Rell pledges to veto Democrats’ deficit mitigation plan

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced late tonight she would veto a new Democratic compromise plan to eliminate this fiscal year’s $518 million deficit and also wipe out about 10 percent of the red ink projected for 2010-11.

The Republican governor said the plan, which boosts taxes on hospitals and cancels a recent tax break for wealthy estates, doesn’t cut spending enough and counts on unreliable funding sources.

“It is woefully short on real spending cuts and burdensomely high on tax increases,” Rell said of the measure, which is expected to be adopted later tonight in the Senate and Saturday in the House of Representatives.

The measure also relies heavily on policy changes that would attract about $165 million in additional federal aid, as well as on a wide array of controversial spending cuts worth nearly $180 million, including eliminating 21 deputy commissioner and other high-level Executive Branch posts.

It would cancel seniority bonuses and require another furlough day for non-union workers, cut back health care, social service and education programs, close Riverview Hospital and raid the public financing program for state elections. It does not include proposals to cut town aid or money for stem cell research suggested in an early deficit-mitigation plan by Rell.

But the governor’s budget director, Robert L. Genuario, said he does not consider $51 million in reductions to special trust funds and accounts, to be true spending cuts, since the dollars raided from these accounts would be spent on other programs. Some of the special accounts slated to be reduced under the bill includes $6 million to be taken from the public financing program for state elections and $8.5 million from a fund used to invest in health care research.

Genuario also said his office believes the remaining $130 million in listed cuts only would produce about $65 million in actual savings. Some problems include major policy changes that normally take months to implement, such as the closure of group homes, would have to occur within a matter of days to produce the savings anticipated in the Democrats’ plan, he said.