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Rep. Lavielle Named Environmental Champion for Sixth Straight Year

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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been named an Environmental Champion by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) for the sixth consecutive year.  Of the 16 legislators to receive the recognition this year, she was commended for her leadership on issues related to electric vehicles and bottle recycling during the 2017 legislative session.

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters is a bipartisan, statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Connecticut’s environment by making it a priority for elected officials.  CTLCV works with the state’s environmental advocacy groups to identify, highlight, and track important bills that affect Connecticut’s natural resources, including air, water, wildlife, open space, and health. Following each legislative session, it recognizes a number of lawmakers for their leadership on environmental issues by naming them Environmental Champions.

“Because our state’s historic fiscal crisis and the failure to pass a state budget into law have dominated the conversation this year in the General Assembly, many critical environmental issues did not receive the attention they deserved, which is why I am especially honored to maintain the distinction of Environmental Champion this year,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Although passing a responsible state budget is the most urgent matter we have, environmental stewardship is essential not only to preserving Connecticut’s unique character and landscape, but also to its quality of life and economic viability.  Because I firmly believe that conservation of natural resources goes hand in hand with conservation of financial resources, I consider environmental stewardship an important component of fiscal responsibility, an objective that should underpin everything we do in the General Assembly.  It must not be ignored and I thank the CTLCV for keeping legislators focused on these issues.”

During the 2017 legislative session, Rep. Lavielle supported legislation aimed at securing dealer licenses for electric vehicle manufacturers in Connecticut. She also helped defeat an effort to dismantle the state’s landmark recycling law, succeeding in retaining Connecticut’s bottle deposit refund program. In addition to her efforts in these areas, Rep. Lavielle was a vocal supporter and co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment resolution protecting state conservation lands. She also supported legislation designed to improve the DOT’s management of tree removal on state highways, as well as successful efforts to ban the disposal of fracking waste in Connecticut and to improve access to water planning data.

“Facilitating the sale of electric vehicles in our state and encouraging bottle recycling are two good examples of issues that have the dual effect of both protecting our environment and saving our state money in the midst of a financial crisis, and can even potentially spur more economic growth here,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Instead of repealing our state’s bottle bill, we can modernize and expand the program to make it more cost-efficient.  Electric vehicles, in addition to helping to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, provide consumers with access to a choice that they have been asking for. Conserving our natural resources and encouraging business development do not need to be competing issues and I will continue to work for a harmonious implementation of these two priorities.”

According to CTLCV Executive Diretor, Lori Brown,  “Gail Lavielle has an in-depth understanding of complex environmental issues.  She is a strong voice in the State House of Representatives that we can count on to push for legislation that protects our land, air and water. More of our elected leaders should be working as hard as Gail in fighting for our environmental future.”

The complete 2017 CTLCV scorecard can be viewed at: http://www.ctlcv.org/uploads/6/2/0/1/6201942/2017_scorecard_web_pdf.pdf

Rep. Lavielle: Governor’s Veto Leaves State Staring at Budget Void

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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) said today that Governor Dannel Malloy’s veto of the Republican budget that was passed by a bipartisan majority has exposed the state, its municipalities, and its essential services to “severe funding cuts and significant uncertainty and risk”.  The veto means that a state budget will not be in effect by the October ECS payment deadline, and a majority of Connecticut towns will see across the board cuts in municipal aid and education funding, as well as elimination of core government services.

“Although the governor had announced that he would veto the budget even before its passage in the House, my colleagues and I were still hoping he would set aside partisan politics and do what is best for Connecticut. Unfortunately, he did not, and now many towns will suffer dramatic funding cuts, becoming casualties of his executive order,” said Rep. Lavielle, who had advocated all year for a budget that protected current levels of funding for every school district and municipality.  “It is also a disappointment that the governor would not even use this bipartisan budget as a basis for future negotiations on a consensus budget.  To reject the only budget plan that passed the legislature is irresponsible and puts Connecticut indefinitely at risk of not being able to fulfill its obligations to its residents. With the veto, he has left the state staring at a budget void, as there is no other budget on the table that has the support of the legislature.”

