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Fiscal commission issues report for new governor, lawmakers

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HARTFORD — Participants on a former state panel charged with examining Connecticut’s fiscal situation returned Wednesday as private citizens to issue additional dire warnings and recommendations, but this time to a new, incoming governor and General Assembly.

While optimistic about Connecticut’s future, members of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth know the state has serious economic and budgetary challenges, co-chairman James Smith said. For example, the state faces $1 billion to $1.5 billion deficits or more for the next two years, while fixed costs are projected to consume 53 percent of Connecticut’s budget by 2020.

“We need to put forward the irrefutable, inescapable evidence that Connecticut’s ship of state is burning and we have to take decisive action to improve that,” he said, adding how the timing is right for this latest report, given the impending changes at the state Capitol. The commission’s original recommendations, issued earlier this year, were not implemented.

This latest report focuses on a limited number of recommendations, unlike the 35 offered in the original document. The list includes: cutting state expenses; right-sizing state employee and teacher compensation and benefits; cutting or broadening certain taxes; prioritizing state transportation projects; educating more students in science, technology, energy and math; and making changes to municipal revenue generation and spending.

One idea suggests Democratic Gov.-elect Ned Lamont persuade unionized state employees to re-open their labor agreement and agree to a wage freeze, greater contributions to the state pension system and changes to the state retiree health care system. The panel also recommends reducing the top rate on the personal income tax, lowering the corporate income tax and eliminating the estate tax. The recommendations include doubling the local property tax credit against the income tax, broadening the state’s sales tax and instituting a new 2 percent restaurant meals tax.

Union leaders claim the recommendations benefit the state’s wealthy at the expense of middle- and lower-income families.

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