CONNECTICUT GENERAL ASSEMBLY

SENATE

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Senate was called to order at 10: 56 o'clock p. m. , the President in the Chair.

THE CHAIR:

The Senate will please come to order. Members and guests please rise and direct your attention to our wonderful chaplain, Chaplain Kehoe.

ACTING CHAPLAIN TIM KEHOE:

Please give us the patience to understand those who disagree with us, the sensitivity to the needs of others, and the prudence to make decisions that work toward the common good. Amen.

THE CHAIR:

Amen. At this time, Senator Berthel, will you come up and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance please. Thank you.

SENATOR BERTHEL (32ND):

(All) I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

THE CHAIR: Thank you very, very much. At this point, are there any points of personal privilege or announcements? Seeing none. Senator Duff, good evening, sir.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Good evening, Madam President. It is almost 11: 00 o'clock p. m. ; however, if we were in Hawaii, it would only be about 5: 00 o'clock p. m. So we're --

THE CHAIR:

And don't all wish we were there, sir.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

We're almost on schedule then if we consider ourselves on Hawaiian time. Madam President, is there Clerk -- business on the Clerk's desk?

THE CHAIR:

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK:

Senate Agenda number one. It's dated Wednesday, October 25, 2017.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Duff.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Thank you, Madam President. I move that all items on Senate Agenda number one, dated Wednesday, October 25, 2017, be acted upon as indicated and that the agenda be incorporated by a reference into the Senate Journal and transcript.

THE CHAIR:

Seeing no objections, so ordered, sir.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Madam President, would the Clerk please call the item on Senate Agenda number one, Senate Bill -- Emergency Certified Bill 1502 please.

THE CHAIR:

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK:

Bill 1502 - AN ACT CONCERNING THE STATE BUDGET FOR THE BIENNIUM ENDING JUNE 30, 2019, MAKING APPROPRIATIONS THEREFORE, AUTHORIZING AND ADJUSTING BONDS OF THE STATE AND IMPLEMENTING PROVISIONS OF THE BUDGET. LCO number 10377, introduced by Senators Looney, Duff, Fasano, Witkos, et al.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Osten, good evening, ma'am.

SENATOR OSTEN (19TH):

Good evening, Madam President. It's a real pleasure to stand in front of you with this bipartisan product that we have here today. And I would ask that we -- I urge all of my colleagues to vote in the affirmative on this budget. And so, as we've been sitting here all day, I've been thinking about what to talk about and what are the things that are necessary to bring up. This product has been around for the last four or five months in one version or another and today's product incorporates what I would consider all the best parts of all those products. And I stand before you with my colleagues and ask that you support this bill. This was done, again, over the last several weeks, commanding hours of talks with our leaders, hours of talks with leaders of different committees, and hours of talks with experts from within our colleagues and within this circle on each and every piece of this budget. Essentially, what we have here is a budget that protects, within the reality of our finances, towns and cities funding. This not only provides our children with a good education, this budget protects local property tax payers. We have incorporated many things in this budget. We have protected services for our most vulnerable citizens, ensuring programs, safe housings, and good job programs. Many of our colleagues sat -- stood before us not a month ago and asked us to incorporate structural changes. And there are structural changes in this budget that will stabilize the financial future of Connecticut.

I, in particular, love the volatility cap that was devised by Senator Fonfara, talked about at press conferences, and was incorporated in every budget that came out from that point forward. I think that will have the most dramatic stabilization of our budget by completely impacting unfunded pension liabilities and our debt service. I think that his idea was one of the most memorable of this session.

In addition, we have protected higher education funding for UConn, our state universities, our community colleges. And not only that, we were able to protect the Roberta Willis Scholarship, which helps out low and moderate-income students to be successful and to have an opportunity to go to college, which is something that we would like all who wish to be a part of the state colleges an opportunity to do so.

Another problem that we've had all session is a problem that talks about crumbling concrete, and you, Madam President, have been completely involved in the day-to-day discussions that we've had about crumbling concrete. And I really appreciate you and the Governor's leadership in looking to help homeowners that are suffering from this truly natural disaster that happened through no accord of their own; many of them considering walking away from that quintessential American dream of having their own home.

Now, many people also needed to go to work and leave their children. And we had a program that was severely under funded called Care for Kids. And in this budget, we fund Care for Kids. We bring that program up to full funding in year one and close to full funding in year two, which will provide our families who need to go to work an ability to have a safe place for their young children. We weaved in and out of this budget all of the social services and talked about every single line item. And yes, there were some hard cuts here. But there were some programs that were saved from complete evisceration within the talks that our leaders had. And I would love to thank Senator Looney and Senator Duff for their leadership here, and this couldn't have been done without the complete bipartisanship of Senator Fasano and Senator Witkos. So each and every program was looked at, where we could save the program, where we could provide the funding. That was done in this budget document that's before all of you today.

In Eastern Connecticut, we often talk about the manufacturing pipeline. It was a grant that we got through Congressman Courtney. It runs out in December this year and we were able to fund that through this biennium with $ 1. 5 million dollars. And that was worked on with both Senator Formica and myself so that we could see this manufacturing pipeline continue to provide workers that we need at Electric Boat trained, which gives those workers well-paid, career jobs, allowing them to stay here in Connecticut and raise their family, and quite frankly, the best state in the Union.

There was also funding for job training in the health care field, which will continue to place well-trained workers in careers in an area that sees continued growth. In addition to that, I believe, that this allows our businesses community to regain confidence in our state, which, from my perspective, this state provides the best environment, the best workers, and the best schools that populate those businesses with workers. It includes an agreement which stabilizes hospitals and the funding they receive from the federal government. And this was done through the leadership of our Governor and Senator Fonfara.

I think that this package is something that is worth supporting and I look forward to the discussion that will happen tonight and I would yield to my colleague and friend, Senator Formica.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica, will you accept the yield, sir?

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Yes, I will.

THE CHAIR:

Please proceed, sir.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Good evening. Thank you, Senator, for those words. And Madam President, we stand here today presenting a budget. A budget that I sincerely hope concludes the longest budget implementation delay in our state's history. A budget that was extraordinarily difficult to put together over these past many months and a budget that has not only tested our patience, but tested the collective patience of our entire state. Yet here we are. About to cast our votes on what some say is a historic budget - the first bipartisan-crafted budget in many a year. Madam President, I would submit to you this budget should not be remembered as solely historic. Though today, we are making history - hopefully. I ask that we remember this budget as an expectation budget. And by that, I mean, Madam President, that our residents expect us to work together. Our residents and businesses expect us to find solutions. Our residents expect us to debate and to discuss policy and our philosophical differences in a meaningful and productive way.

Here in this building, we all have our individual and team expectations that we wish to move Connecticut forward. We believe that or we wouldn't be here. Dr. Edwards Deming, in his book Out of Crisis, discussed that if you improve the quality of a process, you will ultimately improve the quality of a product. I have that book in my office here along with a sign that says - Stay in Connecticut. We need to take the lessons of this past session, of this marathon overtime special session, about the process we have together redefined, reworked, and to use that to improve our process for the next session and those sessions beyond. This bill is not perfect and will not fix all of Connecticut's problems. It will, however, chart a course that's new. A course of structural change and a number of new policies agreed on in a bipartisan way that will continue to improve the process.

Amongst those things that are included is a spending cap, a bonding cap. It stabilizes the Special Transportation fund, which otherwise would become insolvent for 2021. There are labor-related savings and municipal mandate relief including MBR and prevailing wage. There's a 90-day turnaround on various permits from agencies here in state government, making us more business friendly. As my good friend the Senator mentioned about crumbling foundations, provides relief to stability our housing market. We fully fund day and employment services in this budget and funding for Care for Kids. Senior funding is protected; Meals on Wheels and Dial a Ride and Social Security and pension taxes are eliminated and protected.

Madam President, in closing, I'd like to commend all the leaders and all the people, all the staff that worked incredibly hard to get us to this point. And I stand here ready to vote yes for a bipartisan budget, as we need to start to move Connecticut forward, to stabilize our cites and towns, our education community, to support our nonprofits and those who are most vulnerable, and to provide services to get Connecticut back to business so that businesses, our seniors, our young people, and anybody who wants to come here, will stay in Connecticut. So, I thank you, Madam President, and I would like to yield to Senator Fonfara please.

THE CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Fonfara, do you accept the yield, sir?

SENATOR FONFARA (1ST):

I do, Madam President, and good evening. It's good to see you again.

THE CHAIR: Good evening. Please proceed, sir.

SENATOR FONFARA (1ST):

Madam President, I rise in strong support of this bipartisan budget and this evening I'll spend a few minutes on the revenue side of this proposal. And I'd like to begin by giving us a sense, providing a perspective of where we've been going back to January. All of will recall when we learned about $ 600 million dollar drop in estimates and finals that was expected in our revenue, an unprecedented drop, that's essentially in capital gains. We know that we continue to see more of our expenditures being tied up in fixed costs, over 50 percent now of our expenditures tied up in fixed costs, and growing. And after 50 years of enjoying a great economy in the State of Connecticut, focused primarily in finance, insurance, real estate and defense, we work -- we've begun the work to move towards a knowledge economy. It will be an effort that will takes years for us to embrace and to enjoy the benefits of, but it is our future and we are well suited for it.

Madam President, I'd like to focus our attention if we could on what specifically on the revenue side this budget consists of. Of the $ 1. 645 billion dollars in additional revenue above consensus, fully $ 1. 346 billion dollars of that, a substantial percentage of it, are in areas that are unrelated to tax increases or fee increases. And the accounting change from eliminating the sales tax transfer to MRSA it's an accounting change, but is fully $ 327 million dollars in revenue. If one were to look at what Connecticut's doing here in this budget in terms of new revenue, that could be very misleading in the believing that we are raising taxes to accomplish that. It is an accounting change that is part of this bipartisan budget. We modify the hospital tax, which is an agreement, a historic agreement between the State of Connecticut and the hospitals of this state, building upon what has been a strong tradition of relationship with hospitals. That's $ 343 million dollars of the $ 1. 6 billion dollars. And the largest of this group is a net federal reimbursement for state policy changes, and that's $ 483 million dollars of the $ 1. 6 billion dollars, one quarter of that. That's federal contributions for our efforts here at the state that the federal government will support us for. Ninety-million dollars in fresh start and enhanced collections for DRS.

Twenty-million dollars in the deferral and the deduction to 30 years for the mandatory unitary reporting, which is not opposed at all by the business community of this state. And some other additional efforts that this budgets includes, again, some $ 1. 3 billion dollars of the $ 1. 4 in new revenue. In fact, Madam President, less than one percent of the $ 18 billion dollars approximately in revenue that we will raise for this budget, less than one percent will be in additional fees and taxes. I think that's a mighty accomplishment that goes -- great credit goes to this Chamber, the leaders of our Chamber and downstairs to accomplish this goal.

What else does this package include in terms of addressing and how we can turn the corner here in the State of Connecticut? As has been mentioned, what's included in this is a volatility cap, which for the first time will segregate off the most volatile portion of our income tax, which has caused us great pain as we've made the income tax more progressive, it is also at the higher end, the most volatile of our income. And when that volatility hits us, it hits us hard because often we budget for revenue that is not predictable. This change will segregate off anything above $ 3. 15 billion dollars, which is the base as of where we are right now as of FY '17 and what consensus revenues found in the way of vestments and finals. Anything above that figure going forward will be segregated off into the Budget Reserve fund, and as that grows, to go towards debt and ultimately towards bonded debt. It will have an affect immediately with the rating agencies that do rate Connecticut in our solvency, in our fiscal condition. We will be the strongest in the state in terms of addressing our volatility. Everybody in this Chamber should be proud of that.

We have an expenditure cap, which for the first time will say we cannot budget to the last dollar, as we often do. That will grow from 99. 5 percent to 98 percent over several years, a quarter-percent a year, leaving us somewhere in the neighborhood of $ 400 million dollars every year of headroom, if you will, from what consensus revenues are and what we can budget. That will allow us, as our revenues shift up or down, to be able to have that cushion, a savings account, if you will, that we can reach into to balance our budget without having to resort to deep cuts in services or tax increases. It's smart policy. As has been indicated, there is spending -- a spending cap in this package as well as a bonding cap. All of those will be; and here's the most important point, part of a covenant, a bond covenant, that will bind future Legislatures, bind future Legislatures to adhere to these policies. There will be an option, an opportunity, under extreme circumstances, by a declaration by the Governor and three-fifths of the Legislature to suspend the volatility cap, as an example, but that will -- it's not easy to get the Governor and the three-fifths of the Legislature to do something. So, I believe it will stand the test of time.

We do begin to take steps with regards to our state tax as well as advancements in the Social Security tax for seniors. As I mentioned a minute ago, in this document is an historic agreement with hospitals and putting us back in a positive relationship with some of the strongest employers, innovative organizations in our state. Important, because many of them are located in cities across this state who stabilize neighborhoods, invest in the communities, hire locally, provide a bridge for people from often unemployment to employment, and growth within those organizations.

We provide for the stabilization of the Capitol City of Hartford, avoiding, we pray, bankruptcy that will have reverberating effects on our state well beyond the City of Hartford's borders. And lastly, Madam President, there is a provision in this document. It hasn't got much attention, but I'm grateful to the leadership of Chambers for their strong support of a stranded tax credit. Currently, there are over a billion dollars in stranded tax credits that companies across the state have earned, but are unable to claim. This is a first step towards moving to unlocking some of those credits for activity in two areas. One, that corporations will want to expand and invest capital in their businesses. They will be able to unlock their stranded tax credit. And the second is, if a company that has a stranded tax credit wants to form a venture fund to support startups here in Connecticut that will locate here in Connecticut, hire people in Connecticut, they will be able to use their stranded tax credit. So that's a very exciting initiative. Again, grateful to our leadership in both up here in this Chamber and downstairs for the support of that initiative.

