By Lauresha Xhihani, Republican American
WATERBURY — Joseph Vrabely wonders if he’ll lose his house and his furniture if his business goes under.
In the past three months, he has had to lay off nine people from his Thomaston Avenue company, Atlantic Steel and Processing, going from 25 to 16 employees.
His message to a legislative delegation at the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus on Monday was clear. “Don’t tax us anymore,” Vrabely said.
Vrabely’s plea was one of many similar appeals heard by a delegation of the House and Senate Democrats on Monday from a group of about 80 people representing manufacturing, real estate, restaurants, colleges and social service workers.
As the legislature is putting together its two-year budget, it is faced with a $2.8 billion shortfall. Rep. John C. Geragosian, D-New Britain, cochairman of the Appropriations Committee, said his committee is planning to have a budget ready April 2.
Geragosian said his committee is looking to cut $1 billion from the state’s $18.49 billion operating budget. The rest of the money to cover the shortfall will come from savings and raising taxes.
The legislature is considering different ways to raise taxes, including some that may affect business — including a possible tax on raw materials coming into the state and a sales tax on professional and business services. House and Senate Democrats are sponsoring several forums around the state through the end of the month, including one today in Naugatuck and another in New Haven on Saturday, to hear what residents have to say about solving the budget crisis.
The hearings give the Democratic lawmakers a chance to see how their proposals affect different groups, something members will have fresh in their minds as they try to meet the April 2 deadline.
Patrick Hayden, owner of Donham Craft of Naugatuck, said he has had to cut his work force from 68 to 51 in the past six months and hasn’t been able to turn a profit in nine months. He urged the legislature to cut its own spending just as he has.
Tom Violante, director of marketing and public relations for Naugatuck Valley Community College, said the school is looking at a 23 percent cut in funding in the next two years just as it is facing an increase in enrollment of 8.6 percent for the spring semester and 10 percent in the fall.
“We don’t know if we’re one of six colleges slated for shutdown,” he said. Dave McCourt, owner of Sage American Bar & Grill in New Haven, said his business is down 22 percent and he is in bankruptcy.
Sharon Hallock, director of the Greater Waterbury Board of Realtors, also urged lawmakers not to increases taxes on property owners. She said her husband has been laid off since last February and she is foregoing a raise to help survive in tough financial times.
“The whole world is belly up,” she said.
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