Legislators have the option of overriding the governor’s veto if House and Senate majority leadership decides to take it up in a veto session later in October.

Rep. Lavielle on the Bipartisan Passage of a State Budget

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“On Friday afternoon in the Senate and before dawn on Saturday morning in the House, members of both parties in the Connecticut General Assembly joined together to pass a state budget introduced by legislative Republicans. It passed 21 – 15 in the Senate, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor, and 77 – 73, with all Republicans and five Democrats voting in favor.

This budget closes the state’s $3.5 billion deficit without raising taxes, does not transfer the cost of teachers’ pensions from the state to towns, preserves funding for school districts and municipalities, invests in transportation, and protects critical services like those for the intellectually disabled and the elderly. It also contains many structural changes, including consolidating government departments, reducing state employee overtime, restricting state borrowing, and implementing the constitutional spending cap.

The now bipartisan budget offered a sharp contrast to the Democratic proposal, which increased spending by $1 billion, raised taxes by about $1.3 billion — including new taxes on consumer cell phone bills and non-prescription drugs and a new statewide property tax on second homes — shifted teachers’ pension costs to towns, and gave a non-elected body the power to authorize and set pricing for tolls.

I have long believed strongly that our state government cannot continue to increase taxes and spending and still expect to stop Connecticut’s persistent deficit cycle, foster a thriving economy, and provide both advancement and retirement opportunities, as well as needed services, for its residents. The passage of this budget was a clear signal that a majority of legislators representing both sides of the aisle are ready to change the direction of our state by supporting fiscally responsible policies that will require Connecticut to live within its means.

Governor Malloy has stated his intention to veto the bipartisan budget, even though a majority of legislators support it. If he does this, the massive cuts to school districts and essential services that are scheduled early next month under his Executive Order will take effect. He has also said that he doesn’t want to see this happen, so I hope that he will act responsibly and allow the budget to go through.

Participating in the work on this budget and watching it pass with bipartisan support was a remarkable experience. I want to acknowledge and thank our Democratic colleagues who put politics aside to do what they thought was right for Connecticut. Despite the threat of a veto, their actions augur well for policy changes that will restore our state’s economy and fiscal health. Whatever happens next, I look forward to continuing to work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that Connecticut has a responsible state budget, and to set it on a path to a sustainable and prosperous future.

If you would like to urge Governor Malloy not to veto the budget, you can call his office at 800 406 1527, or click here to send an email.

To read more about the budget, click here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget, or any other issue, further. I always appreciate hearing from you.”

The State Budget Breakdown: Latest Update

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As many of you know, the state has been without a budget since July 1, the beginning of the current biennium. The legislature was called into special session yesterday, September 14, to vote on a budget, but nothing happened.

The situation is critical for everyone in Connecticut. So although things are changing from minute to minute, I think it is important to give you a thorough update on what has happened to date and how things stand this afternoon, Friday, September 15.

  • Since July 1, the governor has been running the state by Executive Order. So far, this has been severely affecting community nonprofits and other social services programs. If no budget is passed by October 1, massive cuts to municipalities and school districts will kick in. Knowing that this possibility exists has created enormous uncertainty in every community.
  • During the regular legislative session, which ended on June 7, the governor issued and revised a budget proposal. Majority legislative Democrats did not release a full budget, and still had not done so as of last night. Minority legislative Republicans, however, issued a balanced, line-by-line, no-tax-increase budget in April, and we have continued to update it for the past 140 days, releasing our latest update on September 12. Read it here. We cannot call our budget for a vote ourselves, as only majority leadership can call bills. We have repeatedly requested that our budget be called, but majority leadership has refused.
  • The House and Senate were called into special session yesterday morning to vote on a budget. When we arrived, no budget document was available to read.
  • Around noon, the Finance Committee met to vote on revenue projections based on tax and fee proposals to be included in the still unpublished budget being prepared by legislative Democrats. The only document we were given was a list of more than $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees – no text or explanation. The projections were approved along party lines, by a vote of 26-25. Among the most noteworthy new revenue items:

o    $282 million from shifting responsibility for teachers’ pension contributions from the state to towns

o    $27 million from a new monthly 49-cent tax on consumer cell phone bills

o    $64 million from a new statewide property tax on “seasonal and recreational” homes