Madam President, I'd just like to say that there were about four days in the midst of the seemingly, I'm sure, interminable discussions between the leadership of this Chamber downstairs to arrive at this day, I had an opportunity to be part of that process. I was not there for the majority of the time, for the days and weeks that it took to get us here. I've been here awhile. It takes a lot for me to get excited about what happens in this building. But in those days, I saw six, seven, eight people on various days sincerely and in a determined way, not forgetting their core beliefs, not leaving them at the door, but leaving their politics at the door to find a path to get us here today. I saw each leader, Senator Looney, Senator Fasano, Senator Duff, Senator Witkos, Speaker Aresimowicz, Representative Ritter, Minority Leader Themis Klarides, each one finding ways in the most difficult of times to move the process forward. I've been here a long time, but I've never been prouder of being a legislator in this building than I am tonight with respect to this vote and the people that I serve with that put aside political opportunity, to be a statesman, a stateswoman, to accomplish what we have. And I'm grate that I had the opportunity to be in that room.

Madam President, I ask the indulgence of the Chamber if I could recognize some people who I -- we were not able to do back when we initially were voting a budget. But I think it's important and I beg the indulgence of the Chamber. As I mentioned, Senator Looney, Senator Duff, the leadership of our caucus, we are very fortunate. Senator Fasano, Senator Witkos, fine people that I really appreciate the personal relationship as well as the professional. Senator Osten, who has put Eastern Connecticut on the map in ways that no one else has ever done, the hardest worker that I've ever seen in this building. Of course, Speaker Aresimowicz and Representative Ritter, as I mentioned, Representative Klarides, my Co-Chair, Jason Rojas, Representative Pat Miller who chairs the bonding subcommittee with me. And staff, Vinnie Mauro, Chief of Staff on our side, phenomenal talent; Lisa Hammersley, who I haven't known much, but worked with this year, an incredibly impressive individual; Joel Rudikoff, Courtney Cullinan, Dave Steuber, my right hand, my right hand man who I could not do this job without; Katie Hubbard; Manny Merisotis. Joe Quinn was retired, but he's back here again giving it all, as he always has. My former aide, Roselyn Vazquez, who just left, but she was so instrumental in getting us through this session. On the fifth floor, Michael Murphy, Chris Wetzel, Evelyn Wisnieski, Bill Lederman, Rute Pinho, John Rappa, Heather Poole, Neil Ayers, Kumi Sato, Tom Spinella, our Finance Committee administrator, Dan Dilworth, Anne Bordieri, Diana Palmer.

And if I could just say one last, because we don't know, as the earth begins to move beneath us these days, Ben Barnes, who -- I've worked with a few secretaries of OPM, but I've never worked with an individual as thoughtful, creative, honest and hard working as Ben Barnes. I have thoroughly enjoyed my relationship with him in his efforts on behalf of this state. Madam President, I urge support for this bill before us. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Senator Frantz. Good evening, sir.

SENATOR FRANTZ (36TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Good evening to you as well. Let me start by saying that everybody in the circle and those watching at midnight here, 11: 30 o'clock at night here, know that we are all gravely concerned about the fiscal condition of the State of Connecticut, the great State of Connecticut that was ranked always consistently in the top five or so in the country in terms of all the important categories of education, lifestyle, business environment, tax environment, etc. , etc. , etc. We somehow managed to within the course of a generation or two to fall in the ranks substantially and now we're looking at a capitol city on the brink of insolvency. We're looking at bond -- the credit ratings for the state and for many municipalities on the verge of being downgraded substantially, some cases to junk status or even sub-junk status in the case of Hartford. Something clearly has gone wrong and we need to address it. and we know for a fact, that after all of these discussions in the last nine and a half months or so to get to where we are today, that structural changes were to be required to make the changes in this state that are gonna make the difference in the long-term and for future generations, which are so critical. That's why we're all here. We're gonna do the best we can for our generation, but it's really about the next generation and subsequent generations after that, that all of this thinking and methodical action goes into.

The structural changes are numerous. As I see it, and as I say, most of us who are bringing ourselves up to speed on all of these different issues, they're numerous. And this budget before us tonight addresses many of these. Not all of them, but many of these. And yes, there are things in this budget that each of don't like. But it is a budget that does for the first time in multiple generations address some of those structural costs of the State of Connecticut, which, by the way, I'll repeat the number again, for 44 years now, about 6. 4 percent per year compounding on average -- compounding over that period of time. The math just doesn't work and there are a lot of components to that 6. 4 percent which this budget does start to address and I can't tell you how critical that is. So, if we are to save the state from -- on a fiscal basis, we need those changes yesterday, and this budget does it without any net tax increases of any significance. You will hear from the press tomorrow morning or maybe tonight already on social media, that this is a budget that has a billion dollar tax increase and it does not. I urge everybody who's watching tonight, all of you who are up to speed on what these real fee and minor tax increases are, but it's more like about $ 145 million dollars per year of the 2-year biennium. It's not anywhere near the billion dollars that has been reported by some. And that's super, super important because I don't anybody in this Chamber would want to support budget that did increase taxes. We know that doesn't work in the State of Connecticut or any other state for that matter, because it just causes the tax base to move away.

The spending cap, just to run through a couple of details here, some of which have been reported already, calls for a spending cap. For 26 years now, the people of Connecticut have been screaming out for a real genuine spending cap, which was called for in 1992, '91 initially, but 1992. So, after 26 years, we finally have something on the books here that if passed, will be a very meaningful savior of the State of Connecticut. A bonding cap which is shy of $ 2 billion dollars a year. It saves the Special Transportation fund. It requires a vote on union contracts going forward. There is a hard hiring freeze. The comptroller is required to review the SEBAC deal, and it codifies the impairment of contract into case law for the state. That's super, super important for our municipalities in particular.

And on the tax front, this budget proposes to eliminate the Social Security tax for middle-income folks, phases out tax on pension income for middle-income folks. It brings the estate tax to $ 5. 49 million dollars, which is the federal threshold, which is where you want to be as a state if you're gonna be competitive these days. I know that's something that doesn't resonate with everybody, but that is a huge thing for large taxpayers in this state. These are people who contribute magnanimously to our tax roles. We've lost a lot of them because of the estate tax, and hopefully that will stop the hemorrhaging. There is no shift of the teacher pension obligation down to the municipalities and towns and the cities of Connecticut, which is huge. People were running scared about being sent a huge bill from the State of Connecticut. There are no new motor vehicle fees. No increase or expansion of sales tax. There is no cell phone tax, which was proposed earlier. There is no second home tax, which was also proposed earlier. There is municipal mandate relief across the board. The previous -- the prevailing wage threshold has been raised to $ 1 million dollars, which is super important. Municipalities can reopen labor contracts going forward. Fifteen percent of municipalities' budget reserve funds cannot be used to determine the ability to pay, another super important criteria. And the all important elimination of the idea of tolls

It's -- you know, Connecticut really is desperate for something good, like a bipartisan budget that really does make sense for the long-term and for future generations. This is the one and it's fiscally prudent, it's good for the economy, it's good for our fiscal situation and it's really good for our reputation, which we have a lot of work to do to improve. And again, none of us like everything in this budget, but the people who have negotiated this budget have done it in good faith for many months now, actually going all the way back to January. It's incredible, the effort. I would also like to say thank you to everybody involved at the highest levels. Leadership on both sides of the aisle, you've been incredible; the support staff, the Lisa Hammersley, the OFAs, OLRs and the OLMs. I don't know how you put up with all the dynamic changes that happened in, you know, in 18 hours every day for 5, 6, 7 days in a row for months. And I just can't believe that you've come up with a product that is going to save the day for the State of Connecticut. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, sir. Will you remark? Senator McLachlan.

SENATOR MCLACHLAN (24TH):

Thank you, Madam President. I stand in firm support of this bill before us and I'm thankful to the leadership here in the State Capitol, both in the Senate and the House. I especially want to thank Senator Fasano and all of his team. I think the co-captain of his team is Lisa Hammersley. Lisa's done a fine job. And I must say that, as Senator Fonfara mentioned, its' been my observation that it has been refreshing to see in this building people working together with a very specific goal of getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. But yet, each and every line item of this budget was vetted by all four caucuses. That's virtually amazing that so much energy was put into making sure that it was all just perfect. And even tonight, when they found a bit of a hiccup, they stopped the presses, fixed the minor problem, and got it right so that we could pass this off to the House tonight and have a budget that certainly seems to be fairly unanimous as a bipartisan budget.

Several things in this budget I wouldn't support in some cases, but I am grateful to support because I see that things that I've been advocating for since 2008, when I started my run for the State Senate, are in this budget. And I feel like we have some very good ideas here that are gonna be good for the people of Connecticut. They're also gonna be good for how state government operates more efficiently and effectively. And that's really what we're here for. So, a lot of good things are here to celebrate. I understand that there are areas of disagreement and there always will be. One thing I found in my experience here at the State Capitol is that whenever there was something that I felt like was a winner and was -- I wanted to celebrate as something that we had accomplished, always seemed to come with compromise of some kind, and this is no exception. But I'm grateful that the leadership had the wisdom to keep us all moving in the right direction, to find areas of agreement, and then keep that ball moving forward. It really is a pleasant surprise to many of us who have watched here at the State Capitol over years. And so, for me, I just want to make sure that the leadership understands how grateful I am.

A couple of things that are very important, I think, for the future success of Connecticut is the fact that we appear to have a document that's gonna pass muster, including the executive branch, we hope. And what does that mean? That means it turns off the heat from Wall Street. Wall Street was rattling everybody's cages, and I think that this document passing is gonna mean that that heat is immediately gonna be shut off on us. For those 26 towns that were negatively affected by announcements of downgrades in their credit ratings. This is the kind of action that Wall Street was expecting from this Legislature and I am very grateful that that appears not to be a problem moving forward, assuming we can get this across the finish line. I think the other thing that we're showing in this document, this budget, is that I don't think we're leaving people behind. Its' amazing how many areas of agreement were found for populations of Connecticut that need extra help and assistance of state government, and I'm so pleased to see that there's good help for mental health assistance, those with disabilities, and other areas of special needs to the residents of Connecticut. I believe that this has a lot of compassion in this budget and that's another area of joy to see the agreement that we've had here in Connecticut.

Last but not least, I agree with Senator Fonfara that this stranded tax credit thing, some people scratched their head and don't seem to feel comfortable talking about tax credits, but in the case of stranded tax credits in Connecticut, by allowing them to break loose, if you will. These are tax credits that have not been able to be used by companies here in Connecticut. By allowing them to have some more creative use of these tax credits, we're' gonna be developing new capital expenditures by businesses in Connecticut that we don't currently have, so. Washington has been talking about doing these things. But it's in this budget, and that's very important. And I want to thank the leaderships, Senator Fonfara, Senator Franz, who have worked very hard on getting that across the finish line. That means jobs for Connecticut. And so this -- all in all, this budget is five stars and I'm grateful that we have support to get it across the finish line out of the Senate tonight. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, Senator McLachlan. Will you remark? Senator Boucher, good evening.

SENATOR BOUCHER (26TH):

Good evening. Good evening, Madam President. Madam President, this is a very important evening and a difficult one for many of us. We have been experiencing this fall some historic hurricanes throughout the country, in Texas and Florida, but Connecticut has been experiencing a hurricane of its own, a category 5 financial hurricane that has been blowing strongly in the faces of Connecticut's taxpayers. It has been trying to all the members that serve in public office. It has been a most difficult, difficult time.

You know, the budget impasse that we've experiencing went on for an unnecessarily long time, and its' unfortunate, because it didn't have to be. We could've settled this in September. Although Connecticut still remains, until this evening, the only state in the Union without a budget and has gotten some fairly bad press as a result of it. We had a Republican budget that actually passed with democratic support here in the Senate and then again in the House, and all that was needed was the Governor's signature. But instead of accepting the people's will, the administration vetoed it in almost a partisan fashion, when our schools, our towns were sitting and waiting and on the edge of their seat, at great risk. Some schools even delaying school, some sending out layoff notices, and really causing a great deal of fear in our communities. It also brought many warnings from credit agencies that the lack of a budget could cause further downgrades that they had done. But through all of this upheaval, there was a budget that could be used as a template for further action. And this is what we're deliberating on this evening. After many weeks of very intensive negotiations and the amazing amount of stress being put on our staff that were working nearly 24 hours a day, we are about to embark on something that is fairly historic.

The financial condition in Connecticut is something that everybody is feeling now and it's so dire that major compromises have been essential in crafting what we're looking at. And as legislators, we've been elected to do a job. The state cannot continue to run by executive order while schools, municipalities, nonprofits are being starved. It would be responsible of us to continue in this way. It is now time to get this done and we need to do it -- we can only do it in a bipartisan fashion and with a veto-proof majority. That's yet to be seen, because I don't know that any of us in the circle know exactly what the final vote count is gonna be. But it does prevent, it seems, two top budget objectives that the administration had put out, and that is cutting funding to suburban schools and passing a $ 400 million dollar teacher pension cost onto towns that really had everyone alarmed. This would have caused municipalities to raise property taxes to historic levels. And although we know that the state income tax is a deterrent, our property taxes is almost a bigger piece of the challenges that are presented to our taxpayers. And many, and I've gotten letters. We've gotten them, those goodbye letters that break your heart. One recently, I got from friends, individuals that we've gone to church with for decades, that are moving to Delaware. Not even to Florida. They're saving $ 12 thousand dollars a year just in property taxes by that move. Instead, this budget would eliminate that threat and it accomplishes it without a new tax on second homes that was originally proposed, a cell phone tax, the expansion of the sales tax or the creation of tolls. And you know all how I feel about tolls being enacted in Connecticut. Tolls on top of so many other very high taxes, including one of the highest gas taxes in the country.

