Lawmakers say they could vote on budget Wednesday; document still being written

Lawmakers say they could vote on budget Wednesday; document still being written

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HARTFORD — Lawmakers say they could vote on a budget as early as Wednesday after reaching a “handshake” agreement on a final deal early Tuesday

Legislative leaders said Tuesday that they reached a final budget deal around 1:30 a.m. and spent the afternoon sharing details with their respective caucuses in anticipation of votes this week

“We are working hard on getting this budget done as quickly as possible,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk said. “We have a handshake.

The Senate hadn’t officially scheduled a session vote as of Tuesday afternoon, but Duff and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said one could happen Wednesday. A spokesman for House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said a House vote, meanwhile, could happen Thursday.

Should the legislature stick to that timeline, it means they would be sending a budget to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy 118 says into the fiscal year. The stalemate, caused by disagreements on how to close a projected $3.5 billion deficit over the biennium, is the longest in state history, and Connecticut is the only state in the nation without a budget

Leaders discussed some of the budget’s details Tuesday afternoon, but the document was not yet available because legislative staff were still writing the actual bill. The state Office of Fiscal Analysis will also need to complete its review of the deal.

One of the more noteworthy elements of the initial framework, the elimination of the car tax, no longer remains in the budget deal. A state-mandated cap will limit local car tax rates to 39 mills, undwer the plan. The cap will raise to 45 mills in the second year

Looney, who wanted to include the elimination of the car tax in the budget, said it now includes “placeholder for some later reform.”

Other details confirmed by leaders include a 45-cent hike in the cigarette tax, cuts of roughly $65 million annually in funding to the University of Connecticut, and an increase of 1 percent in contributions from teachers into their pension system. The state would then reduce its contribution accordingly. Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said his caucus was disappointed the deal doesn’t include any of their proposed changes to state employee pensions beginning in 2027, when the current agreement with the employee unions expires. 

Fasano said Republicans were willing to compromise, though, because they recognized they have “got to pass a budget or let Rome burn, and we will not let Rome burn. Leaders don’t do that.”

Likewise, Duff said that there are “things in there (the budget) that are tough, things in there that are difficult, things that people will not like.” Leaders said they had not yet conducted vote counts in their caucus, but said they have broad support for the plan. 

Leaders from each of the four caucuses have maintained hope that they can get the two-thirds majorities needed in each chamber to override Malloy should he veto the budget

Lawmakers shut Malloy out of conversations earlier this month in hopes of working out an agreement between the two parties. Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said leaders have “kept in mind the need for achieving a veto-proof majority.”

Malloy has said he won’t pass judgement on the budget deal without seeing it, but has repeatedly expressed frustration that lawmakers have declared they have reached a deal without presenting the document to prove it.

He canceled a meeting with Democratic leaders over the weekend, saying he doesn’t see a need to talk with them until the budget is written. Candelora said Malloy has made budget negotiations more difficult. 

“I think, sadly for this state, the governor’s behavior has put us where we have ended up, in that we have to put together a document without the executive branch because of his unwillingness to have a conversation,” he said


Twitter: @reporter_savino

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