“Protecting Connecticut’s families and their wallets and preserving Connecticut’s character. Those are the goals of my budget adjustment and the goals we all share as we embark on the 2008 session of the General Assembly.”
– Governor Rell
State Budget Address
February 6, 2008
Since becoming Governor in July 2004, Jodi Rell has achieved a long list of accomplishments for Connecticut families and businesses. Here are some highlights:
Enhancing Our Children’s Education:
- Enhancing School Safety at All Grade Levels: Immediately following the shootings at Northern Illinois University in February, Governor Rell asked school officials across Connecticut and at all grade levels to join her for a second statewide conference on school safety.
- Increasing Access to Early Childhood Education: Due to the efforts of Governor Rell and state lawmakers, a new program was established that provides an alternate route to teacher certification in Birth through Kindergarten, including an online college to administer a new certification program for teachers.
- Historic Call Leads to Historic Investment: Governor Rell, after proposing a historic education plan in her budget, signed into law a new two-year state budget that increases educating funding (ECS) by $261 million as well as tuition relief for college students. The budget also includes a number of accountability measures proposed by Governor Rell to improve classroom achievement – tough policies but needed policies.
- Making Our Schools Safer: Governor Rell signed into law legislation that extends the ban on the use of lawn care pesticides at public schools from elementary schools to grades 6, 7 and 8. The new state budget also provides $10 million of surplus funds for clean diesel school buses.
- Unprecedented Investment in Education: Governor Rell unveiled her two-year state budget in February ’07 calling for an unprecedented $3.4 billion investment in education, including $1.1 billion per year to increase the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant (59% increase over 5 years) and $40 million for meeting pre-school needs – and much more.
- Ensuring Educational Excellence for all Schoolchildren: Governor Rell’s investment in education (Governor’s proposed budget FY ’08-‘09) comes with accountability, including full-day kindergarten and summer school for students needing assistance, a new high school graduation requirement and empowering the Dept of Education to make decisions when it comes to school districts where students are underperforming.
- Fully Funding the Teachers’ Retirement Fund: Governor Rell led the effort in 2006 in dedicating $246 million of the state budget surplus to fully fund (first time in 5 years) the state’s Teacher Retirement Fund for FY 2006-‘07.
- Investing in Preschool Education: In 2005, Governor Rell proposed and signed into law bold, innovative ways to improve early childhood education, resulting in a $21 million investment in programs for preschoolers.
- Addressing the Disparity in the ECS Formula: Governor Rell created the Commission on Education Finance charged with recommending a more equitable way for the state to distribute state funding for local education, including the ECS formula and other educational grant programs.
- Improving Our Public Schools’ Infrastructure: The Governor signed into law a series of reforms to address the concerns of public officials and taxpayers regarding the UConn 2000 construction program, including provisions for the oversight of future projects at UConn and improvements to UConn’s practice of pre-qualifying contractors.
- Preparing the Workers of Tomorrow: Governor Rell called on the leadership of Connecticut’s colleges and universities to join with business and industry in preparing the workers of tomorrow for jobs in the “knowledge economy” – an important step in maintaining the state’s competitive edge.
Attracting & Retaining Secure, Well-Paying Jobs:
- Job Opportunities in Environmental and Energy Conservation Careers: Governor Rell proposed a “Green Collar” training program for the state’s technical schools to prepare Connecticut’s students for future job opportunities in the environmental and energy conservation careers.
- Increases in State Exports in 2007: Governor Rell announced that Connecticut commodity exports increased by more than 12 percent from $12.24 billion in 2006 to $13.72 billion in 2007 – as we face a potential economic downturn, Governor Rell said this kind of growth was truly welcome.
- Reaching a Record High in Jobs: Governor Rell proudly announced in September 2007 that Connecticut set a new record high for jobs. Total employment in September exceeded the July 2000 high of 1,700,700 – further proof that the Rell Administration continues to generate, good, high paying jobs for the citizens of our state.