Now, this action taken tonight by no means completely eliminates the financial challenges ahead for Connecticut. We know that. But it is a major step forward and it brings stability to our town and our school budgets throughout the state. And as with any compromise, no party got everything from this budget. And boy, do I disagree with a lot of this budget. And so do many of you. But compromise is essential to removing the barriers that prevent the state from moving forward. Now, we're gonna have, and even now, probably as we're talking about this, we're gonna have armchair quarterbacks that are taking pot shots or will for compromising on some of the accomplishments that were achieved in a budget that was vetoed. The Republican budget that got some widespread support, particularly by the public. However, those critics that are there are not the ones with the responsibility to make decisions. You all are, we are, the ones. They're not here in Hartford until very late at night or early, early in the morning. They're not taking time away from their families or their jobs that are their livelihood to serve to the people of the state.

I have been incredibly torn. In fact, I'm torn right now. I was torn in the Finance Committee that we just had this afternoon. And in fact, I voted no. To be able to think and look and read at the totality of the budget that we have before us, so I can weigh what it funds, what it defunds. But Connecticut is at a critic juncture, and walking away would assure the financial ruin of our state. And to allow so many communities to be stripped of their education funding and the inevitable massive increase in property tax would have been an unconscionable dereliction of duty, I believe. It also would have meant not getting some of the important structural changes that are included in this compromise. You all know and you've heard me say this before that I really ran for office because of my desire to support education, education, Connecticut education that gave me and my family everything. It is why I'm here. This is such a huge priority because I will believe, even though I never voted for a minimum wage increase, that I support education. Because the only way to close that income gap, the only way, is to close the education gap. And this is why I'm looking at this budget with those lens.

A major concession to Republicans in this budget also was finally instituting a spending cap. That's huge. This has been sought after by Republicans for many, many, many years. The budget also includes a bonding cap and a requirement for the Legislature to vote on all future union contracts. It replenishes the Special Transportation fund without enacting tolls. It eliminates the income tax on Social Security and private pensions for middle-income retirees. A huge issue, because many people leave our state because of the income tax and the taxes on their pensions. And in particular, also, it reforms our inheritance tax, which is another huge driver of individuals moving out of state. It provides for major municipal mandate relief that we have talked about in the Education Committee for years upon years. These are huge accomplishments. And we will have next session to keep working on further changes to the budget documents that may be passed this evening. And that I am very sure that we will do.

So, that's the good part of this budget. There's also some bad, and in some cases it's ugly, and some of which I've had active and spirited debates by my colleagues on my side of the aisle just a few minutes ago out in the halls. And though we may still disagree vehemently on that, we did agree to work on it together going forward. So, for those reasons, I am at the moment leaning yes, but I know that there's a few in our caucus that are gonna be talking about the reasons why they can't support it, and I'm gonna be listening very, very closely. But for me, the education issues remain to be my first priority because it is one of the last remaining real competitive advantages that Connecticut still has and we have to do everything we can to at least protect that aspect of our state that brings people like my family, the aspirational class, forward and allows them to really be successful in our state. Thank you very much, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Will you remark further? Senator Markley, good evening, sir.

SENATOR MARKLEY (16TH):

Good evening, Madam President. And I can hardly resist my colleague Senator Boucher's invitation to give the case for voting against this budget. I wont' leave her in suspense and I probably don't have anyone else in suspense about what I was going to do anyways. I might say that I have what I could call traditional reasons for voting against it, to anyone else traditional to me. And I would say the first of them is that I have run for this office six times, five times successfully and once not. But in each one of those campaigns, I have told the voters that I would not vote for a dime in new taxes, new or increased taxes. And by my reckoning, I would say there's something like $ 380 million dollars in the biennium in increased taxes and fees. What I would consider increases in taxes and fees. And I feel like I would be in bad faith to the people who have supported me if I were to go against my word on that. And I have to say, frankly, I'd feel that I was in bad faith with myself. I would not be comfortable, whatever the circumstances, in going back on my word on something as fundamental as that.

I could talk about the fact that the budget has become common in controversial budgets here, unfortunately, has not gone through what you'd call the normal process. I won't dwell on that because I don't think there was any way that it could've come through a normal process this time around. It's -- it was -- we were obviously going into special session. The negotiations and the work on it has been monumental. And late as we are and close as we are to the cliff created by the Governor's executive orders, I understand the need to move quickly on this, more quickly than I'm comfortable with. There's also things in this budget, if I were to start to enumerate them, that I really can't abide. And just to pick out one of them, I feel like the $ 40 million dollars in bonding for the XL Center is really a down payment on an inevitable $ 400 million dollars or more that's going to go into that ill-begotten project. I feel like that's -- you know, there's a say, good money after bad. This is when we start to put good money into a bad project and I think it's a very bad idea. But none of those things are really what bothers me about this. I feel like -- obviously, these things are a trade off, and I think that what we're trading everything off for, those of who find, as Senator Boucher mentioned, bad and ugly things in this budget. The good, as it is presented to us, are the structural reforms which are supposed to change the direction of this state. I have limited faith in those structural reforms. I'm not convinced that the caps we're creating, the spending cap, the bonding cap, or the voting on the union contacts is necessarily going to make that much of a difference. That might be because 26 years ago, I saw Republicans and business leaders sell out their principles and, in my mind, sell their soul to get, above all, a spending cap, which was passed by the voters and has never been honored.

I feel like there's always a way to get out of honoring something if you don't want to do it. All these things are aimed at binding future legislators rather than doing here and now what we can do, what we must do to put the state on the right track. I've had occasions, especially recently, to talk about history, and sometimes in discussing it, I use the term, the arrogance of the present, which is when we look back on things with what we know now and how we feel now and make judgments about how people acted in a very different world. I feel there's a kind of an arrogance of the present in what we're trying to do now to the future. We're trying to dictate to us -- to it. And I don't the future is inclined to listen to us. I believe that responsible legislators will behave responsibly and I believe irresponsible ones will not be bound by the dead hand of regulations passed far before them. They'll find a way to squirm out from under them. So I wouldn't trade much for a spending cap. I'd rather have it than not, but I wouldn't put much faith in it. I put faith in electing good people who understand what needs to be done and I have to put faith in the voters of Connecticut to choose those people.

When the future looks back on us today, I think they will especially not be bound because they wont' see us abiding by our own principles. We do nothing in this budget tonight to address the crushing fixed costs which are in front of us. We did in the budget that passed the last time we were in the Chamber. This time, it doesn't happen. Instead, what we're doing is increasing state spending substantially in both years of this biennium - 3. 8 percent in 2018, 5. 1 percent in 2019. And we're doing that despite making reductions in the second year in payments to many of our towns. Something that we have spoken against doing as a tax increase by other means. For years, as Republicans, we have said that we can't keep increasing taxes and we can't keep increasing spending. But that -- this budget does both of those things. I think it's a mistake for our state and I think it's a mistake for our party. And despite the good things in it and despite, especially, the extraordinary work that has been put into to it by people that I respect highly, I cannot support this budget.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you and good evening, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Good evening, sir.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

I rise to address the bill before us, Madam President?

THE CHAIR:

Please proceed, sir.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you very much. First of all, I do want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the hard work that the leadership has put into crafting this package. I know they've spent many a late night, God knows how many hours of sleepless nights even, putting this package together and I am grateful for that hard work that they have put together to craft this package. Having said that; however, I will not be supporting this package. And what I'm about to say will strike some as criticism and being critical of the package. I think what I'm going to largely do is not speak of piggen, but express the facts. And I think the facts associated with this package speak for themselves and say why it should not be supported.

However, the very first thing I do want to say is that I don't know why we're here right now discussing such a complex, comprehensive, complicated, confusing package. Literally, the paper is still warm for the documents that were just printed moments before we convened to discus this. To me, this sets a terrible image for the Legislature. The people watch us debating the people's business on this very complex subject and we've had no time to really read the documents except in the most superficial way. These documents are not only long; they're complex, full of legalese. You miss a phrase here or a phrase there, a comma, a period, and all of a sudden things are different. There's plenty of opportunity for mistakes no matter how capable the people are who have put this together. And again, I think it sets a bad image for the people to see a Legislature debating a bill which no one's really had time to read with due diligence. Some people may have read this thing, are great at speed reading and they're familiar with the numbers. I'm certainly familiar with the numbers, although I have to admit, the numbers have been changing so much, I feel like I'm looking at a roulette wheel or something, because they numbers are just changing right up to the last hour or two and the documents had to be reprinted.

So, I would urge the leadership, first of all, to reconsider debating this bill tonight. I would urge that the motion be made to withdraw this from consideration and postpone until -- for several days, until we've all had a time to adequately study the documentation. And not only read it and study it, to think out it. You know, it shouldn't be something that we feel that we have to make this decision under great pressure. And again, I think we want the people of Connecticut, the people of our great state, to have confidence in what we are doing. And there was an infamous saying a few years ago when the Affordable Care Act was being debated and the Speaker of the House and the Congress said, pass the bill and then we'll read it. And I hate to say this, but a lot of people in Connecticut are gonna be thinking the same thing about us by doing this and rushing it through like this. As far as I know, there's no emergency. The world's not coming to an end tomorrow. Yes, there's growing pressure because of the fiscal situation that our towns that has been precipitated by the Governor's executive order. So I'm not suggesting we should take weeks. But I think we really do need the time to study this document in detail and make certain that we understand it, that we comprehend it, and that there's no mistakes in it.

Having said that, if the leadership wants to continue on, I will start addressing some of the facts in the document. The first thing I wanted to say is I want to address the tax and fees increases that are in here. There's been numerous numbers quoted, not only in this Chamber, but in the media as I've seen it. I've got right here a spreadsheet that was taken directly from the Excel table that was put together showing the revenue changes. There were 87 some odd items in it. I identified the ones that I -- are called fee increases or tax increases. There's 17 of them and they add up to $ 450. 2 million dollars. They range from kind of vague application and licensing fee increases, which are unspecified, to restricting the use of the property tax credit in eliminating the availability of that property tax credit to 10s of thousands of Connecticut car owners, who will no longer be eligible because of the new restrictions that we're talking about. It includes, of course, modifications to the earned income tax credit as well. Establishing a new fee for auto trade-ins, etc. I won't bother reading through every single one of the 17 items. But I can tell you that I didn't include the hospital tax in that.

The hospital tax is another $ 685 million, which would put us up at $ 1. 1 billion dollars. And that to me -- I don't consider the hospital tax, technically it is a tax increase, but substantively it's not because we all know the deal is that the hospitals are gonna get more money back than what they're paying. If that's a tax increase, increase my taxes all the time. I'd take that any day of the week. But, in addition to this, I believe there's a hidden tax. And the hidden tax is in the form of the raid that we're going to put on the energy funds. We are now -- the last I saw, and again this was a number that was changing quite a bit, the number I saw that was mentioned actually in our caucus shortly before we came in here, is that we're talking about $ 64 million dollars per year in each of the two years for the Energy Efficiency fund. That's $ 128 million dollars.

Now, I have in my possession, letters from the Department of Environmental -- Energy and Environmental Protection, from Eversource and from the Green Bank, and they're saying that these fees, these $ 128 million dollars in fees that were paid by Connecticut utility customers, not only are they gonna get nothing for it, but there are contracts that have been engaged in with the approval of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the cancellation of those contracts is going to result in penalties. And those penalties are gonna be passed on to the rate users at the rate of about a buck and a half for every dollar they've already -- that we're gonna sweep. So basically, for sweeping $ 128 million dollars, that means another $ 180 million dollars - $ 180 million dollars that they're gonna have to pay to the utilities because the utilities are gonna have to pay a penalty on the funds that have been swept. Because they won't be able to fulfill the contracts under the conditions with the resources that they thought they had. Ladies and gentlemen, that adds up to $ 300 million dollars. It's not going to show up on the state's books. It's not gonna show up in our budget as any kind of a tax or even a nickel of cost. But the cost is gonna be very real to Connecticut consumers. And, you know what? It's the worst kind of tax. It's $ 300 million dollars for nothing. They're gonna pay a penalty for our decision. I think that is not only unfortunate, I really think it's a betrayal of many Connecticut families who have paid this money and now will get nothing for it and will have to pay the penalty for it.

I do want to review some of the cuts that I saw in the roughly 1,200 lines that I went through. And I wondered if I might ask a few questions of the proponents of the bill? And I think the proper person would be Senator Formica.

THE CHAIR:

Please proceed, sir. Senator Formica, prepare yourself.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Madam President, through you. The first item I'm looking at is a cutback in Medicaid funds of $ 81, 500,000 dollars. Is that an actual real reduction in Medicaid funding being made available to the poor of Connecticut?

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Yes, Senator Suzio, that is a reduction. Connecticut is known for its generosity in this program and this is a difficult cut to make. However, this is a cut that has been made and the services are cut there.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. And through you, Madam President, another item I see is just under $ 10 million dollars of reductions for temporary family assistance. I could not see that being offset anywhere, so I assume that's a real cut.

