HARTFORD — Legislative leaders emerged from budget talks Wednesday declaring they have a framework for a bipartisan budget deal, and expressed confidence that a package would be finalized in the near future.
Leaders of the four legislative caucuses were scant with details, saying they first needed to present the budget to their rank-and-file members. They also said their tentative agreement still needs fine-tuning, including reconciling some line items, before it can be ready for a vote.
“We are in a very good place,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said. “We’re confident that we can come to a budget document that can be voted on in the very near future”
He also characterized the plan as representing a compromise from the GOP-crafted budget that passed the legislature on Sept. 15 and the deal Democrats struck with Malloy prior to the vote.
The other leaders agreed, saying the agreement draws equally from all sides.
“There are going to be people that love this, there are going to be people that hate this, but the majority of the people — towns and cities, and the majority of the people who pay taxes in this state want us to come to” an agreement that gives certainty to municipalities, nonprofit service providers, and others, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the remarks represent real progress in talks, but added it’s “very difficult to have a celebration” about the current state of budget negotiations. He said the leader’s remarks indicate that they have not yet reached a final deal, and that remaining obstacles could still keep that from happening.
“If I had ever come out and told you ‘I have a budget in my head, but I’m still arguing with myself, therefore I can’t tell you the details of it, but believe me I have it,’ you wouldn’t believe me,” he said.
Legislative leaders characterized the remaining tasks as largely involving fine-tuning numbers, although they said they are waiting for information on some of the statutory formulas for municipal aid.
Lawmakers shut Malloy out of talks two weeks ago and have said that they have had more progress since that time. Democrats said Wednesday that they will meet with Malloy Friday to present their budget to him.
Aresimowicz said the leaders, though, are aiming for veto-proof overrides in each chamber, a goal that would require 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate.
None of the leaders were willing to guarantee that level of support, pointing to the upcoming caucuses, but all agreed the intent was to broker a deal between themselves, and then talk with Malloy.
“Whatever the governor does or doesn’t do will work itself out in the days and votes that come,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said. “But right now this story is about the leadership that got into a room, worked tirelessly day after day after day” to reach a compromise.
Malloy said he would wait and see a budget before taking a stand, but also told reporters he has no qualms about vetoing a second spending plan if it isn’t to his liking. He said he would oppose a budget that is “balanced with excessive lapses, sweeps, or other one-time spending or other gimmicks.”
Lawmakers did give some insights into their agreement Wednesday, such as an exclusion of some of the Republican proposals to change pension benefits beginning in 2027.
They also said municipal aid would see a slight reduction, and that formulas would ensure more help is directed to struggling cities. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, for example, expressed optimism that the deal, if adopted, would help Hartford avoid insolvency.
Those were key sticking points for Malloy when he vetoed the Republican budget. The lawmakers’ agreement does not, however, include Malloy’s call for municipalities to share in the cost of the teachers’ retirement system.
Malloy said Wednesday that he would need to evaluate a budget in full before deciding whether he supports it.
“Listen, I don’t think that there’s any one thing that would cause me to veto a budget, but there’s probably an accumulation of things, if I find those, that would make it difficult for me to sign,” he said.