- Improving the State’s Business Climate: Governor Rell’s FY 08-09 budget proposal included a number of priorities critical to our business community, including investments in education, a health care plan to provide quality, affordable health insurance and an energy relief plan.
- Economic Development Opportunities a Top Priority: Governor Rell called for various measures to enhance economic development opportunities, including re-emphasizing Connecticut Innovations’ role when it comes to economic development, providing funding for supportive and public housing and allocating additional funding for the remediation of brownfields.
- Building a Pro-jobs, Pro-business Environment: Governor Rell proposed and signed into law legislation in 2006 that eliminated the 15 percent corporate surcharge, phased out the property tax on manufacturing equipment and machinery and provides incentives to encourage job growth, find jobs for displaced workers and bolster the state’s film industry.
- Helping African-American Businesses Succeed in CT: Governor Rell, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC) partnered together to spotlight DAS-certified African-American vendors and the products/services they provide to other businesses.
- Saving the Groton/New London Submarine Base: Governor Rell teamed-up with state and federal officials and local leaders from southeastern Connecticut to save the Groton/New London Submarine Base from closure. “Team Connecticut” saved over 31,000 jobs statewide.
- Investing in Stem Cell Research: Governor Rell led the effort for passage of landmark legislation that makes a 10-year, $100 million investment to encourage stem cell research in Connecticut.
- Helping Dairy Farmers Lower Costs and Save Jobs: Governor Rell announced a new program – Dairy Farm Reinforcement Program – designed to help the dairy farm industry reverse financial losses by providing grants, loans and access to credit to offset costs incurred due to federal price controls and high energy costs.
- Improving Connecticut’s Business Climate: Governor Rell signed into law four key business bills in 2005 to improve Connecticut’s technological competitiveness and help businesses become more competitive, grow their operations and encourage research in nanotechnology.
- Improving the Economic Vitality in Southeastern Connecticut: Governor Rell created the Commission for the Economic Diversification of Southeastern Connecticut charged with developing a plan to help diversify the region’s economy.
Addressing the Costs of Energy for Families and Businesses:
- OneThing Website Goes Live: Governor Rell announced the OneThing website: www.OneThingCT.com The website offers new tips for saving energy and conserving resources, information on rebates and tax advantage available to consumers. The OneThing website is another important step in Governor Rell’s overall plan to change Connecticut’s energy future.
- Outlining a Vision for CT’s Energy Future: Governor Rell negotiated and signed into law a budget that includes many of the key proposals she outlined in her bold “Vision for Connecticut’s Energy Future” (tax exemptions, energy efficiency, energy relief, etc.)
- Making Changes to our Long-Term Energy Policy: Governor Rell signed legislation (2007) that will make a number of substantial and beneficial changes to our long-term energy policy. However, she used her line-item veto power to remove two sections that would have appropriated $100 million in the current fiscal year – more than enough to push state spending well over the constitutional state spending cap.
- Proposing a Comprehensive Energy Blueprint: Governor Rell unveiled CT’s Energy Vision for a Cleaner, Greener State in September ’06, a bold plan to achieve immediate energy cost reductions for families and businesses.
- Emphasizing Energy Efficiency Among Connecticut Residents: Governor Rell called on all citizens to take advantage of the new sales tax exemption “holiday” on energy efficient products and heating equipment to prepare their homes for winter and to conserve energy.
Improving Access to Quality, Affordable Healthcare:
- Fighting Attempts to Delay Implementation of the Charter Oak Health Plan: Governor Rell blasted the legislature’s Human Services Committee for seeking to halt the implementation of her Charter Oak Health Plan – her bold plan to bring affordable coverage for thousands of uninsured adults.
- Enrolling More Children in HUSKY: The new state budget includes funding for Governor Rell’s proposal to enroll children eligible for HUSKY at birth, waiving the first four months of premiums even if the family earns enough to pay a premium.
- Expanding Healthcare Coverage for Adults: Governor Rell announced in June ’07 that her landmark plan to expand affordable healthcare coverage to uninsured adults is moving forward after the state legislature approved $13 million to get the healthcare initiative off the ground.