  • Throughout the day yesterday, House and Senate members waited for majority legislative Democrats to release their budget document. The Republican budget was public and ready to be called for a vote, but majority leadership refused to call it.
  • At midnight, with no budget documents published, majority Democratic leadership announced that there would be no vote on their budget. There was, apparently, no certainty among their members of enough votes for passage. Majority leaders indicated that no future date was set for a vote. Republican leadership again requested a vote on the Republican budget, to no avail. You can read more about what happened here.
  • At 2:15 am this morning, we were notified that majority leadership was calling the Senate in for a vote today at 2:00 pm, and the House at 5:00 pm. We do not know yet for certain whether either chamber will proceed to a vote. Again, as the minority, we cannot call the Republican budget. But if a bill is called, we will call the Republican budget as an amendment to it, and there will be a vote.
  • At around 8:00 am, we learned that Senate Democrats had posted a 914-page budget bill online. Along with all my colleagues, I will read and absorb as much of it as I can in the little time allotted.

I will end with a couple of comments.

  • Majority Democrats have told their members and the public that legislators have only two choices: vote for the budget they did not publish until early this morning, or allow the governor’s Executive Order to take effect. This is not true: the Republican budget provides a solid alternative.
  • The Republican budget includes no new taxes, protects education funding, and restores and preserves funding for essential services like those for people with intellectual disabilities, the elderly, and the mentally ill. It also includes structural changes to state government that will restore fiscal stability and put the state’s economy on a sustainable path for the long term.
  • The entire budget process has been conducted in a way that is disrespectful to every resident of Connecticut.

My House and Senate Republican colleagues and I have listened and are listening to our constituents, and we will continue to press for a budget that will serve the people of Connecticut well.

This is a critical juncture for our state, and what happens now will affect everyone in Connecticut. Please don’t hesitate to call or write me anytime if you’d like to discuss the state budget, or any other issue, further.

Rep. Lavielle and Legislative Republicans Release Revised No-Tax Increase Budget

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HartfordToday, State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) and her Legislative Republican colleagues joined together to release a revised two-year state budget proposal with no new taxes that would put a stop to the governor’s executive order, restore funding for education and core social services, and provide stability for towns and cities.

The revised budget proposal offered by Senate and House Republicans includes no tax increases and rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto towns and cities that would further burden municipalities and lead to increased property taxes. The Republican budget proposal combines elements of the Senate and House Republicans’ multiple prior budget proposals released earlier this year, feedback from Democrat lawmakers and the governor, and factors in the legislature’s passage of the state employee labor concessions deal that is now law.

“This is a detailed, balanced budget that is ready to be debated and approved by the legislature at any time, and it proves that raising taxes on Connecticut families is not the only answer to resolving our fiscal crisis,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “After the devastating effects of two record-high tax increases in the past six years, it is necessary to take a new approach to the state budget that does not lead to massive property tax increases by passing costs along to towns. Because my colleagues and I have listened to our constituents, we will not support any budget that increases their tax burden either directly through a sales tax, or indirectly by eliminating municipal aid from town budgets and billing towns for teacher pension costs. Our constituents want a budget that does not increase taxes, that preserves education funding, that makes transportation a priority, and that protects social services for the truly needy. That is why we felt it was our responsibility to provide a proposal that achieves all these things, to release it on time, in April, and to continue to update it ever since. Our budget sets a new direction for the state, one that will create sustainability and predictability for families, businesses and towns, and will go a long way towards restoring the economy.”

