaza Southbury.

CHRISTOPHER MASSA REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN From left, Paula Van Ness, CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation, chats with co-worker Edwin Rodriguez and Deputy Speaker of the House Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger, D- 73rd District, during the annual Greater Waterbury Regional Chamber legislative dinner at Crowne Plaza Southbury on Monday.

CHAMBER: Wyman defends proposed cuts

Lieutenant governor discussed the Democratic administration’s budget initiatives and other legislative priorities in the night’s keynote speech.

At the outset, she acknowledged the governor’s budget recommendations are not sitting well with chamber members in the audience.

“Let me just first of all tell you that I know that everything that I am going to say here not everybody is going to agree upon, and I understand that,” she said.

Malloy is recommending the legislature increase spending 9 percent over the next two years to $43.8 billion, add $585 million in net revenue and borrow nearly $4.7 billion.

The proposal to largely eliminate local car taxes represents one of the most controversial initiatives in the governor’s budget. It would exempt vehicles with market values of less than $28,500.

The plan is running into resistance because Malloy does not propose to offset an estimated $550 to $600 million in lost taxes.

Mone told Wyman that his small town stands to lose $3.5 million. He said he does not want to raise taxes on homeowners and businesses to make up the difference.

Wyman defended the plan, but also signaled that the administration is willing to work with towns and cities on this question.

“If this is not the right program, the right way of doing it, we’re ready to work out anything,” she said.

Even so, Wyman said state government cannot afford to reimburse municipalities at this time.

The state’s hospitals are protesting the administration’s plan to cut $208.1 million from hospitals in the first year of the budget and $342.3 million in the second year.

Waterbury Hospital takes a $10 million hit over two years, and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury loses nearly $16 million under the governor’s budget.

Wyman defended the cuts when Stromstad brought them up, but she also indicated there was room for discussion on hospital funding, too.

“Everybody is going to be asked, and I mean everybody is going to be asked to tighten belts. I know some hospitals are being hurt a little bit more than other hospitals are being hurt in this budget, and I have a feeling we’ll find some common on ground that,” she said.

The governor’s budget saves $63.1 million from grant programs in the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The savings are associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Steck told Wyman that the budget plan eliminates funding for outpatient programs, but she contended some of the grants are being shifted to another line-item in the budget.

After the dinner meeting ended, Steck maintained that grant programs are being zeroed out, including $600,000 in Waterbury.