- Providing Universal Access to Healthcare: Governor Rell unveiled the Charter Oak Health Plan and HUSKY Health 2007 initiative to provide affordable coverage for uninsured adults and ensure that every uninsured newborn and school-age child is enrolled in Connecticut’s HUSKY Plan.
- Encouraging Enrollment in Connecticut’s HUSKY Program: Governor Rell announced in February ’07 that nearly 8,800 new children and teens have been enrolled in the HUSKY Healthcare Program since July ’06. The enrollment increase was attributed to the $1 million in new funding the Governor announced to raise awareness of the HUSKY Program.
Restoring Faith, Honor and Integrity to State Government:
· Completing the Job of Reforming State Government: Governor Rell proposed a sweeping ethics bill for the 2008 legislative session that calls for a pension ban for corrupt officials, broader financial disclosures of government officials and making the spouse of a Governor a “public official.”
· Signing the Clean Contracting Bill: Governor Rell signed a landmark bill into law that reforms the State purchasing process, creates a new state Contracting Standards Board with the power to review contracts and brings openness and transparency to the procedures by which state government buys goods and services.
· National Recognition for Her Commitment to Good Government: Governor Rell was nationally-recognized in 2006 by Common Cause, Public Campaign and Democracy Matters with their “Clean Elections MVP Award” for promoting democracy and restoring elections to the voters of Connecticut.
- Making History in Connecticut – Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Rell led the effort to enact landmark campaign finance reform to eliminate the power of special interests in politics and puts elections back in the hands of Connecticut citizens.
· Strengthening our Ethics and Contracting Laws: Governor Rell proposed and signed into law a stronger, restructured State Ethics Commission to enforce our ethics laws and issued Executive Order No. 7 to establish the State Contracting Standards Board to reform the state’s contract processes.
Making Our Communities Safer:
- Improving State Laws Dealing with Sex Offenders: Governor Rell’s 2008 legislative package calls for significant improvements to Connecticut’s laws dealing with sex offenders, including legislation that bars convicted sex offenders from changing their names and putting a special imprint on their driver’s licenses.
- Preventing Fatalities Involving Teen Drivers: Governor Rell’s 2008 legislative package included short-term recommendations of the Teen Safe Driving Task Force, including detailed punishments for violations ranging from passenger restrictions, curfew violations and cellphone/text messaging to speeding, reckless driving and street racing.
- Imposing Tougher for Penalties on Teens Who Drink and Drive: Governor Rell proposed tougher penalties to be considered during the 2008 legislative session that would crack down on underage drinking and driving, including stiffer license suspension for operating under the influence.
- Urging Swift Action on Criminal Justice Reforms: Making sure the public’s safety remained a top priority, Governor Rell wrote to legislative leaders in January to urge them to take immediate action during the special legislative session on the areas of agreement and take action on other initiatives with budget implications during the 2008 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly.
- Sweeping Reforms to the Criminal Justice System: Governor Rell unveiled sweeping proposals to transform and improve the state’s criminal justice system, including changes to the penal code, the Board of Pardons and Parole, victim services and the information systems used by criminal justice agencies – with the goal of having them all considered during a special legislative session in January 2008.
- Full-Scale Review of Criminal Justice System: Governor Rell, in the wake of the tragedy in Cheshire, ordered a full-scale review of key steps in the justice system to identify individuals who may be a risk for committing more serious crimes. The top-to-bottom assessment will be conducted by state and local officials and community leaders.
- Suspended for Violent Criminals: Governor Rell directed the Board of Pardons and Paroles to immediately suspend approval of future parole for any inmate serving a sentence involving a violent offense.
- Truck Ban on Avon Mountain: The State Traffic Commission (STC), in response to the Governor’s request after the truck accident in September, approved a ban on trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds on Route 44 over Avon Mountain in West Hartford and Avon.
- Statewide Truck Inspection: Following another truck accident on Avon Mountain, Governor Rell announced a special statewide commercial vehicle enforcement effort in all corners of the state.
- Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms: Governor Rell signed into law a bill passed during the 2007 legislative session that requires gun owners to report their lost or stolen guns within 72 hours of discovering them missing.
- Calling for a Major Crackdown on ‘Burglary II’ Offenders: In July 2007, Governor Rell called for new levels of parole standards and post-parole supervision for offenders convicted of nighttime burglaries or burglarizing occupied residences in Connecticut. She is also asking the state Legislature to reclassify these offenses as ‘violent crimes’ – meaning anyone convicted to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before being considered for release to parole.
- Toughening the Penalties Against Child Sex Predators: After proposing her own version of Jessica’s Law in 2006, Governor Rell signed into law legislation passed during the 2007 legislative session that increases penalties for child sex predators and establishes a new crime that requires a mandatory 25-year prison sentence for those who sexually abuse a child under 13 years of age.
- Requiring the Report of Lost or Stolen Firearms: Governor Rell signed a bill into law that requires gun owners in Connecticut to report their lost or stolen guns within 72-hours of discovering them missing. Gun owners who violate the law will face penalties ranging from an infraction to a felony.
- Ensuring the Safety and Security of Connecticut Residents: Governor Rell’s proposed budget for FY ‘08-‘09 included measures that would put more state troopers on the roads, combat the illegal use of methamphetamine and create mandatory minimum sentences of 25 years for sexual crimes committed against minors under the age 13.
- Curbing Urban Violence in Connecticut: Governor Rell unveiled the first phase of a sweeping initiative to curb urban violence in our cities. The plan included three new special gun dockets, automatic referrals of gun-related offenses to these courts, three new state prosecutors assigned to the gun courts and the implementation of the Statewide Urban Violence and Cooperative Crime Control Task Force.
- Bolstering the Connecticut State Police Force: Governor Rell announced that a class of 70 state police candidates will begin training in January ’06 – bringing the Connecticut State Police force up to its full complement of 1,248 troopers for the first time.
- Gauging Connecticut’s Preparedness to Terrorism: Governor Rell led Connecticut’s critical role in TOPOFF3, an intense, five-day homeland security exercise that took place in New London, CT to test the state’s ability to stop terrorism and effectively respond to it
Creating an Efficient 21st Century Transportation System:
- Changing the Culture at DOT: Giving rise to a culture of change, Governor Rell boldly called for an end to the old DOT and the creation of two new and focused departments: Department of Highways and a separate Department of Public Transportation, Aviation and Ports.
- Highlighting Highway Safety on Connecticut Roadways: Governor Rell’s 2008 state budget called for 100 new state troopers to enforce traffic laws and two new DMV “Truck Squads” to target companies with a history of safety violations.
- Investing in Railways and Busways: Governor Rell signed into law a budget (FY 08-09) that invests over $100 million in railway operations, $110 million in bus operations and $10 million of surplus funds for clean diesel school buses.
- Expanding Rail Operations: Governor Rell directed DOT to complete a full review of expanding rail service to Penn Station in New York – identifying opportunities and obstacles for expansion.
- Fulfilling Promise to Improve State Roadways: Governor Rell announced the approval of $54 million to resurface 180 miles of two-lane roads, just another way to keep our roadways safe as possible.
- Improving our Transportation Infrastructure: Governor Rell ordered the DOT to inspect all state bridges on a two-year cycle rather than a four-year cycle – another step forward in enhancing the state’s transportation system.
- Top to Bottom Change at DOT: Governor Rell formed a working group of business, transportation and organization experts to implement a top to bottom change at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in light of the I-84 highway expansion project.
- A Commitment to a First-Class Transportation System: Governor Rell’s FY ‘08-‘09 proposed budget included transportation measures that build on the successful initiatives she has championed over the last three years, including enhancing rail service on Shore Line East, providing new and expanded rail stations and parking and purchasing an additional 24 M-8 rail cars for the Shore Line East and New Haven Rail Lines.
