HARTFORD--Hundreds of people packed a public forum at the state Capitol Monday afternoon to speak out about the Democratic budget proposal.
But the event wasn't held by Democrats; the hosts and organizers for the forum were Republicans. Republicans in the state legislature say taxpayers were never given the chance to speak up about the proposed changes in the budget, including higher taxes for the state’s wealthiest citizens and expanding sales tax to new services, including dry cleaning, accounting and veterinary services.
“I found it disturbing and unsettling that these new massive tax hikes were not discussed or presented at a public hearing,” said Lisa Davenport, an interior designer from Durham whose clients would have to pay sales tax under the Democratic proposal.
In all, 72 people, many of whom are small business owners, signed up to speak at the forum. They spoke about how they are worried they won't be able to keep their doors open if these proposed changes are put into place.
Democrats say the $1.8 billion in new taxes is a way to restore funding to social services cut in Gov. Dan Malloy’s budget. On Monday, Malloy commented on the Democrat Party's budget, and reiterated his priorities for the state's budget. He said those priorities don’t include the tax hikes in the Democrat Party’s plan.
The governor's budget, which was released in February, included painful cuts to social services and other agencies, but the governor said they were necessary to achieve a balanced budget without increasing taxes.
Monday, Malloy was asked if he would veto the Democrat Party’s proposal if it made it to his desk. He said he didn't think threatening a veto would be productive during negotiations, but he has said in the past that the party's current version of the budget would not be the final one.
“This is not the time to reverse our path or our trajectory,” said Malloy after chairing the Bond Commission Tuesday, “so I think hard decisions need to be made and somehow we will find a way to make them.”
In addition to hosting the forum, Republicans are also sharing an online petition against tax increases that has more than 5,500 signatures so far. “People have had enough. They’re tired of taxes,” said state Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “They want us to have a responsible lean government and that's what our Republican budget does.”
Democratic lawmakers released this statement to Fox CT in response to the forum:
We will not participate in the Republicans' political theater. The Republicans should hold a hearing on their unrealistic budget that proposes a half billion dollars in Rowland-esque cuts to Connecticut's workforce.
The Democrats’ budget is balanced and will result in quantifiable tax relief for Connecticut’s hardworking middle-class families and small businesses. It provides new aid to cities and towns while at the same time capping municipal property tax growth.
The two parties, along with Malloy, have less than a month to negotiate and pass the budget.