Through you, Madam President, would the good gentleman confirm that we are cutting temporary family assistance funding by about $ 10 million dollars in the proposed budget?

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Yes, that is an annualized rescission that we had taken as part of the previous process.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. And again, through you, Madam President, I see another item in the cuts amounting to about $ 9. 5 million dollars for property tax relief for elderly under the circuit breaker. Is that a cutback in spending for the circuit breaker funds?

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. That is a reimbursement to the municipalities, the municipalities that administer that program, and they would be responsible for that cut. So, the program will continue.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

So, though you, Madam President, that means the municipalities that would be expecting $ 9. 5 million dollars from the State of Connecticut will not get that money pursuant to this program.

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. That is my understanding, Senator.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Another item, Madam President, in the cuts I'm looking at is tax relief for elderly renters, $ 29 million dollars. Is that a real cut in this budget?

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Again, that is a municipal program that is provided to the elderly for those services and this is a reduction in the reimbursement for that.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. And again, through you, Madam President. There's an item for, "municipal restructuring," and it's $ 40 million dollars. Would the gentleman please explain what that represents?

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. As part of the opportunity that we heard speak earlier before, the Municipal Accountability Review Board will be convened to help distressed, not distressed, but to help municipalities in trouble, specifically Hartford. That particular dollar is in each year, a portio of that money that will go to support that cause.

THE CHAIR:

Sorry. Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Sure. Thank you. And again, through you, Madam President. There's an item -- the reserve for salary adjustments, which amounts o $ 769 million dollars, basically. I'm a little confused because I understand that that normally is there anticipating contractual obligations and increased payments due to union negotiations and contracts. But this is a period of time in which the -- we are governed by a wage freeze under the SEBAC agreement. So, I would like to get a better understanding of what that $ 768 or 69 million dollars is doing in here.

Through you, Madam President. Could the gentleman please explain why that money's there when there's a wage freeze?

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. As part of the budgeting process, that reserve for salary adjustment is put in there to cover any costs that might be arised from the SEBAC agreement. So, that is a budgeting item that is put there.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. And through you, Madam President. It's my understanding that is normal to do, but again, my understanding is it's normally associated with unresolved union contracts. It's a reserve for anticipated salary increases. And again, as far as I know, most of the unions have agreed to a salary freeze. There might be a union, maybe the state police or one of them, I think didn't agree to the SEBAC agreement. But that's a normal number as I've seen it, if not even a high number, and I don't understand why its' there, given that we have a salary freeze in effect for the biennium. So, it just leaves me questioning why we have three-quarters of a billion dollars in this item and, you know, when its -- the circumstances indicate it shouldn't be there.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. I'm told that it is, as you suggest, Senator, the SEBAC agreement, but there is a lapse at the bottom that takes that out as a result of the SEBAC agreement.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Okay. And again, not to press it too much, but I took this from the Excel spreadsheet that was provided to us with the expenditure changes, and I hunted through that entire spreadsheet to see the offsetting item. And we all know if anybody has looked at this, will see that there's a lot of things going in and out of funds. So that when you see a reduction in a given fund, it doesn't necessarily mean that the money's not being spent. Sometimes it's being transferred to another fund. And I was look for that. I could not identify anything that matched that. So, I don't mean to press the good Senator on this because I know it's esoteric and it's an item that's in God knows, I was looking at over 1,200 items. But it's a pretty large item and I certainly would like to have a better understanding of it before I would have to vote on something like this, because it is part of what's involved in the budget. Let me move on and just -- there's a couple more items in here. I see that we are cutting money to the Small Business Incubator program, about $ 620 thousand dollars.

Through you, Madam President, would that be accurate?

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. I'm sorry, but I did not -- would you please repeat that, Senator Suzio?

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio, would you repeat your statement please?

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

I would do so happily, Madam President. The item is the Small Business Incubator program. It's in the middle of the items I've been looking at and it's for $ 310 thousand dollars in each year, so it's about $ 620 thousand dollars in total. And I couldn't see any item where it might have been transferred to. So I assume it's a real cut in the Small Business Incubator program. Would that be true?

Through you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Formica.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Senator, this is a difficult year. We have to cut many things. And one of the things this represents is a holdback. So this actually maintains the level funding as a result of the holdback that occurred in this thing. So, you'll see a number of cuts that are distasteful throughout this budget as a result of the situation that we're trying to face.

THE CHAIR:

Senator Suzio.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

Thank you. I have no further questions of the proponent. Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to the good Senator for his responses.

SENATOR FORMICA (20TH):

Thank you, Senator, and thank you, Madam President.

SENATOR SUZIO (13TH):

I want to go on a little bit. As Senator Markley remarked in his comments, at least he alluded to it, I think, elliptically, is the big gorilla in the closet, the 800 or 900 pound gorilla in the closet is the unfunded debt in retirement obligations that the State of Connecticut has, and there was a report I read last year by J. P. Morgan Asset -- Capital Asset Management indicating that Connecticut was second or third worst in the entire United States as far as its funding of these obligations and it calculated -- it did all these calculations for all 50 states and it determined that at a 6-1/2 percent rate of return, Connecticut would have to set aside almost 38 cents of every tax dollar it collects for the next 30 years to meet that obligation -- those obligations. Thirty-eight cents of every tax dollar that we collect for the next 30 years will be used to pay for something -- a liability that we incurred years ago. Think about that. Suppose you personally had an obligation, a debt, an IOU that came due and for the next 30 years, you've got to take 38 cents of every dollar you make and you have to pay that old debt, leaving you only 62 cents of every dollar to pay for your real current needs. It's pretty scary. It's very scary. It's incredibly devastating. It bespeaks of financial catastrophe for Connecticut. And unfortunately, this document, this budget tonight, doesn't address that question.

And the longer we postpone confronting that issue, the steeper the price is going to be that we're going to pay and it's gonna be a very dear price. It already is 38 cents of every dollar for the next 30 years. Just think, if we procrastinate, in another couple more years, we're gonna go over 40 cents a dollar. In this document, we talk about structural change, etc. The biggest, most significant, most important structural change is that. We've got to get that under control and there's nothing in this budget that does that. and by doing that, we not only create a horrible predicament for future Legislatures, we create a horrible predicament for the people of Connecticut as a total, because we're going to be robbing, stealing huge amounts of money from taxes paid by future citizens. Not to pay for any benefit they get whatsoever. To pay for something that somebody that might not even be around anymore got a benefit for 10 years ago, 20 years ago. I say that we have failed to do our job if we don't address that question now. There's no more time. The clock is ticking. We are running out of time and we are approaching an Armageddon of sorts, a financial Armageddon. And this document doesn't do the trick. Like Senator Markley, I'm skeptical about some of the structural changes. The spending cap, well, you know, another Legislature two years from now might say, well, that's a little too tough. What's to prevent from changing it? It's not like it's written into the Constitution and it can't be changed. It's just really, as Senator Markley said, it's really a matter of self-discipline, which we have sadly lacked for many, many years.

I know that people who will be voting for this budget tonight, and people will be voting in the House in the next day or so, I know, and we all know, that one of the motivating factors is not that this budget's the answer to anything, it's out and out fear about the disaster that's being wrecked on our cities and towns by the Governor's executive order. An order in which he's cut totally; 100 percent, all the funding for 85 towns and took most of the funding for another 54 towns. And that, I can see it on the faces of the men and the women in the municipalities I represent. I met with a group this morning and there was fear in their eyes like I haven't seen forever, because they know time is running out for them. They are running out of money and a disaster is about to fall on them. It's terrible enough that the Connecticut Legislature has really messed up the finances of the State of Connecticut, but now, we're messing up the finances of all our cities and towns too. If misery loves company, we're gonna have plenty of it. But I say -- I understand why people would be motivated by that. You feel like your hostage. You have no choice. Its' either this or continue with a destructive executive order. But I don't want to be hostage to the Governor's executive order.

We can seize the day. We can't -- we can -- with two-thirds -- or actually it's 60 percent I guess it is in the Legislature, we can go blowing right by any Governor veto if there is any. We already had a budget we passed that would've itself could've -- we could've overridden the Governor's veto and you could've used that budget as the temporary means for governing our state and taking care and keeping things under control until we could develop a broader consensual budget. God knows we could amend the budget ten minutes after we pass it. And I -- as far as I know, since Governor Malloy's been governor for seven years now, there's never been one budget that lasted more than 6 months, because they wound up being unrealistic. I predict by the time we come back and convene in February, we're gonna be rewriting this budget. It's not easy. It's hard work. But again, procrastination and putting it off for another six months, another year, it's gonna cost our children and our grandchildren dearly.

So, I -- again, I respect the leadership of this body. I respect the hard work that has been put in. I know that things were negotiated in good faith and I know that they were done with the best of intentions, but I believe that this is still the wrong document, the wrong budget for us. And I hope and pray that the votes that happen tonight for this budget are votes because you think it's a good thing, not for fear of the alternative, which is the executive order and its devastating consequences for every single city and town in Connecticut. If for some reason tonight this thing doesn't pass, we need to come back here tomorrow and brick up the walls here and not leave until we do pass something that we can pass on that really does address the problems. Not just the short-term problems, but the long-term problems.

So, Madam President, I urge people here in the circle to think very carefully about voting for this budget. The best of intentions, there's no doubt it was done with the best of intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We need to do something realistic. We need to address the crisis of our budget now. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark? Oh, our new husband, Senator Linares. Welcome to the circle and congratulations.

SENATOR LINARES (33RD):

Thank you, Madam President. Good morning, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Good morning, sir.

SENATOR LINARES (33RD):

First, I would like to thank Senator Fasano, our Leader, and Senator Witkos, Senator Formica and Senator Frantz for all of their hard work throughout the past year, working on this diligently every day. And I'm so proud of the persistence that you have shown us, you've shown our state, and I wanted to thank you for that.

This budget does not have everything I want in it. And some of my colleagues had mentioned some of the concerns they have and, you know, I would've loved to have seen policy in here to allow Tesla to grow stores and grow jobs in Connecticut. I would've loved to have seen a few other ideas and bills implemented. It doesn't have everything I want. But my constituents didn't elect me to come up here to get everything I want. They came up -- they elected me to come up here to do what was best for them and to do what was best for the State of Connecticut. And there was some talk of children and grandchildren and what future we are going to leave for them. In this budget, we have a spending cap, we have a bonding cap, and I'm confident that because of those pieces of legislation, we're going to make sure that we are instoring a brighter future for our children and our grandchildren and the future generations of Connecticut.

There are -- today, we face severe cuts to our towns, to our municipalities, under the Governor's executive order, and in my case, I represent a district of small, very hardworking towns, hardworking people and those cuts would've been devastating to those towns. They would've been devastating to the children that go to school and attend schools in those districts. And to me, although I didn't get everything I wanted, we're putting Connecticut first. We're putting those schools first. We're putting those towns first. And there are some good things in this budget. As I mentioned, the spending cap, the bonding cap, education funding being restored and also funding to students in our cities that are really struggling and hoping to have the opportunity to have school choice. We're investing in charter schools. We've giving tax deductions to senior citizens that are counting their pennies to stay here in Connecticut. And those are things that we can be proud of.

The people of Connecticut gave us an evenly divided Chamber - 18 and 18. And maybe that was a message that we all need to learn to compromise and that we need to learn to work together. And so tonight, I will be supporting this budget and I would ask all my colleagues to do the same and to put the constituents that you represent and to put Connecticut above yourself, above your political ambitions. Put the people first. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Will you remark further? Senator Guglielmo.

SENATOR GUGLIELMO (35TH):

Thank you, Madam President. I'm gonna change gears a little bit and just speak about one portion of the budget, the crumbling foundations. And I want to first of all thank the leadership and the body as a whole, because I'm assuming the budget's gonna pass, and it's a very important issue for my district, also Senator Cassano's district. Senator Larson and Senator Osten has the problem in at least one of her towns. Devastating to the communities we represent. So, the fact that this body was willing to step up and recognize the problem and help us address the problem, is very important. As the Senators that represent the area know, the real estate market in our area has pretty much tanked because of the fear of this problem. And I'll explain a little bit. And I also want to thank Senator Fasano, my aide, Lena Holleran, and Jen Macierowski who worked with this. Because while we had the money in place, there was a difference of opinion of how the funds should be distributed. And that might sound like a minor thing, but in the long run, I don't believe it is a minor thing. I think it's extremely important.

When the distribution method -- there were two different methods to distribute the funds. And I should back up a little bit and explain the problem to some who don't know about it. There's 38,000 homes in the 37 towns that could be affected. They come within the time period that we're talking about and have the potential to have the problem. It has also now cropped up in at least two or three commercial buildings, a school, and one bridge. So you get to see how devastating this could be. The Governor estimated it could be a $ 1 billion dollar problem over a period of time. I think that's actually on the light side. I think it's gonna be more than that. I think it's probably the biggest infrastructure project in Connecticut since the Mianus Bridge collapsed and all the bridge work that was done after that. So, that was the major problem. How we distribute the funds was where the disagreements came in.

