By TAYLOR HARTZ
Southington’s representatives were divided on party lines when voting to approve the budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which began July 1.
With republicans largely opposing the $40 billion proposal, State Representative Rob Sampson (R- Conn.) and Senator Joe Markley (R-Conn.) voted against Governor Dannel Malloy’s (D-Conn.) budget, citing increased taxes and spending growth for their opposition.
On the left, state Representative David Zoni (D-Conn.) and Joe Aresimowicz (D-Conn.) favored the budget, the second largest in state history, with the hope of funding social services and strengthening businesses through tax relief.
The legislator passed the budget on June 3, with approximately $1.5 billion in tax increases, $178 million of which were later rescinded by Gov. Malloy in the “implementer” bill (Bill No. 1502).
The bill, a 700-page document addressing the stipulations of the budget’s approval, passed the House and Senate last week with a narrow vote of 78-65 in the House and 19-17 in the Senate.
Gov. Malloy signed the budget bill on the afternoon of June 30, on the eve of the new fiscal year.
Zoni said the “implementer” bill addressed many of the concerns he had with the original budget proposal.
“I think some of the major concerns that were originally put out there are being mitigated,” said Zoni, who worried that folks in Southington might have concerns for higher data service taxes for larger companies like Aetna and Travelers.
He hoped that employees of such companies would be relieved that those taxes were removed with the bill, in addition to property tax relief for working families.
Zoni voted in favor of the budget, citing an additional $1.3 billion in funding to Southington, including state tax exemption for veterans’ retirement pay, as a step in the right direction for the town economy.
“We’re going to see some more dollars coming into Southington in terms of pilot money and a share of the sales tax,” said Zoni, who said the budget addressed concepts of property tax reform and tax relief for municipalities that they had been discussing in Hartford for years.
Joining him in support of the budget was Rep. Aresimowicz, who agreed that the budget would benefit Southington, continuing social services that residents count on and allowing for growth in local businesses through property tax relief.
Aresimowicz said that he also supported changes to the original budget, ensuring that children with development disabilities will continue to receive required services in their communities.
Though he does not think the average resident in Southington will see much of an impact from budget changes, Aresimowicz is hopeful that social services will have received the necessary funding.
While the democratic representatives agreed that Southington would feel a positive impact from the new budget, republicans felt that the state’s overall economic health was being put in jeopardy.
Rep. Sampson, who said he originally ran for office to combat tax hikes and increased government spending, said he is “concerned, yet determined” when it comes to the future of the state.
Sampson, who said he heard overwhelming opposition from Southington constituents “from all walks of life,” voted against the budget and its implemented bill, opposing “the direction that the governor, democrats, and Connecticut Generally Assembly are taking us.”
A real estate agent for more than a decade, Sampson said he has seen an increase in clients leaving the state and worries that the increase in taxes will drive more constituents to relocate outside of Connecticut.
“I’ve got grave concerns about the future of our state, unless we start doing things responsibly and turning things around,” said Sampson.
Sen. Markley shared his concerns for the overall state welfare, and criticized democratic focus on town funding.
“What we have to do up here [in Hartford] is not grab at loose change, but put the whole state on sound fiscal footing,” said Markley, who joined senate republicans in opposing the budget.
In addition to concerns that Southington residents won’t be able to afford the tax hike, Markley expressed that it was critical to Southington and surrounding towns that the state’s economic health improve as a whole.
“There is no way one town or region can thrive if the rest of the state is collapsing, and that’s what we face,” said Markley.
The two-year budget went into effect on July 1 after legislation was signed by Gov. Malloy on June 30. Connecticut residents will see over $1 million in state tax increases, car and property tax relief for middle-class families, and a $100 million initiative to improve state public transportation included in the biennial budget.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.