Moderate Democrats urge leaders to close deficit

A coalition of 15 moderate Democratic state legislators sent a letter to their leadership urging immediate action to close the $518.4 million deficit for the current fiscal year without borrowing.

The letter, signed by four senators and 11 representatives, also expressed concerns about more than $4.6 billion worth of deficits projected in total for the next two fiscal years.

“We can no longer wait or hope for a miracle on Capitol Avenue,” the 15 legislators wrote to Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, and House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden. “Times are tough.”

Those who signed the letter include: Sens. Robert Duff of Norwalk, Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Paul Doyle of West Hartford; and Reps. Linda Schofield of Simsbury, Kim Fawcett  and Thomas Drew of Fairfield, Steve Mikutel of Griswold, Terry Backer of Stratford, Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, John Mazurek of Wolcott, Edward Moukawsher of Groton, Chris Wright of Bristol, Chris Perone of Norwalk and Thomas Reynolds of Ledyard.

With less than four months left before the fiscal year ends on June 30, state government is running out of options to avoid its second consecutive year of major borrowing to cover operating expenses. The legislature and Gov. M. Jodi Rell agreed to bond just over $1 billion this past summer to close the books on the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Rell unveiled her own deficit-mitigation plan earlier this month, suggesting raiding nearly $220 million in revenues from next fiscal year’s budget to help close the deficit now. The governor also wants to cut $140 million from a wide array of programs and special funds and to cancel a $100 million payment into the state employees’ pension fund.

“While not perfect, it is a place to begin our dialogue,” the 15 lawmakers wrote of the Rell plan. “While no solution is easy or without pain, we all have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this state to get our fiscal house in order.”