One method was to use a captive insurance company. Set up a captive insurance company to distribute the funds. The problem I had with that, and I still have actually, is that insurance companies -- and this is something I did for a living for 40-some years. Insurance companies do four things basically. They collect premiums, they underwrite, they do loss prevention and they pay claims. What we have here is we only need one of those four things. We don't need premiums to be collected because none are gonna be collected. That's not gonna be part of this solution. We don't need loss prevention because the loss has already occurred. We don't need underwriting because the risks are already assessed. We know what they are. So all we have to do is adjust the claims. So what we needed was a claims administrator, someone in state government, maybe in the Department of Housing, maybe in the Lieutenant Governor's Office, maybe in the Governor's Office. I don't know where, but somewhere in state government that would administer the claims, hire independent adjustors, which we have loads of them in Connecticut. We're the insurance capitol of the world. We have qualified independent adjustors. Most of the insurance companies use these adjustors on large losses because most of the company adjustors are younger and less experienced. So we have a whole pool of talent. So that's what we really needed.

Unfortunately, that's -- well, that's where the debate came in. When you go the captive insurance route, what I'm concerned about in the long run -- and the reason I'm standing to talk about this is because some of you don't know it yet, but you were going to be ex officio members of this captive insurance company, depending on the committee you serve. And I just want you to understand how serious this is. This captive insurance company is basically a private company that's getting public funds. So that's what we got -- and we got $ 20 million dollars over the next two years that's gonna be distributed. And I -- and this will go on for decades. So we have to be really careful that when we do this, we watch it closely. Because what could happen is that the overhead could eat up a lot of the proceeds that need to go to the homeowners. That's my concern. So when you set up an independent company with their own board of directors, the amount of control that we have as a Legislature is lessened.

Now, in the original version of this, I thought it was not good at all. We had no freedom of information protection. We had none of the ethics laws applied to these -- this board. And those things have been addressed. So that's a little better. We do have some oversight. We do have some transparency. So the bill is much better due to the work of Senator Fasano and some of the staff people here. It's a vastly improved product than it was in the beginning. But all you have to do to look at why I'm concerned is to what happened with the lottery just a few months ago. That was -- it brought in front of the Public Safety Committee and the only reason, and that's a quasi public, so it's got a board of directors, got independents. They had -- I don't how many of you know -- remember the details. But there was a game that was being run by the lottery which was fraudulent basically. The lottery officials knew about it and didn't' take action for seven months because the game was profitable. So you had folks playing these games who were being defrauded. You had vendors who were committing fraud. And this was allowed to continue. And the only reason it came to the attention of this General Assembly was because there was a whistle blower who complained to the -- one of the co-chairs of the Public Safety Committee and that's how we got involved. So that's my only caution.

This is the same kind of a situation. We're setting up a private company that's out of the purview of this Legislature or even the Governor. It is vastly improved, but it needs to be watched. I want to again just finish up and thank those that are -- who are involved in getting this forward. I want to just caution all of you that are going to be ex officio members to please, please pay attention. Watch the overhead. We don't want to turn this into somebody's thiefdom. What we want is the homeowners who have this devastating problem, a problem where they have a home crumbling under their feet, where they're basically in a position of paying for the same house twice, we want to make sure that they get the bulk of the funds. Thank you very much, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, sir. Will you remark further? Senator Hwang. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR HWANG (28TH):

Good morning, Madam President. The hour is late. I urge strong support for this bill, because for us, as legislators, there are priorities in protecting our communities. This bill does that. First and foremost, it restores municipal aid and educational funding against the backdrop of the draconian executive order that our towns are faced with right now. This bill restores the funding to allow our communities to function moving forward with the plan of an ECS formula that has a formula that looks to address the inequities that is readily apparent. For that, it is one big part of why we should support this bill. The second part of it is we are looking at structural changes that sends a message that we are making a pathway to a better and more predictable future for Connecticut.

The third thing I will say is, and should not be lost in this Chamber, is the fact, for the first time, we have all four caucuses in a true bipartisan basis working together to solve the problems that our state is confronting. That can't be lost. The fact that we are working together, reflecting the will of the people that elected an 18-18 Chamber to work together in an open, bipartisan basis. That's what people want. And we are not out of this crisis in this state by far. We're gonna have to work together even more so into the future. If we say no to this first step of true bipartisanship effort, what does that lead us into the future? At the end of the day, I would encourage, give this effort a chance. Send a message to every other agency and every aspect of our government that partisanship has not worked. That we have an opportunity to build a more predictable and a better Connecticut by working together. It's a privilege to be in this circle. And when we sit in this circle, there is no party, there is no partisanship. I hope that in our future, when we work to solve future crises in this state, that we remember that. That we don't take one step backward just for the sake of scoring points; to just points in regards to how I can look better. As my wife reminded me, compromise means that somebody has to give something. But it is also a form of leadership.

We have leadership in both aisles that have demonstrated that they have worked together. Let's give that a chance. So, I urge support in this. Look past the challenges that may not be perfect. But I want to thank the people that worked so hard to try to make this document work. And I have the premise the fact that after we pass this, that we will continue to work together. That can't' be lost in this debate, that for the first time, we are working together. And boy, do we have problems that we have to address. This will send a loud and clear message and I hope that gets heard and it gets repeated and we send a loud and clear message to everyone. So, thank you for the opportunity to speak and I hope that we pass this with the strongest of message that we are united. Thank you, ma'am.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, Senator. Will you remark? Senator Winfield. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR WINFIELD (10TH):

Good morning, Madam President. So, I don't know what I'm rising to do when we vote. Strange -- a strange place to be at this point in the discussion. I've been listening to a lot of talk about bipartisanship. I think bipartisanship is great sometimes. I think partisanship is great sometimes. I don't think either one is good or bad. I think it depends on what we're talking about. I also think it depends on who the people are that are involved in the bipartisanship and who the people are that are involved in a partisan way of operating. I think it depends on a lot of things, is what I'm trying to get at. And I don't think that the mere fact that we haven't operated in what some people would call a bipartisan fashion, although I would tend to disagree. I've been on the Appropriations Committee the entire time I've been here and at least until kind of the end of the process, it is very bipartisan. I don't think the mere fact that this is the first time that some people would agree that we operated in a bipartisan fashion says that this is the thing to do. There are things in this budget that I don't like. And then there are things in this budget that I think we should not do. And I think when you start to add those things up, is part of why I'm struggling. So, it's not simply a matter of we're not being partisan in a way that I want to be partisan, it's also that bipartisanship sometimes can have us do things that are not he way to operate. And I'm struggling with all of the good things that are built into this budget as compared to some of the bad things. And one of them has to do with those energy funds that we talk about and the impact on our economy.

I stood with several companies, three in fact, to talk about -- and this was when we were completely doing the Reg E part and the energy fund. But to talk about what those things do to our economy and what they do to the ability to move forward and create jobs. One company said they were gonna leave the state. That's something to really consider. Right? When talking about the future of our state, the future of our economy, the future of our environment. I think these are important things to consider and so I'm sitting here, I'm struggling, and I'm listening to people talk about, you know, do this to send a message to people and that people sent a message to us when they voted to make this Chamber what it is. People voted in their districts. They didn't vote statewide. We happen to be split even. I don't know that they sent us a message other than in my district; this is who I want there. I think what they sent us here to do is not to say it's bipartisan so you should vote for it because it's the first time we've gotten a bipartisan budget. I think they sent us here to think about what the impact of what we're doing, which is what I think a lot of people are saying, but that doesn't mean that because it's bipartisan for the first time in 20, 30, whatever number of years it is, we should all be on this package.

I don't know what I'm gonna do. I've just kind of felt like somebody should get up and say thank you for the work that has been done. But if people vote no, it's not because -- necessarily because they don't believe in bipartisanship. It might be because they've thought about the impact of what we're doing here and said there's something really good things, some really important things. People want us to get to the end. Yes, to a degree, we're operating because of pressure. I wouldn't believe anybody who told me there was no pressure on them. I can't go to the store, any store, anywhere outside of my district and have peace. There's pressure on us. And there should be; we're late. But saying no at this point is not because you don't care about the people of the state. It's not because you don't care about bipartisanship. It could be because on balance, even though we're late, you feel like this is not the way to go. So, thank you for affording me a few minutes to speak, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Representative -- I mean -- sorry, Senator Slossberg. I apologize.

SENATOR SLOSSBERG (14TH):

(Laughing) Thank you, Madam President. Good morning. It is -- the hour is late and I will be brief. I rise for purpose of comments with regard to the budget in front of us. Well, it would appear that with this proposal, we will have resolved our immediate budget crisis, assuming that it passes. I think there's been a lot of discussion about the details. People have talked about the things they like. People have talked about the things they don't like. And I can't think of any budget that's come before this Chamber where there weren't things that people liked and didn't like. And I think on balance, we all have to make the decision of, you know, where does that balance lie and where do you -- you know, where is it really -- what direction does it take us?

I'm one of those people that think that it's good that it is a bipartisan budget. I think that it's good that people sat in a room together and went over policy and argued about the details of that policy. And by its very nature, there are going to be compromises in things that are good and things that are bad. But I know that in my district, when I go back and tell them that there is a bipartisan agreement, they're shocked, but they're happy. And at the end of the day, that's what they tell me. They say, "Wow, that's a refreshing surprise," to discover that Democrats and Republicans can work together. Even to come out with a product that may not be perfect, but on balance, does the good things in the important areas. There are some people who said that this could not be done. It was impossible for this building to agree on a bipartisan budget. And I'm really happy that we're here today to say that that is not the case and that in fact it can be done and we can work together. Because at the end of the day, I do think that the people of this state expect us all to come together and argue and compromise and come up with what is best for our state.

This budget, as has been mentioned, includes a number of systemic reforms that will begin to change the way we operate that just begins to address our long-term challenges. It is a first step. Our fiscal challenges are huge and they are not gonna be solved in one budget cycle or two, but we have to take a step in that direction. And I believe that this budget does that. I'd like to speak specifically, for legislative intent, to Section 221, which is the section that refers to the impairment of contract, which codifies the common law standard of the impairment -- of an impairment of contract. And I'd just like to note that this is a statement of policy that Connecticut follows the standard enunciated by the Second Circuit decision in Buffalo Teachers Federation v. Tobe, a decision that was handed down in 2006. That this standard, by codifying this common law, no way creates a higher standard for our courts to follow in the cases of reviewing an impairment of contract claim. It simply recognizes that there are a number of different cases, as enunciated through the Attorney General's opinion, that address this issue and that this body is choosing to follow the standard in the Buffalo Teachers' case. I would also note that in Section B of Section 221, the court may consider certain factors to be reasonable and necessary. They are not limiting factors and that does not tie a court to any particular standard, but articulates factors that could be and have been considered by a court.

So, while this vote in front of us will be hopefully behind us this -- well, this morning. We still have much more work to do to address those long-term fiscal challenges that we've all been talking about. And as others have said, I hope the spirit of bipartisanship, cooperation and common purpose will continue to guide us all to do what is in the best interest of Connecticut's residents. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, Senator. Senator Leone.

SENATOR LEONE (27TH):

Thank you, Madam President and good morning to you - or good evening, whichever it would be. I know the hour is late. But I rise today maybe to say comments that are -- might even be redundant, because everyone has said at some point a comment that I believe in, and it hasn't been just one person, it's been many people here. And it goes toward the spirit of bipartisanship, something that we should've been doing far too long ago. But the old ways of doing things has changed - rightly so. It has changed. You know, we ended up with a Democratic proposal. We ended up with a Republican proposal. We had a Governor's proposal. All three had issues that someone didn't like. So the end result is now, that forced all of us to get into a room and say let's take the best of these three documents and build upon that and work towards compromises to get us to where we need to be to move this state forward. So, I'm hopeful that this long ordeal is close to being over. And I respect people's decisions on whether you want to vote no or whether you want to vote yes, if you hold true to your beliefs. If you're gonna vote no and you're true to your beliefs, that's fine. But if it's voting no just because you don't like what's in this budget or the lack of what's not in this budget, I don't believe that is the best reason to do that.

At home, each of us, as it has been stated, we're under pressure - rightly so. We had a deadline. We weren't able to meet it. It started to go beyond that deadline and then it finally started to go much too far and pressure has been mounting. You go anywhere back in district and people are asking you what is going on? Why can't you get a deal? Why can't you lock yourselves in the room and come up with a deal? And on the surface, that's an easy question to say, yeah, you're right, that's what we should be doing. And you know what? That is exactly what leadership has been doing on both sides of the aisle in all four Chambers. And if it was easy to agree, it would've been done many, many weeks ago. But it's not easy because this is a complex document for a complex state with so many issues, so many people being affected up and down the budget. Every number that you adjust into the positive or into a negative affects somebody. Somebody's that affected that's either gonna dislike it or like what you do, and we have to work beyond that. and I think the hardest thing to do for our leadership -- and you know what, I would've loved to have been in those rooms so that I could've had my two cents every bit of the way, but we know we can't do that with 36 members. So we have to give a measure of trust, a measure of respect to our leadership to fight for what we tell them that we believe in. And if all you can do is say it's my way or the highway, we would continue this stalemate and go nowhere. We can't afford to do that. It's not like in business when you have a merger and acquisition and someone's gonna buy someone out and if they don't like the deal, the deal falls apart and everybody walks away. Come back to make another deal somewhere else along the line. We're a state. We have obligations. We have to protect people. We have to protect institutions. We have to make a business-friendly environment. So I think one of the hardest things that had to be accomplished was to come back to a room and have another discussion with someone you disagree with and to have to do that more than once. And at some point, both sides have to realize you can't continue to do that and expect to make progress.

