House adopts budget despite concern from Malloy’s office regarding hospital tax language

House adopts budget despite concern from Malloy’s office regarding hospital tax language

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HARTFORD — The House overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan budget deal Thursday, sending the bill to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. 

The 126-23 vote showed both chambers should have the support needed to override a veto from Malloy should he decide to attempt to block the $41.25 billion spending plan. A two-thirds majority is needed to override a veto from the governor. The vote came on the 118th day without a budget, the longest stalemate in state history.

Leaders from both parties touted the budget as a milestone moment for Connecticut, noting it’s the first time since 2007 that the two parties crafted and supported a budget together. 

“We did compromise in areas, but overall I think it’s a good budget that’ll move Connecticut forward,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said. He also cited a recent poll that found roughly five out of six residents wanted the two sides to come to a compromise. 

Malloy didn’t make any public comments after the vote, but a spokeswoman said the governor is reviewing the document before deciding whether to sign or veto it. The spokeswoman, Kelly Donnelly, raised objections to language used in the budget document to raise the hospital tax 2 percent. 

The intent is for the state to reimburse the hospitals for tax payments as part of a plan that would then allow Connecticut to seek additional reimbursements from the federal government. Both the state and the hospitals would ultimately see a gain in revenues. 

Donnelly said the budget doesn’t use federally compliant language to impose the hospital tax, jeopardizing the payments. She also said the budget would legally mandate that the state make the increased payments to hospitals regardless of the federal reimbursements

“This morning, the administration identified a significant problem in regard to the hospital tax,” Donnelly said in a statement, adding the problem could amount to a deficit of more than $1 billion. “The language as drafted would make federal reimbursement impossible. We notified legislative leaders about the error and strongly urged them to correct it before final passage.”

Aresimowicz said his staff will review the matter and, if needed, he would call lawmakers back in to address the issue next week. Donnelly said after the vote, though, that the language as written posed “egregious problems.” 

Should Malloy veto the budget, lawmakers would need to return for a second vote on whether to override the action. 

Hospital tax aside, lawmakers from both sides heralded the deal as accomplishing a series of changes that would aid Connecticut’s economic future while also protecting critical funding this year. 

Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he expects the state to continue to face deficits for the foreseeable future, but said the budget accomplishes necessary policy changes to help right the ship.  

“What cannot be lost is that this document is creating a new foundation for the state of Connecticut to begin building back its agencies and its programs,” he said. 

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said the budget, meanwhile, helps to avoid some of the harsh cuts for nonprofit service providers and to municipalities under Malloy’s executive order, which remains in place until a budget takes effect. 

She expressed concern that funding for some services, including to the elderly, were not fully restored, but vowed to keep pushing for modifications when the legislature returns in February.

“I am very, very concerned about that, but I will say that we are not done fighting,” she said. 

Not everyone embraced the bipartisan compromise as being in the best interest of the state, though. Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, was among a handful of Republicans who said the structural changes, including a spending and bonding cap, aren’t worth the $3.4 billion in new revenues. 

“No matter who you are and how much you love this state, you cannot help but recognize that we are simply not competitive” said Sampson, whose district includes part of Southington. Reps. John Fusco, R-Southington, and Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, also opposed the budget on the same grounds. 

Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, also voted against the budget, despite supporting much of what it contained. She said she objected to language that would require the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to decide all license applications within 90 days, a timeline she is concerned is too quick and would result in more rejections. 

Other Democrats, meanwhile, objected to the budget because of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other services. In total, 13 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the House voted against the budget. 

Municipal aid funding compared to fiscal year 2016-17  

Town                      FY 2018               FY 2019

Berlin                    -$411,877             -$557,444

Cheshire              -$762,127             -$924,142

Durham                -$222,144            -$327,539

Meriden                Unchanged           -$158,704

Middlefield             -$132,704             -$149,628

North Haven        -$343,670             -$230,852

Plainville              -$580,411             -$154,179

Southington         -$1.13 million        -$452,939

Wallingford          -$1.27 million         -$954,637


Twitter: @reporter_savino

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