Connecticut lawmakers give lukewarm support to federal budget deal

Washington Most, if not all, of Connecticut’s members to the U.S. House are expected to vote late today for a $1.04 trillion budget deal that will avert another government shutdown, eliminate across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, and set federal spending levels for the next two years.

It’s considered a breakthrough in a Congress that has been frozen by partisanship for the past few years.

But the bill fails to fund federal long-term unemployment benefits received by more than 12,000 in Connecticut who’ve been out of work for more than 26 weeks.

Nor is it the “grand bargain” many had hoped for, reforming taxes and entitlements and setting the nation on a path to solvency.

“I don’t particularly like the bill,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District. But he said plans to vote for it anyway.

Himes said the bill has a “lack of ambition” because it fails to tackle entitlements and taxes. “But it’s important to work together.”

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said he’s leaning yes, largely because the budget bill ends the sequester which has hurt Connecticut’s defense industry.

“Both sides had to give up a lot,” Larson said. “I’m not happy with the bill, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said she was “evaluating” the bill and “drilling down in the details.”

The bill’s winners are the defense industry as an elimination of the sequester adds $2.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget and social programs, including Head Start, that had been disproportionately hurt by the sequester. The budget deal adds more than $22 billion to domestic spending.

Also in the winning column are scientific and medical researchers whose grants had dried up because of the across-the-board spending cuts.

Besides the long-term unemployed who will lose benefits on Dec. 28, the bill’s losers include newly hired government workers who will have to contribute more to their pension funds and  military retirees under age 62 who qualify for pensions who would see  their annual cost-f-living adjustment gradually reduced between now and 2016.

Air travelers are also losers because they would have to pay higher airline fees.

Oil producers would also be hurt in by the bill because they will lose money as the federal government would stop buying new stockpiles of oil to save money.

 

 

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