This is a working document that is a reflection of overcoming that very difficult task. It's not easy. If it was, it would've been done many, many long time -- many, many weeks ago. And so we've had this crisis that has been building up. And with this crisis, because it's gone on for so long, it has brought clarity. The crisis has brought clarity to all of us to move beyond our entrenched points of view and to start to look at each other and say let me understand what the other person is thinking, what the other person wants, what the other person needs. And if they can do that for me and I can do that for them, maybe we can get to where we need to be to strike a deal. I think this document is a reflection of that. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. If you want to vote no, there's reasons in here to pick it apart and say this one item is not worth the vote. But again I posit, where does that leave us? It leads us back into a stalemate. Regardless of the Governor's proposal and his executive order, who, by the way, has had his own limitations on what he can do and how he can spend to pay the bills that are being due each and every day. And I don't care who would've been in that executive office, it would've been difficult and there would've been something to articulate why it was the wrong point of view from the person making the comment. But it also applies pressure to this body, to this Legislature, to act. If everything was going smoothly, we'd still be trying to figure out how to do it differently. I don't think that is true. Again, the crisis brings the clarity to action to bringing forth what needs to be done.

So I think this budget, this proposal, this bipartisan budget, because everyone has had some input, everyone has had their points of view raised multiple times and everyone has made progress to come to agreement by taking the best of those three documents, building upon that, and putting a path toward sustainability. Now, we don't know what the future is gonna hold. We know that there's some issues and challenges ahead, but if you're afraid of the future, you're gonna be paralyzed and never make a decision. I don't think we should allow that to happen. Again, I think this budget charts a path forward. And in terms of -- I know it was mentioned earlier that there had been storms brewing overhead. It's happened in other parts of the country with the storms in Houston and Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. And as bad as those storms are, what has happened as a result of that? You've had neighbors helping neighbors, people helping people. The government was there too, but it wasn't enough, so you have to also supplement. So whether we're talking crumbing foundations, energy in Millstone and the southeast or tourism or any other issues, just because it's not in my immediate district, doesn't mean I should say no to someone else in need in other parts of the state. We are all Connecticut and we should all help each other when the times demand that assistance is required. Because you never know, you might be that community that needs assistance and you'll have to ask for help. If we can't help each other, who's gonna be there when you require it?

Now, a lot of time has been spent, as I mentioned, and I look at this finished process, hopefully, this budget, as a long effort with people trying to do the right thing. And it's an art to me of good public service when everyone puts aside personal differences and works for the greater good. And I do want to give a lot of credit to the staff, who are not elected, but work for a salary, public service -- public servants in their right. And in the attempts to reduce expenses in our budget, hiring freezes, many, many of the staff have been working for no pay for many weeks. So it's with -- if you think about it, it's their right to pack up and go home and say I'm not getting paid. I don't need to do this today at this hour. I can come back another time. But you know what? They didn't. They have stayed here with the leadership. They have given their free time because they believe in what they're doing. They believe in giving back to the community. They believe in helping this state chart a path forward. And this is on both sides of the aisle. So the staff, I think, deserves a lot of credit. I know a lot of the names have been mentioned and I would love to go through them all again, but because it's been said, and for even those that weren't said, there's bee many, many people in this building working on their own time to help us come up with a bipartisan document.

So I believe what we have here today is something that we can work with. It doesn't do everything we would all want. I would love to see a few more dollars in one bucket or another, but we are -- we have our limitations. But it restores quite a bit. It helps our cities and towns. It doesn't raise the taxes on income or the sales or business and corporate tax. It protects students and education. It restores money to the Green Bank and energy efficiency. I would love to restore all of it. Unfortunately, we couldn't, but it restores it by far better than what it was. It's made the structural changes that we've talked about with the spending and bonding cap. It's had a lot of job creation efforts and many, many more that I'm sure will be articulated, as well as what has been articulated. So, we have come such a long way. We are nearing the point where we have an agreement. Let us not throw that away. Let us not throw that away and continue a stalemate and still go back home and tell the people that elected us here that we can't come up with an agreement. Because then they will be confused as to why we couldn't get the job done. They will then ask themselves the question, why did we send you up there if you couldn't go up there to compromise and negotiate a deal? Do the best you can and if you try and do the best you can, we will stick with you. And I think that says a lot. So I am hopeful that if we can prove to the -- to our constituents and to our public and to our neighbors across the state, even outside out district, that this is a good faith effort to work together, to come up with a plan to move forward, then I think that says a lot and I hope it says enough for a final passage. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark? Senator Cassano.

SENATOR CASSANO (4TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Good morning.

THE CHAIR:

Good morning.

SENATOR CASSANO (4TH):

I will be brief. This must be a great budget. I've been told historically that if everybody hates it, it must be good. And I haven't heard one person come out and say I love this budget. Nor have I heard anyone say that I hate it. There's something there for all of us that we like and there's plenty that we don't like. And that's the art of compromise. For people watching us, we're talking about our bipartisan budget, but I remind them that everyone of us in this circle have chaired or co-chaired or been a ranking member of a committee where on a routine basis we do things on a bipartisan basis in our committees. We've had a lot of practice in doing that. And with the leadership that we have today on both sides of the aisle, we were able to do this on a budget. That's a first and that's the historic part. So, in some ways, we should celebrate. A budget that we all hate, a budget that does what has to be done. The budget that'll move Connecticut forward. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, Senator. Will you remark? Senator Gomes. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR GOMES (23RD):

Thank you, Madam Chairman. I rise to support this budget. And he has just said I'm not one of them that loves everything that's in this budget to begin with. But the real reason I'm rising here is to mention and pay tribute to something that has never been mentioned here or was in any of the four budgets - $ 1. 5 billion dollars - by the SEBAC agreement of unions. Nobody has mentioned them except to malign them in certain areas and to say well, they didn't give enough or we have structural changes to prevent what they get. You gotta remember one thing. These benefits that they chose to give up are theirs that they won in other union negotiations. It belongs to them. And why would they sacrifice them as of now? Was it the threat of the Governor to say that he would lay off people if they didn't? That was partially it. Because union members, real union members. The union senior members could've voted it down and say, "lay off the rest of them. I give a (swear) less about them. " But union members protect each other. I know. I've been through many strikes and this sort of thing has happened. And they protect each other. They say, "I'll take less so my brothers and sisters can work. " And in turn, they saved this state a whole lot of heartache by giving up their money. And I just felt like there should be some sort of tribute to them that the unions stood up before anybody else did and made it a basis for you to get a budget. Regardless of where the budget we were talking about, whether it was the House, the Senate, the Republican budget, or a Democratic budget, you gotta remember, everything was predicated first on the SEBAC agreement, $ 1. 5 billion dollars that belonged to them and that they sacrificed in order to protect the rest of their union members and a (swear) of a lot of citizens in this state. I know I've diverted from what the basis of this budget is, but I think that somebody should speak for these unions. They didn't have to give it up. They could've been selfish. The senior people could've banded together and voted it down. Where the heck would you have been without that %1. 5 billion dollars as a basis for this budget? What would you be working on now? You'd be working on nothing. I just wanted to get up and say, hey, 54 years in the union movement, I would be remiss sitting here if I didn't say something in speaking up for these union people who sacrificed something.

And I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the budget. I want to thank my leadership in both sides of the aisle for the budget that you put together. It was bipartisan and it's working out perfect, as perfect as it can be. It's time for us to go home. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you, Senator Gomes. Senator Doyle.

SENATOR DOYLE (9TH):

Good morning, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Good morning, sir.

SENATOR DOYLE (9TH):

I'm trying to figure out how we got here. It's been a long road since January for all of us. Many of us -- some of us have worked harder than others, but I think all of us have agonized, whether Democrat or Republican, agonized some. Leadership put in many, many hours. The committee leadership worked many hours. But we're here today. And our constituents often ask us, all of us, I believe, you know, why are we so late; why is this the latest budget in the history of the State of Connecticut? I really think it's because they're difficult choices. The significant shortfall means any of our choices are gonna be difficult and I think to get the consensus of 151 members and 36 together made it so difficult. So I'm glad we're here today. It's unfortunate it took so long, but it is a very good day. September 15 was a day where -- it was a difficult day for all of us. I think since that day, much has been said of that vote, positive and negative. But I think since that day, I'm very pleased that our leadership of both parties have worked together to get us -- to achieve this bipartisan budget today. I believe that the bipartisan budget today is essential for us to achieve our current budget crisis.

As I said earlier, on September 15, the State of Virginia and the State of California had similar magnitude of budget crisis like we have in Connecticut today. Both of them achieved it through a bipartisan budget. So I am glad that we are here today. I think it's the best solution for all the citizens of the State of Connecticut. Now, many have said that this budget is not perfect. Crystal clear - we all know that. But I said during the post-September 15 budget, many people criticized Senate "A", Senate "B". There was all sorts of discussions. I made it clear to all the people -- I had different forums and the like. I said whatever budget is finally achieved down the road; you certainly will not like it, because again, they're all such difficult choices. But today, we -- this is a very good start down the road. I think this budget of compromise is truly what our constituents want and therefore I will support our budget today. However, as others have said, our work is not done today. Unfortunately, the out years in whichever budget that we're to pass, and today we have a bipartisan, the future is still very bleak. There's much more work for all of us to do over the coming years. I hope we all will continue to work together in this spirit of bipartisanship to achieve these future problems.

But I just want to make one closing comment. It's been mentioned that today is a bipartisan budget and we've had them over my career and earlier in my career. I think there's a distinct difference between the other bipartisan budgets of recent history than today. The other budgets, you have to remember, it was divided government. We had a Republican Governor and then we had a Democratic Legislature. And by those budgets, it was basically forced to be a bipartisan budget. Today, we're in -- one party runs the entire government. The Democrats control the executive branch and the legislative branch. So the fact that we have today achieved a bipartisan budget is a significant historic event. I am so appreciative of the leadership for working hard for getting it, because I truly believe today's vote, if it passes, will be best for the citizens of the State of Connecticut and it will be quite an accomplishment. So again, I just want to thank the entire circle for working hard in different forums and different hours. But we all have struggled through this year and I appreciate the hard work and I'm very proud to vote yes today and I hope it passes. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Senator Larson.

SENATOR LARSON (3RD):

Thank you, Madam President. I rise in support of this budget here this morning. I think this is where we come together. In my LOB office, I have the Mass card from my favorite Hartford mayor, Mike Peters. And I remember -- Steve, you remember back in the day, Mike would take us all down to the Whalers game regardless of your party affiliation. We got to know each other as individuals. We respected each other. We cared for each other. You got to know each other's family. And I saw that develop over the last several months and I think that that's who we are as the Connecticut Senate. And I think that that's how I hope that people remember us, is for what we've done here today in a very bipartisan fashion. Thinking of Mayor Mike, the notion that our capitol city would be able to rebound from its financial difficulties with a pull up from us with the appropriate oversight committees that will help Hartford again be its capitol city.

John, I'm not moving into the territory, but we abut on the Connecticut River and I have many of my residents that come every day to the capitol city to get a paycheck, and how strong that needs to be for us to continue to grow, to continue to fortify businesses that want to come and stay and promote and work. We have world headquarters of Pratt & Whitney in my town and I'm so supportive of that and the efforts that we put together collectively for not only Pratt & Whitney, but Electric Boat and Sikorsky. Those are things that we need to be proud of as a Senate.

I want to say thank you for all of the hard effort from both sides of the aisle, from leadership on down, to all of the staff that has worked on comp time and now I understand double comp time and now volunteer time, frankly, for the effort that you all have put in. It is so easy to put a big bulls-eye on state employees and pretend that their effort and their work is not appreciated. But it clearly has been appreciated by me and hopefully the members of our great Connecticut Senate. I want to also thank my dear friend, Cathy Osten, for her effort on recognizing the needs in Eastern Connecticut, not only the casino gambling effort that we put forward, but crumbling foundations, Millstone, and the list goes on and on. Just because you're on the other side of the Connecticut River doesn't mean you're in Rhode Island. So, thank you for bringing that to our attention. I'm look -- very much looking forward to voting for this tonight. I'm confident that there will be some ups and downs, but nothing that we couldn't manage and get through. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark? Senator Hartley.

SENATOR HARTLEY (15TH):

Thank you, Madam President. It's late, figuratively and literally. The process has been long. In fact, it's the most protracted budgetary process that I have experienced in my years here in the Legislature and they have been more than just a few. Arguably, though, I think that it is well worth it in view of the document that we have before us and we will be voting upon shortly. It has been probably the most challenging time that this state has faced in decades. But, I think, it is very admirable that tonight we have been able to join together. We have moved beyond politics. We are focusing on policy. And most importantly, we are heeding the directives of our constituents, the taxpayers of the State of Connecticut, and have not succumbed to hyper-partisanship, which we have seen the results of, certainly, in many other places. But what we have done is to deal with the immediate fiscal crisis at hand. And equally important, Madam President, what we have done here in this document is to lay the groundwork going forward for the long-term systemic changes that are going to be so imperative for the future viability of this state.

Yes, everyone has recognized this and we will not be forgetting it. There have been many difficult choices. If the truth be known, there were no good choices to be had. But the policy changes that we have also been able to incorporate here and they are changes which many have said were totally and just not able to be attained, but we've gotten there. It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been quick, God knows. But we have gotten there. And these as long -- as well as the fiscal policies, will yield the long-term changes that are necessary if we are going to realistically change the trajectory of this state. Madam President, it's my hope tonight that we have set the stage going forward. That by reaching across the aisle, that by governing through compromise and consensus, that we all benefit, in particularly our constituents of the State of Connecticut will be the beneficiaries. It's my hope that what we have collectively achieved here tonight will be the harbinger of things to come and will in fact become the rule, Madam President, not the exception. Thank you very much. I look forward to supporting this.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Will you remark further? Senator Moore. Good morning, ma'am.