- Approving Millions of Dollars for Long-Awaited Rail Cars: Governor Rell announced in August ’06 the approval of the largest purchase of rails cars in the state’s history -- $459 million for up to 300 rail cars for the New Haven and Shore Line East rail lines.
- Roadmap for Connecticut’s Future: Governor Rell helped secure passage of another landmark transportation initiative – Roadmap for Connecticut’s Future – a $2.3 billion plan to improve Connecticut’s roadways, railways, busways and ports.
- Championing a “Historic” Transportation Package: In 2005, Governor Rell made history by proposing and signing into law a $1.3 billion transportation improvement package that called for new rail cars, new rail maintenance facilities, new transit buses and highway improvements.
Promoting Fiscal Responsibility in State Government:
- Calling for Cost Saving Measures for State Agencies: Governor Rell directed all state agencies to implement certain cost saving measures, including cell phone use and motor vehicle fuel for state vehicles.
- Vetoing an Unaffordable Bond Package: In October ‘07, Governor Rell vetoed a bond package approved during a special session that would have authorized $3.2 billion in General Obligation Bonds. She was clear: the total package is unaffordable and unacceptable. However, she called a special session for legislators to immediately return to the State Capitol to pass a bond package that deals solely with school construction costs.
- The Bottom Line – FY 08-09 State Budget: The new two-year state budget signed into law by Governor Rell totals $36 billion over two-years, representing an 8.6 percent increase in FY 08 and a 4 percent increase in FY 09.
- ‘No Tax Increases Whatsoever’: After reviewing the most recent revenue estimates in May ’07, the Governor announced that the legislature should adopt a budget for FY ’08-‘09 that contains zero tax increases and a three percent property tax cap while making important investments in education. The Governor vetoed the Democrats’ tax package that would have increased taxes by $1 billion and increased state spending by 10.5 percent.
- A Historic Proposal for Property Tax Relief: The Governor made history during the 2007 legislative session by proposing a measure that would cap local property tax increases at 3 percent. She was clear: now is the time to get it done. Although it was widely embraced by local taxpayers, the legislature failed to approve her proposal.
- Fighting Soaring Gasoline Prices: In the spring of 2007, Governor Rell demanded answers from the federal government for the record-high gas prices and called on the legislature to suspend the state’s 25-cent gasoline tax through Labor Day and to cap the gross receipts tax on petroleum products. Unfortunately, legislature failed to approve these measures.
- Passing a Balanced State Budget On-Time: For two consecutive years (2005 and 2006), Governor Rell negotiated and signed into law a state budget that was balanced, honored the state’s spending cap and invested in transportation, education and cities and towns.
- Exercising Fiscal Responsibility: Governor Rell has always urged sound fiscal responsibility by depositing hundreds of millions of dollars of state surplus dollars in the state’s ‘Rainy Day’ budget reserve – successfully bringing that fund to over $1 billion for the first time ever.
Taking Action for the Good of Connecticut Families and Businesses:
- Creating a Web Site for Citizens to Communicate with State Government: Governor Rell proposed legislation to create an electronic clearinghouse that would forward e-mailed questions, concerns and suggestions from citizens to the proper state government department.
- Helping Families Suffering Through “Mortgage Nightmare”: Governor Rell, in an effort to bring the mortgage crisis under control, proposed legislation to redefine loans in Connecticut that would fall into the sub-prime category and provide for additional disclosures that would alert customers to the economic risk associated with these loans.
- Boosting Veterans’ Benefits and Services: Governor Rell’s 2008 budget proposal increases benefits and services for Connecticut veterans, including tuition waivers at the state’s public colleges and universities for children and spouses of persons killed in action after September 11, 2001.
- Fighting for Homeowners and Businesses: Governor Rell, in an appeal to an earlier decision by FEMA, announced that FEMA will now provide individual assistance to homeowners and businesses affected by the devastating April 15 nor’easter.
- Honoring Soldier’s Funerals: Governor Rell signed into law (2007) legislation to stop disruptions by protest groups at military funerals. A protest within 150 feet of a funeral will be a Class A misdemeanor.
