Republican gubernatorial contender Michael Fedele pledged today that if elected, he would include no new taxes in the budget he would propose next February to close a nearly $4 billion hole in state finances in 2011-12.

Fedele, the lieutenant governor, outlined a plan to shrink government spending that includes: imposing a four-year hiring freeze, capping future state employee pensions and municipal school construction, consolidating the administration for the Connecticut State University system, privatizing more social services, requiring additional cost-sharing for Medicaid patients, and banning all pork-barrel projects.

“My proposal will not look at revenue,” Fedele, a former state representative from Stamford, pledged during a late morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

“The Democrats’ inability or outright refusal to reduce spending and instead opt for higher taxes is steering the state not down the road to recovery, but toward the brink of bankruptcy,” he said. “The (legislature’s) majority party cannot and will not make the sweeping changes and hard decisions needed. I will have the courage to make the tough decisions we need to cut the size and cost of government.”

Fedele’s 2006 running mate and fellow Republican, Gov. M. Jodi Rell, has been accused of supporting borrowing and other expensive budget options that merely pushed projected shortfalls for this fiscal year and for 2010-11 into the next term – and onto the lap of the next governor.

“I am the lieutenant governor and I supported her,” Fedele said, adding that like any relationship, though, “there are not all times we agree.”

Fedele’s announcement prompted a quick response from Republican gubernatorial rival Tom Foley of Greenwich, who said the lieutenant governor’s ideas come a little late.

“Mike Fedele has been Lieutenant Governor for more than three years and until now he has offered no plan to steer the state out of its current fiscal crisis,” said Foley, who offered a plan in January that he contends would cut state spending by $1 billion. “As lieutenant governor he is in position to make a difference now and yet it has taken the pressure of an election campaign and outside voices from his own party to force him into producing a plan.”

Fedele, Foley and other Republican candidates for governor will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in a debate to be televised live on WVIT, Channel 30. A debate by the Democratic candidates will air Friday at 7 p.m.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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