SENATOR MOORE (22ND):

Good morning, Madam President. Thank you. Madam President, I just want to take a moment to thank the leadership for coming together to bring us to this point. When I was elected to come here and represent my constituents, I said I would do no harm. I represent a very diverse community, both for economics, urban versus suburban, politically diverse. And when I come here, I take off my D and my R and I try to think about what is good for the people that I serve. We did not get to this place by ourselves and we did not get to this place because of this administration. It has been a long journey to this place. But what I love about today is that we've come together to try to correct the past and move in a different direction. My constituents look to me to be their voice and it really is difficult when you have such a diverse group of people that you're representing to be that voice and think of everybody that you're supporting. I would hope that this is the beginning of us moving forward collectively, not think about a D or an R, but trying to take this state to where it goes -- needs to go. My constituents have called me, met me in the parking lot, in the grocery store, in the department store, and said to me, "what are you doing here? You need to be getting a budget. " And I'm happy that I'm able to go back and say it's not everything that I wanted. It's not everything you wanted. But I think there is something in here that makes everybody feel that they can walk away and be a winner.

The most -- my proudest moment in this Chamber was introducing the Two Generation Bill and it is now going to be a statewide initiative. And there is funding in that bill to moves this forward. And if I take anything back, I can take it back beyond the cities that I represent, but to all of those sick cities in the state that we are now going to address poverty among families through that program. So I, again, thank the leadership. I really salute Senator Osten who no matter what I ask her, she has the answer and she's willing to get and is available 24/7. And as a newbie, I appreciate my leadership taking the time to explain to me what's going on and where to look and having the patience to bring me along. And I hope that others will see the positive pieces and not dwell on the past and not dwell on the negatives, but focus on the positives so we can move this forward. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark further? Will you remark further? If not -- ah, Senator Witkos. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR WITKOS (8TH):

Good morning, Madam President. You know, this term has been filled with many historic moments, from the opening day where, as we sat around in the Chamber, 18-18, the historic power sharing agreement brokered by the two leaders of the respective caucuses, and then moving through for the very first time, the co-chairing of committees by the members of this body, which I think resulted in fantastic legislation that was brought before this Senate Chamber, all in a bipartisan manner. I know that seems to be the keyword of this evening, and in keeping in that, I got a new appreciation for the members and leadership that I had the opportunity to serve with. But I wanted to go back just a little bit, if I may, to June 7, when we had our constitutional adjournment deadline here in this body and we didn't have a budget. We actually never had a vote on a budget. And I think that was an historic moment. Not one that we're proud of, but we can learn from lesson and I think that's what we've done. So we came together and we passed a budget on September 15 that garnered bipartisan support. That budget was ultimately vetoed by the Governor. And then phone calls and the emails started coming in from our municipal leaders, our school officials, when the executive order was made public. What can we do? How can we afford this? What's going to happen? And it was more than just that. I had the opportunity and by request to visit a local chapter of the The Arc in my neighborhood. And I sat with families there who said, "What are gonna do with our sons or daughters now that they've aged out? The programs for the intellectually and developmentally disabled are closed. There's no place for them to go. Let my daughter tell you about her story where she gets to work 3 days a week at Michael's Jewelers -- Michael's Craft Store, stocking the shelves with her job partner. Waiting for the day that she has the skills where she can live independently outside of her parents. Now, she sat at home because there's no more job partners because of the budget impasse. " Her parents said, "This short-term impasse has had a long-term effect on her. " And they're hoping that the steps that she had to take backwards, she can recover and move forward and go that much further. And that's only one story after another story after another story I heard from these families.

And the furlough days that the nonprofits that were required to take and the days that they were required to take were the busiest days. The days that the services were needed the most. Why? Because that was the most cost-saving measure. And that's just wrong. And I think everybody in this body recognizes that.

So after negotiating for a good portion of the fall season, it was determined that we'll meet in the House Democrat caucus room, which is a nice size, by the way. They have a lot of nice treats down there. And at times there were only eight individuals sitting in that room - the four respective leaders and their deputies from the caucuses. And there were no labels, ladies and gentlemen. There were no Rs. There were no Ds. There was no scorecard that was taken. It's, "well, you got one, then I want one. " We put the policies of the State of Connecticut before our own personal interest. And when we think about our constituencies, whether we represent an uran area or a rural area or suburban, whether we represent state employees, union workers, private businesses, every vote that we take here affects every single resident of our state. And that's what those eight individuals drove towards in that room.

We looked at over a dozen ECS formulas, making sure that we got it just right so we can satisfy the previous law suits that were filed in the state, which got us to the most recent loss of debts pending and non-appealed by the attorney general. We think we've got it. You've all seen it. Most of us have shared with our school superintendants and they're excited by it. For the first time, there's a formula that they can count on and in ten years, they know that the formula will be fully funded and implemented. So they can determine, based on the students that they're serving in their schools, what their level of funding is going to be. We hadn't had that in this state for years, because we used to just do a flatline funding. But now there's a formula that addresses those concerns.

Our municipal aid. I know some of my towns have gone out and immediately ordered the salt that they weren't allowed to do, hoping that we weren't gonna have a frost or snow before we reached a budget, because they didn't have the money to buy the necessary materials to get them through the winter. Hopefully, after tomorrow when the House votes overwhelmingly on this budget package and the Governor signs it into law, those monies will be released immediately to the communities that so desperately need them. The communities in our Capitol City of Hartford, we've saved them from the brink of insolvency, from bankruptcy. And I think by doing so, by having the smart people in the room; the smart people that are gonna be serving on the Municipal Accountability Review Board; the smart people that are supporting this budget tonight, and all the residents in the State of Connecticut, the smart folks that know that we have to save our capitol city. We've seen the comments from the different credit rating agencies that they're lowering the credit and the bond ratings on our communities because of our capitol city. This puts a stopgap to that measure.

This is something that we all should be proud, that we can go vote for a budget that addresses major concerns of the State of Connecticut. Folks that have been talking about different policies for a long period of time, and I'm not gonna get into them because they've all been discussed this evening. But this is a vote that sends a true message to those companies interested in coming to Connecticut. That those companies that are here in Connecticut, that finally we provide sustainability, reliability and predictability. That we hear your concerns. We are righting the fiscal ship of the State of Connecticut. We're about to turn ourselves into a new direction. And with that, Madam President, I am proud to say I will be supporting the budget before us this evening. Thank you.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark? Senator Duff. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Good morning, Madam President. And I want to thank everybody for their comments so far about the bill we're about to vote on in a few minutes. You know, this road has been a very long and difficult road to get to this point this morning, early this morning. I think most people know when we were sworn in in January that this would probably be one of the most difficult budgets we would have to craft in recent memory, and that has certainly proven true by the length of time that it has taken for us to get here. And while everyone right now is certainly praising the bipartisan nature of the budget, it has been one that has taken literally thousands of hours by many people to get to this point tonight. There's been a lot of starts and stops, a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions with our caucus members, with members of -- our friends on the other side of the aisle, with the Governor's Office and the administration.

There has been a number of discussions about what are things that we can afford; what are things that are important; how do we continue to move our economy forward and how do we make certain that we make the investments that are necessary to keep Connecticut moving forward; and in fact, how do we make those investments so that Connecticut continues to be a place where we have the most highly skilled and highly educated workforce? Do we -- how do we continue to make investments in housing and education, higher education and transportation? And we knew that with the makeup of the Senate that we would need to work together in order to get a final product. And I know that there's a lot of frustration amongst the residents of the State of Connecticut because we did not have a budget by July 1. Understanding that frustration, I do think it's important though for the residents of the state to understand that, one, this was a very, very difficult year with very, very difficult choices, some -- most of which were for reasons that preceded most of us here in this circle. But, two, is that it took a long time because everyone around this circle cares very deeply about the State of Connecticut.

Now, we may have different ways of getting from point A to point B. We may have different priorities. We may think of getting to a solution in a different way. But there's nobody here around this circle who doesn't care about their state, doesn't care about their communities or constituents and take their job very seriously. And so, because of that nature of taking our jobs very seriously, of understand the decisions we have to make, of understanding the consequences of some of the decisions we make this evening that not only will affect us over the next two years, but will affect us over the long-term. It really took an effort to get to a point where we would have an agreement. And the last leg of this journey was started about a month ago when the leaders of the four caucuses decided to meet together in the House Democratic Caucus room, a windowless room I might add, that we would never whether it was sunny or cloudy or rainy or it could've been snowing for all we knew. But we were committed to being in that room and coming to a conclusion and coming to a budget for the people of the State of Connecticut. There were times where we would adamantly disagree, lots of times when we agreed, many times where we had to think about some of the decisions that were being made. But I think that all those decisions were made, obviously, for the right reasons and for the best for the people of the State of Connecticut. Those decisions were long. Those discussions were long. They were complicated. They were sometimes they affected other decisions that were made and some days we took two steps forward and one step back. Other days we took two steps back and one step forward. But I believe at the end of the day, we have a product here, while not perfect, because there is something in this budget for many people to dislike, but this final product is one, considering the very difficult decisions that we have to make that are in front of us today, are ones that we can go to back to our constituents and say we listened, we heard you, we understand the things that are important to you, and we continue to fund the areas that we believe are right, that are just and that make the state a better state.

And so while we continue to pay down long-term pension debt that has saddled us for decades, we continue to confront some of the bad decisions of the past, we continue to work to make the right decisions as it pertains to the future of our state and growing our economy with regard to education and transportation and higher education, we can say that we are doing this now together. We're doing this in a bipartisan way. And that we all own a piece of this. We all own a fact that the decisions tonight are ones that we all collectively have said we are putting our stamp of approval on and that we understand how these decisions will impact our future. So, Madam President, I am just very grateful that I was able to spend the time with such committed leaders in that windowless room for a month, crafting what I think is the best budget that we could craft under the circumstances that we had.

And working with Senator Looney and Senator Fasano, Senator Witkos, our staffs, Vinnie Mauro, Courtney Cullinan, Ken Saccente, Joel Rudikoff, Manny Merisotis, Katie Hubbard, Dave Steuber, our legal staff, of course, our nonpartisan staff in LCO and OFA, Senator Osten, Senator Osten, Senator Fonfara, who's really done great work; and my colleagues, leaders down in the House as well. We were able to have frank conversations, honest discussions. We were able to disagree but not be disagreeable to take it personally. So I think that while so many of the people of the State of Connecticut and around the nation look at the work that we do in public service as finger pointing or bashing each other or arguing all the time, I hope that they have a little bit of comfort and solace in knowing that we do work together. We can come together in a bipartisan way and in fact we can make very difficult decisions and we can set an example, not just here in the State of Connecticut, but we can set an example around the nation that when difficult decisions are in front of us that is in the best interest of everyone to come together and work together in a bipartisan way. So, Madam President, again I want to thank all of our staffs and colleagues and leaders for all of the work that they've done and the input that they've given us over the many months and to urge my colleagues to support this budget in front of us today. Thank you so much.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Senator Fasano. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR FASANO (34TH):

Good morning, Madam President. Madam President, I'm gonna start just with a series of thank yous. To the nonpartisan staff, OFA, LCO, OLR, I just want to thank them. What people don't realize is when we leave at 1: 00 o'clock in the morning, 2: 00 o'clock in the morning, 3: 00 o'clock in the morning; nonpartisan staff tends to continue long after our departure to start putting things in order. We think our job is done, and it is, nonpartisan staff begins and then comes back in early. No one sees these people. They're creatures of the night. They show up, they do their work. No fanfare. We ask them a gazillion questions. They give us all the runs and all the answers and then we pick the one we like. But their work is invaluable to this building. And other than us thanking them, there are people at home wondering, I don't know who these people are. But they're the most valuable people -- one of the most valuable people we have in this building.

The partisan staff - Republican and Democrat. You know, you talk about us getting together and working. It's the partisan staff that gets together and works when we aren't working. So, when we finish up at 1: 00 o'clock and we can barely remember what we decided and we're hoping that they can piece it together for us. They gotta get in a room and start thinking, what did that one and didn't talk and agree on this. But they work well together as a unit, functioning in this building. And although we're talking about how hard we work as legislators, partisan and nonpartisan staff come together, make us look good, and help us build where we are. And sometimes those budgets get across the finish line and sometimes they don't. But the work is still the same, 100 percent committed, 100 percent excellent. And we have to thank each and every one on both sides, and each side could not be nicer to the other side or more respectful. That's a working unit. That's what makes me proud to be in the circle.

I also want to thank my caucus staff for putting up with me. Lisa, what you do is phenomenal. But that's what it takes. That's what it takes. Chairs and ranking members, when we called upon you to say we got a problem, call this one, call that one, get the job done, you did it. Senators around this circle, anytime any one of us leaders called and said help, you were on the phone, you would come in. One time I said to Senator Miner, "can you get up here in a couple hours?" He said, "Len, I'm in Virginia. " And I said, "And your excuse is?" But he did come up the next day. He did come up the next day. But that's what we try to do. Our constituents were patient, and they're gonna have good reason to be patient. We're gonna get to that in a second.

