Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. yesterday vetoed the Connecticut Legislature's proposed $7 billion fiscal 1992 budget, leaving the state still without a permanent spending plan six weeks into its new fiscal year.
Calling the proposal "the shame and scandal of our generation," Gov. Weicker said the plan, as passed by the Legislature late Sunday night, is already $623 million out of balance.
"It would be easy for me to sign this budget, devised in the wink of an eye on scrap paper and cocktail napkins, and then stand back to watch it crash and burn," the governor said in his veto message. "I do not wich that ill on its proponents. I will not visit that ill upon the state."
The state Senate will get first crack at overriding the veto today. If they are able to muster the two-thirds majority needed, the House of Representatives will get their chance later in the day.
The Senate already overrode a previous veto in May, but the House failed to follow suit. This time around, however, the odds may be more in favor of an override in the lower chamber, according to legislative sources. House Speaker Richard Balducci, D-Newington, said yesterday he would "reluctantly" support an override vote tomorrow if the Senate succeeds in its attempt.
Although Speaker Balducci supports the governor's plan for an income tax and accompanying reduction in the sales and business taxes, he recognizes the votes needed to secure such a plan will not materialize, according to his press secretary, Larry Perosino.
"A bad budget may be a better alternative than no budget," Mr. Perosino said, pointing out that the rating agencies have issued warnings about the prolonged delays in approving a budget.
Standard & Poor's Corp. has put the state's AA general obligation rating on CreditWatch with negative implications.
Moody's Investors Service issued a statement warning that Connecticut is failing to respond adequately to economic recession, falling revenues, and budget imbalances.
"The unusually long, contentious process is both a sign of the deep division over fiscal policy between the governor and the Legislature, and a contributor to further financial weakening which will make the eventual budget solution even more onerous," the Moody's statement says.
Avice Meehan, Gov. Weicker's press secretary, said the governor believes he has an uphill battle in convincing lawmakers not to override the veto and to continue working on yet another spending plan. The main problem, Ms. Meehan said, is the fact that many lawmakers are tired of the process that has dragged on far longer than anyone ever imagined it could.
"Many find this budget an anathema, but a lot of people just want to get out of the [capitol] building," Ms. Meehan said.
This is the third time in less than four months the governor has vetoed the Legislature's budget package. Gov. Weicker has argued that instead of raising the state's already high sales tax rates, lawmakers should approve a first-ever income tax to balance the budget.
He said the sales tax would have to rise to 9 3/4% to truly balance the Legislature's budget, known as "Coalition III." The governor added that continually increasing the sales tax would only worsen the regressive nature of the state's tax system and discourage new businesses and jobs in the state.
"The tax burden diminishes with every step away from poverty and towards wealth," Gov. Weicker said. "It is America in reverse."
Some legislative leaders have called for a ballot issue to decide whether the state should have a income tax, but Gov. Weicker said he would not support that idea.
Despite the political turmoil created by yesterday's budget veto, state finance officials managed to pull off a $319 million bond anticipation note deal with great success, according to market sources. Moody's noted that Connecticut has had a record of "frequent, unimpeded market access" for its GO bonds, which will secure the notes sold yesterday.