Gov. Malloy doubts Connecticut lawmakers will raise taxes, despite criticism of spending cuts

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has heard the growing complaints about his proposed spending cuts but doubts the General Assembly has the appetite to ultimately increase taxes to cover those reductions.

"I don't see that Connecticut's going to be raising taxes," the Democrat told reporters on Thursday. "If I'm wrong, we'll have that discussion. But I don't see there's a consensus with the legislature or anywhere else to do that."

Malloy quipped that he is taking note of every state lawmaker who has complained about his cuts, which affect everything from UConn to ambulance services for the poor.

"There's probably consensus that everybody bemoans the cuts," he said. "But I don't see there's consensus developing anywhere else."

Earlier this month, Malloy unveiled a two-year, approximately $40 billion state budget. Faced with a projected deficit in each fiscal year of about $1 billion, Malloy said he had to make some difficult decisions when crafting the plan. He said it's now up to the legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, to come up with a response. He predicted they'll face difficulties.

"This is not easy stuff," Malloy said. "It's going to be hard for the legislature to deal with this."

Members of the General Assembly's Human Services Committee heard Thursday from a litany of groups decrying many of Malloy's proposed spending cuts. The list included reductions to teen pregnancy prevention programs, respite care for families and caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, programs for people with traumatic brain injuries, home care services for the elderly and Medicaid reimbursements for pharmacies.

Advocates for the poor are particularly worried about Malloy's proposal to move adults with incomes of 138 percent of the federal poverty level from the state's HUSKY health insurance program to private plans offered through the state's insurance marketplace, Access Health CT.

"It is very likely that many of these individuals would never purchase a plan through Access Health," said Deb Polun, director of government affairs for the Community Health Centers Association of Connecticut. She predicted some would purchase a plan but not keep up with the premium payments, while others would pay the premiums but reduce their usage of needed health care services in order to cut costs.

Malloy pledged during last year's re-election campaign that he wouldn't raise taxes. His two-year, $40 billion budget does, however, roll back various tax credits for businesses and hospitals, and increases fees. He did not specifically rule out signing a final budget deal with the legislature that ultimately raises taxes, saying we'll "cross that bridge when we come to it." But he reiterated he doubted that would happen.

Ben Barnes, Malloy's budget director, told members of the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee that he understands the concerns of both those who oppose Malloy's cuts and those who believe the budget still spends too much, adding how "there is no clear and easy path." Barnes said it's now up to the legislature to decide what to do next.

"It's over on your side of the net," he said. "Now we'll see how you play it."

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