I also want to thank Senator Witkos, who has been a great leader and helped get this thing across the line; Paul Formica, who has been there all the time at a moment notice and brings a great lunch; Craig Miner, who also has come up, as I said, when he was out of town; Scott Franz and many others. Bob Duff, I want to thank you. I know you had even your family thing and you had to do your thing with your son. Change in a room, go back to work, then unchanged and get back to the camp because you're a committed father. That pays off in dividends. Senator Looney, if it wasn't for our relationship, as we talked about, I don't know if this circle ever would've functioned day one. I always said people are looking for us to fail, and we showed them we could put a deal together to make the circle work, and it worked. In the House, Majority Leader Ritter, who fought so hard and kept us together. Joe A-Z, who has multiple hats, sacrificed a lot to make sure we stayed together, leave, come back. Representative Klarides, Vin Candelora, another two who were at the table constantly.

And when you look at these folks, as I think Senator Witkos said and Senator Fonfara said, these discussions took a long time, but there's a reason why it took a long time. It took a long time because we didn't just say we are short $ 5 billion dollars, let's take 10 from here, 2 from there, 5 from there, 3 from there, call it a day and get out. We talked policy. And the reason why we kicked out staff, frankly, was the ability that we knew each other as people. We served with each other so long, we could say what we feel, how we felt, without political titles and get to the heart of what we wanted to do and find the commonality. Sometimes that lit a fuse, and that's okay. But most of the time, it was so, and I hate to say it because it sounds sort of corny, but it was profound. It really was. We talked about issues that I don't think we've ever talked about in this building together, as a group, and found less differences, not more. It was really amazing. That's gonna bear fruits not only now, but I'm telling you, it's gonna bear fruits in the future. I think someone said we're gonna be back here doing this budget. Of course we are. Of course we are. That's okay. That is okay. But we have the tools in place to get it done again. We have taken down walls that had separated us as separate parties and said Connecticut comes first. I will also say this.

I think someone said -- I think the date was September 15 when we had the vote, and it was historic in many regards. That's probably not so important anymore. What is important is that there was courage to bring the budget to light. And I think that courage wasn't so much to say this budget, which was a Republican budget, it was a right budget. It was courage to say you need to get a bipartisan deal done. It was courage to say we're not gonna do it the other way. We want people to get in a room and fix this state for the betterment of the state. That's what was that message was. They know the override wasn't gonna happen. So, it forced people to get together and have a conversation. Success. Look where we are. Look what we have done, short-term and long-term. We have charted a different course. We've gone a different path. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, as everyone said, there's stuff in here that one could find a reason to vote no for. But most importantly, there's stuff in here that there's a strong reason to vote yes for. Stuff that we've talked about for eons and never have done for one reason or the other, but and it doesn't matter why. Blame is irrelevant. Reasons are irrelevant. Where are today? We're on a different course. We're on a bipartisan course, which doesn't make it right right off the bat, I agree with Senator Winfield.

But when you look at this budget and say we are doing things differently, you can look that we have charted, we have said to the people, the bonding in New York, we are working together. Stick with us. We've got a future in Connecticut. We have said to towns, we are not gonna let you get hit by an executive order where your bonding rate is gonna go up and it's gonna take you five years to bring it back down. We care. We have said to education, we're not gonna let you get cut. Everybody deserves a fair education, and by the way, we're gonna change it, we're gonna have a formula, and we're gonna make it right. We said that we are gonna work together to build a stronger state, pay attention, listen to us and oh by the way -- look, we may be upset the Hartford's been run, but Hartford's the capitol city, we're gonna give it another shot. Get it right, because we're watching. We'll put a little dividend in there. We're not gonna hang you out to dry. You know why? Because business people called us up and said who we trust, who we want to invest in the state, and said help Hartford, give them a shot. Let them have their own destiny. We will stick with you. We, in fact, will donate our time, effort and money to come to Connecticut, we're already in here, but bring out ideas to your floor and talk about them because we believe in Connecticut as business leaders. Big businesses. But don't let Hartford go bankrupt. Get them a shot. So we created a scheme in which we're gonna give them a shot and we're gonna watch them. Hartford's gotta know, this is their shot. Don't screw it up. This is your shot. And we're gonna stick with them because those business leaders who have helped Connecticut and promised to help Connecticut, we said we heard you and we want you to stay. We're working with you. That's a different Legislature than what we had in the past.

We're all in it together. The strength of our state depends upon the strength of our cities. We're gonna give them that opportunity. We're gonna give them direction and we're all gonna be on them. We are gonna move this state forward. This is the first path. Look, is this the budget? No. If the Democrats crafted a budget that would like this. No. If the Republicans crafted that would look like this. No. But that's not the answer. We are where we are. We gotta join hands, go forward, press onward and show people in this state we are one state, committed to success, committed to bringing an economy back and moving this state forward. That's what this budget does. Let's get our feet under us. Let's get the foundation moving. We're gonna have challenges next year, and as someone said, years after. Nothing we can't handle. After this, nothing we can't handle. We're good. We're moving forward. Support this budget. Let's get Connecticut on the right track. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Senator Looney. Good morning, sir.

SENATOR LOONEY (11TH):

Good morning, Madam President. And it's my great honor and privilege to speak strongly in support of this budget bill. I believe that despite all of the difficulties and struggles and challenges that we have gone through since early February, it is now 8-1/2 months since Governor Malloy presented his proposed budget to the state in that session in February. We have had 8-1/2 challenging and difficult months to bring us to this evening, and now this morning. And I don't think anyone could have predicted that there really is, I think, a sense of extraordinarily significant achievement in what we have been able to reach together. I believe that what my good friend Senator Fasano and Senator Witkos and our wonderful Majority Leader Senator Duff said about the benefits of being in that windowless caucus room for the House Democrats for several weeks was something that I think had a transformative effect that none of could really have predicted when we began there, compelled to be there by the challenges that we faced.

I think, over time, we all came to a better understanding of the principles and passions under which we all operate. I think too often, in a partisan context, we tend to caricature each other's positions. In that room, it was not possible to do. I think we each recognized the sincerity, the depth of thought and feeling and commitment to principle that was behind the positions that people took. And I think we had an increasing degree of respect and appreciation for that, even when we weren't convinced, and of course there were many times we were not convinced. But I think it changed the tone when everyone really not only realized intellectually, but really felt it in the heart that everyone was operating in good faith, and I think that changed the nature of the discussion in that room and I think it has brought us to the, what I think, is the excellent compromise result that we have here this evening. I want to join in the thanks offered earlier to our -- both our partisan and nonpartisan staff. I would first like to mention Neil Ayers, our director of OFA, who was with us and supervised the operations of that office and did such an extraordinary job despite the loss of both of his parents in less than a two-week period in the last month as we went through all of this. Neil is an extraordinary public servant that we all know and we are in such a debt of gratitude to him for being in there with us and holding strong in a time of great, great personal loss.

Senator Fonfara, in his comments early on, acknowledged the work of others. I would especially like to draw attention to his work in this. I think the work of the Finance Committee that he and his co-chair, Representative Rojas, presented us with two of the most creative proposals that appear in this budget and that are important elements of systemic reform. And first of all, is the volatility cap that he explained that disciplined to not budget above a certain level in the category of income that has been volatile. That is, in effect, the capital gains portion of our income tax. The portion paid by the wealthiest of individuals, most of whose income is not salary and wages, but through investment income, and to cap how much of that we will budget and to determine that money that comes in above that level will be apportioned into our budget reserve fund or used, perhaps, for pension contributions or debt service. That is a responsible position that is true systemic reform, structural change, as is the proposal of setting an expenditure cap. The idea that we will not spend to the very last penny of consensus revenue, but will stop short of that every year to build in an additional cushion against, perhaps, having revenue estimates that are not all of that accurate.

So this bipartisan budget, Madam President, reflects, I think, the collective consensus also of the voters of this state, who last November created a General Assembly with the closest partisan divide in the modern history of this state and gave us all of the challenges that came with that. Senator Fasano referred to the power sharing agreement that we negotiated to begin this session. Obviously, it had its challenges, but I think it worked out successfully at a time when many were predicting that it would go off the rails. I think part of that is, as he said, attributable to our long relationship as lawyers practicing in New Haven with offices a couple of blocks from each other and knowing each other well long before either of us held the positions that we hold now and built up trust during that time.

Also, I think, in many ways, this budget represents a significant compromise, but also an improved product between Senate "A" and Senate "B", which were considered in this Chamber on September 15. that the lack of an enacted budget for additional time would of course, I think, as we all know, would imperil our state's credit rating and by extension, those of municipalities in the state would already receive notice in some cases from Moody's that they were being downgraded because of the climate created by the long impasse. We are now lifting that cloud in a way that is so important.

Madam President, also, I would like to thank, in our caucus, all of the members of our caucus and I mean all, regardless of what their votes were on September 15, because I think that process and that difficult day helped bring us to the resolution that we are offering tonight that I think we can all take great pride in. And I think that that is something that was a spur to move us forward in a way where we recognized that a true bipartisan consensus was the only resolution to the situation in which we found ourselves. I would also like to give specific thanks to Senator Osten. Again, as Senator Fonfara said earlier, we are all hard workers. I think we are all committed to what we do and proud of what we do. But again, I don't know anyone in the General Assembly who gives more of her heart and soul to her work than does Senator Osten, who just lives and breathes her work as a public servant in a way that is beneficial to all of us.

Again, wanted to thank Senator Fasano, as I said, for his principled work, always wanting to have a discussion on the policy side of every proposal rather than doing something that would be a shortcut to a political resolution of a problem. Senator Duff, our Majority Leader, was superb in those meetings, often suggesting a creative way to leap over a hurdle that might be stymieing us up to a certain point. Again, as I said, we worked extremely well with our counterparts of both parties in the House leadership, both Republican and Democratic, were committed to the process as we were. Speaker Aresimowicz, Majority Leader Ritter. It is always strange to me when I'm sitting next to him in a meeting, realizing that his father, the former speaker, Tom Ritter and I started in the General Assembly together in 1981. And I can't imagine that Matt Ritter is now sitting there next to me as Majority Leader and he's 35 years old with two children. That in itself is sort of a stunner, gauging the passage of time.

Again going back to our staff again, it's been mentioned earlier that many of our senior staff have been in effect working as volunteers for a period of time because they have burned through their comp time, had no more usable comp time, and yet were here late and late and early and early. In that regard again, our Chief of Staff, Vinnie Mauro, and Deputy Courtney Cullinan, both of who just despite sheer exhaustion many times, kept plowing through with a dedication that was inspiring to everyone; Joel Rudikoff, Manny Merisotis. Everyone on our side and also on the Republican side worked together. I think the partisan staff worked in very close cooperation with each other as well as the nonpartisan staff to make sure that we had the information that we needed in an accurate way at the critical point when we needed it to make a key decision and also were looking to evaluate policy at the very same time.

So, again, Madam President, there's one other note of thanks I would like to make, and that is to the Governor, who has been a responsible governor in hard times since he came into office in January of 2011. The first governor in our modern history, and I've been here for 37 years, to responsibly deal with the issue of our unfunded pension liability. And the amount of state funds that he has committed to that every single year without fail, even in hard times, is something that prior governors of both parties had shied away from doing for decades and decades. And that is, I think, greatly to his credit as someone who has never shied away from something difficult, has always been willing to lead, willing to take the slings and arrows that go with that as well.

So, Madam President, despite all of our struggles and controversy over the last 8-1/2 months, despite the fact that people all over the state are -- have become increasingly anxious about what the implications might be of us continuing without a budget any longer, I believe that that period of uncertainty is now coming to an end. I believe and hope that we will have a very strong vote here this evening, this morning, and that that will be repeated in the House later today, and that we will have a clear path to a better future. Because as prior speakers have said, there is so much in this bill that points us in the right direction. There are systemic reforms, as we have called it, structural changes, as our colleagues, Republicans have called it. There is a significant commitment to protection of municipal aid, to protection of social services, to an ECS formula which is rational and defensible in a context where we have operated without that credibility, I think, for the last several years. We have made other changes that I think will help us going forward and will inspire confidence in the business community. And again, Madam President, I would hope that we would celebrate this historic coming together and meeting of the minds and submerging of partisan differences by having a strong, overwhelming, bipartisan vote this morning. Thank you, Madam President.

THE CHAIR:

Thank you. Will you remark? Will you remark? If not, Mr. Clerk, will you call for a roll call vote and the machine will be opened.

CLERK: Immediate roll call has been ordered in the Senate. Immediate roll call has been ordered in the Senate.

THE CHAIR:

All members have voted. If all members have voted, the machine will be closed. Mr. Clerk, will you please call the roll call?

CLERK:

Senate Bill 1502.

Total number voting 36

Necessary for Adoption 19

Those voting Yea 33

Those voting Nay 3

Those absent and not voting 0

THE CHAIR:

The bill passes. (Gavel) Senator Duff.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Madam President, I move to immediately transmit the item to the House of Representatives.

THE CHAIR:

Seeing no objection, so ordered, sir.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Thank you, Madam President. At this moment, before 2: 00 o'clock in the morning, I would yield for any points of personal privilege or announcements please.

THE CHAIR:

Seeing none. Senator Duff.

SENATOR DUFF (25TH):

Thank you, Madam President. Madam President, I move that we adjourn, subject to the Call of the Chair. Before that, I would just urge everyone to please make sure you drive home safely and if you need to take a break, get a little nap in beforehand, do so. Everybody's exhausted. Drive safely. And with that, again I move that we adjourn, subject to the Call of the Chair.

THE CHAIR:

We will adjourn with the Call of the Chair. Drive safely. Thank you all.

(On motion of Senator Duff of the 25th, the Senate at 1: 56 a. m. adjourned Sine Die. )

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