- A State-of-the-Art Veterans Home in Rocky Hill: The Rell Administration is leading the way in constructing a new, state-of-the-art facility for veterans in Rocky Hill to be completed by January 2008 that would provide first-rate services and benefits to Connecticut veterans.
- Providing a Fairer System for Small Businesses: Governor Rell directed all state agencies to post bids, requests for proposals and all resulting contracts and agreements on the state’s State Contracting Portal (www.das.state.ct.us) – which includes prominent features to encourage the participation of small businesses, particularly women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
- Eliminating the Roadblocks to Adoption: Governor Rell offered precedent-setting legislation that provides funding for college tuition for foster children who are adopted, improves case management and services for families experiencing difficulty in an adoption and increases subsidies for new adoptions in Connecticut.
- Providing Support for the Families of Deployed Troops: Governor Rell launched Operation ELF (Embracing Loving Families) to provide assistance to family members of deployed troops. This includes donations of new, unwrapped toys, grocery and phone cards, fuel oil and snow removal services.
- Extending Civil Rights to All Couples in Connecticut: Governor Rell signed legislation in April 2005 that extends civil rights to all couples, no matter their gender – making it clear that discrimination in any form is unacceptable.
- Rewarding Connecticut Veterans: Governor Rell proposed and signed into law legislation in 2005 to exempt half of veterans’ federal taxable military retirement pay from the state income tax; offer bonuses of $50 a month to Connecticut National Guard troops called to action on or after September 11, 2001; and provide a death benefit for families of Connecticut soldiers killed while serving in Southwest Asia.
Protecting the Environment and Preserving Connecticut’s Land:
- Lessening the Distraction on State Roadways by Banning Billboards: Governor Rell issued Executive Order No. 18 – and proposed legislation during the 2008 legislative session – to not allow new contracts for billboards on state-owned property and allow billboard contracts to be renewed when they expire.
- Opposing the Broadwater’s proposed liquefied natural gas project: Governor Rell is taking all steps necessary to show Connecticut unwavering opposition to the proposed Broadwater liquefied natural gas project – calling it an ill-conceived, reckless, environmentally disastrous and utterly unnecessary project.
- Expanding and Advancing Connecticut’s Agricultural Community: Governor Rell announced over $800,000 in grant funds to help 14 agricultural producers, two non-profit agricultural organizations and 16 municipalities throughout the state as part of the Connecticut Agriculture Viability Grant Program.
- Striking a Balance between Growth and Preservation: Included in the new two-year state budget were many of Governor Rell’s key proposals that promote “responsible growth” in Connecticut – striking a balance between growth and preservation in our communities.
- Purchasing and Preserving Open Space: In October ’07, Governor Rell announced $9.9 million in grants to help purchase or preserve approximately 1,714 acres of open space in 39 cities and towns. With the land purchased with this funding, Connecticut will be 72 percent of the way toward the state’s goal of preserving 21 percent of Connecticut land – or 673,210 acres – by the year 2023.
- Investing in our State Parks: Governor Rell approved a state budget FY ‘08-‘09 that provides $1.7 million for further enhancements to Connecticut state parks and forests.
- Preserving Open Space, Farmland and State Parks & Forests: Governor Rell’s budget proposal for FY 08-09 included millions for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Program; Open Space Acquisition Grant Program; Farmland Preservation Program; Clean Water Program; and for a new, expedited Brownfield Remediation Program.
- Responsible Growth and Preserving the Environment: In October 2006, Governor Rell issued Executive Order No. 15 to create the Office of Responsible Growth, emphasizing that housing, economic development, transportation and open space are key if we are going to be economically- competitive and improve our quality of life in Connecticut.
- Enacting a Landmark Farmland Preservation Bill: Governor Rell signed into law in 2005 a measure that dedicated $6.5 million for farmland preservation, land protection, affordable housing and historic preservation.
UPDATED: March 2008
Content Last Modified on 3/19/2008 11:14:51 AM