No New Taxes

The revised Republican budget contains no new taxes. It does not increase or expand the sales tax, hospital tax or income tax. It also rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto municipalities as such a policy change would likely result in property tax increases.

Reduces Taxes

The Republican budget enacts two policies that will reduce taxes for retirees by phasing in a tax exemption for Social Security and pension income for middle income families. In addition, the Republican budget also restores the entire $200 property tax credit for all qualifying families and individuals. Under Governor Malloy’s tenure this tax credit has been reduced from $500 and we believe that property owners deserve a break on their taxes.

Increases Education Funding

The Republican budget rejects the governor’s devastating education cuts contained in his budget proposal and executive order entirely. It instead includes a fully revised Education Cost Sharing Formula that takes into account factors regarding recent court decisions, enrollment, poverty, wealth and number of English Language Learners, among other factors. This budget dedicates $33.6 million more to education in FY 2018 and $136.6 million more in FY 2019 and phases in a new formula over 10 years. It also establishes a council to analyze and make any necessary changes to the new formula within the next year if deemed necessary. In 2018 all towns and cities’ base ECS grant will either be held harmless or gain more funding.

Municipal Support and Mandate Relief

This budget provides predictable municipal aid so that towns and cities know what they can count on from the state. This plan does not ask towns and cities to pay for teacher retirement costs as the governor’s proposal does. It also implements significant mandate relief for cities and towns to help municipalities achieve efficiencies and pass savings on to taxpayers.

Funds Core Social Services

This revised budget maintains Republican proposals to restore funding for core social services and programs that benefit people most in need. It fully funds day and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reopens Care4Kids, protects funding for SAGA that supports disabled residents who are unable to work, funds school based health clinics and family resource centers, restores funding for mental health services among many other programs.

Prioritizes Transportation

The Republican budget recognizes the importance of a safe, modern transportation system to public safety and economic growth throughout our state. Therefore, this budget prioritizes the state’s transportation needs and stabilizes funding without tolls or new taxes. It implements the Republican “Prioritize Progress” transportation funding plan and stabilizes the state’s Special Transportation Plan by dedicating transportation-related revenues to fund transportation needs and protects monies in the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being diverted for other uses.

Supports Seniors

The Republican budget lowers taxes for retirees by immediately eliminating the tax on social security and phasing in an elimination of taxation of pension income for single filers with an AGI below $75,000 and joint filers below $100,000. It also helps seniors age in place by restoring funding for core programs such as Meals on Wheels, the personal needs allowance, non ADA dial a ride, and the CT Home Care Program.

Employment and Day Opportunities for the Intellectually Disabled

The Republican budget fully funds employment and day opportunities for new high school graduates over the biennium, and it does not carry forward reductions imposed by Governor Malloy to employment and day opportunities services for the intellectually disabled.

Funds State Parks & Tourism

Acknowledging the multiplier effect that tourism has on our economy, the Republican budget proposes to transfer 1.5% of the current hotel occupancy tax to a new Marketing, Culture and Tourism account. This is not a new tax as Democrats have proposed. Rather, it dedicates a portion of the current tax for its intended purpose to boost tourism funding. This budget also implements the Passports to Parks program that has garnered bipartisan support in the legislature.

Reduces Size of Government

The Republican budget proposal includes overtime savings of 10 percent, a hiring freeze on non-24-hour non-union positions, and makes cuts to the legislature such as reducing the number of legislative committees. The budget also makes targeted spending cuts, 10 percent reductions to certain agency accounts, and rolls forward lapses made last year except for cuts to core services such as grants for mental health and substance abuse and youth service bureau funding.

Includes Structural Changes

In addition to balancing the budget over the next two years, this budget includes policy changes that roll out into future years to achieve significant savings. Changes include items such as a spending cap, bonding cap, municipal mandate relief, and other policy changes for long term savings. The budget also implements pension reform beginning after the SEBAC deal ends in 2027 that will result in some immediate savings as calculated in an actuarial analysis.