Governor M. Jodi Rell of the state of Connecticut proposed her final state budget to a receptive legislature on February 3rd, 2010, asking legislators to seriously consider the game of keno as an alternative revenue stream while nearly retaining the present spending levels of the state.
In her last State of the State address to a join session of the Senate and House, Gov. Rell, a Republican who is not running for re-election, called for a new era of bipartisanship to handle Connecticut's lingering financial problems.
Gov. Rell's budget offers a $100 million program to help small scale enterprises receive loans and would give college with up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness if they stay and work in the state for five years after graduation.
Gov. Rell's package, which needs approval by the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, would cut spending by less than $28 million in the $18.9 billion budget that takes effect in July 1st.
Rell said to the legislators that are preparing to take part in a thirteen-week budget adjustment session in the face of declining tax revenue that none of them needed to be reminded of the struggles that they have endured over the past twenty-two months. Rell said that the reality of the problems that they are facing is very real. Housing prices are down and unemployment rate is up.
The value of savings and retirement accounts are also down. Gov. Rell said that Connecticut residents are angry and uncertain about the future and the state government should do everything in their power to solve the problem and reassure state residents.
The $500 million budget deficit announced by Comptroller Nancy Wyman sets an end of the month deadline for Governor Rell to propose a mitigation plan to the General Assembly, which last year passed four such plans. Gov. Rell's keno gaming proposal, which would have to be discussed with Connecticut's troubled Indian casino facilities, would offer keno games in gas stations, restaurants and bars and gas stations and produced an estimated $20 million this calendar and $60 million yearly thereafter.
While Gov. Rell did not specifically mention expanded gaming in her address, it would be part of a $1.3 billion plan of borrowing against future revenues, called securitization, which was part of the two-year, $37.6 billion budget approved by the General Assembly in 2009 that Gov. Rell permitted to become law without her official signature.
Gov. Rell also proposed tax credits of $2,500 per-employee, per-year for 3 years, with a maximum $7,500 per employee.
A $100 million pool of funding would be created to help give loans for small and medium sized enterprises, with $25 million alloted for micro loans for small companies. Legislators on both sides of the House found things to like and not like in Gov. Rell's half-hour speech to a full House Hall. Senators Dan Debicella (R-Shelton) and Gayle S. Slossberg (D-Milford) both said that they support the tax credits a way to create more jobs.
Slossberg said that she first proposed the plan six years ago but Gov. Rell dismissed it. She said that Gov. Rell's proposal to offer credits to organizations with twenty-five or more employees should be expanded to include groups with at least ten employees. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a former Democratic state senator who attended Gov. Rell's address said that he was optimistic about the plan.
Finch that the bottom line in the issue is that they will face the anger of the public if they do not create new jobs. Finch added that Gov. Rell's appeal for a bipartisan effort is very important. The Connecticut legislature is controlled by a 114-36 Democratic majority on the House, pending a special election next month to fill the slot vacated by John Harkins (R-Stratford) who resigned from his post to be mayor and a 24-12 edge in the state Senate.
John M. Thorpe