Connecticut lawmakers worked over the weekend and burned some midnight oil in Hartford before passing a $19 billion budget for fiscal 2014-15.
Gov. Dannel Malloy and fellow Democrats who control the General Assembly hailed the spending plan as inclusive but lean, while Republicans said it relies on too many iffy assumptions, such as the payment of $75 million in back taxes.
The Senate approved the budget by a 21-15 vote on May 4, shortly after midnight, hours after the House hours earlier OK'd it 91-55. Malloy is expected to sign it.
According to Malloy, the budget, which will take effect July 1, is under the spending cap and deposits the entire fiscal 2014 surplus, nearly $40 million, into the state's contingency, or rainy-day fund, which will expand to an estimated $314 million.
The revised general fund budget, said Malloy, comes in $40 million below the budget adopted last year and holds growth to 1.6%.
The budget also eliminates keno as a revenue source. Connecticut approved the lottery-type gambling game as part of last year's two-year plan, but it has yet to materialize.
The budget commits to statewide access for universal pre-kindergarten by funding an additional 1,020 pre-K slots in the state's neediest districts this year. This proposal also lays the groundwork to serve 4,000 more children by 2018, up 40%, and provides funding to help towns and providers prepare for full statewide access.
Additionally, the spending plan earmarks for municipalities an additional $80 million in education, payments in lieu of taxes and other funding.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said the budget will increase the two-year deficit for fiscal 2016 and 2017 to nearly $3 billion. Calling the state a "fiscal house in disorder," McKinney added: "It is structurally unbalanced, full of gimmicks and further increases taxes and spending."
Moody's Investors Service rates Connecticut's general obligation bonds Aa3. Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings and Kroll Bond Rating Agency rate them AA.