MERIDEN — Ahead of a possible vote to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget veto, Republicans on Monday made one last push for the budget they crafted last month during press conference in front of Meriden City Hall.
House leaders have scheduled a session Tuesday in hopes of voting on a possible override of Malloy’s budget veto. A spokesman for House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said they are also “hopeful” to vote on possible changes to the hospital tax should Malloy reach an agreement with the Connecticut Hospital Association.
On Monday, Republicans gathered in front of Meriden City Hall to push for their budget, which passed with support from nine moderate Democrats last month. Malloy’s veto on Thursday means the state continues to operate under his executive order.
Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, urged residents to push for an override, saying in front of City Hall that the GOP-crafted budget is the only way to avoid drastic municipal aid cuts under the executive order.
The executive orders cuts municipal aid to all towns, including the elimination of Education Cost Sharing grants to 85 municipalities.
“Without a budget, this order means significant school cuts remain a reality,” Suzio said. “It remains teacher layoffs, reduction of services, and property tax increases.”
Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. also attended the press conference and said the GOP budget should pass because it avoids the executive order’s cuts to municipal funding and provides stability.
“Right now we’re in free fall — we’ve adopted budgets that depend on a certain amount of financial support from the state of Connecticut,” Dickinson said. “That support is not coming forward, so the free fall ends up being a big risk.”
Members of Hartford’s legislative delegation said during a press conference at the Capitol that the Republican budget doesn’t do enough for Connecticut’s struggling cities.
Malloy objected in his veto message to several components of the Republican budget and said the state would be better if lawmakers focused on swiftly reaching a bipartisan solution.
Among Malloy’s concerns were changes to pension savings in 2027. He questioned the legality of making changes now and disagreed with assuming savings this year. He also expressed concern with ECS formula in the GOP budget, and the level of higher education cuts, among other proposals.
Overriding Malloy would require two-thirds support from each chamber, a total that would require support from an additional 24 Democrats in the House and three more in the Senate.
Rep. Emil “Buddy” Altobello, D-Meriden, said he won’t support an override, as he sees problems with both the GOP budget and the deal Democrats presented to lawmakers on Sept. 15.
“My humble opinion is that neither budget had enough attributes for me to vote for it,” he said.
No area Democrats voted in favor of the budget, and Reps. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, and Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, said last week that they also supported Malloy’s veto.
Altobello said one of his primary concerns with the two budgets presented was that each had massive deficits again in the years immediately following the current biennium. According to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the two budgets up for vote on Sept. 15 each had combined deficits exceeding $6 billion between fiscal years 2020 and 2022.
Altobello said he wants “something within spitting distance” of a balanced spending plan in the years after the current budget cycle.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, accused Aresimowicz of rushing the vote on a veto override to limit the amount of time Democrats have to consider the possibility. This, in turn, also reduces the amount of feedback they can hear from constituents, he added.
“He is rushing to hold a veto session in an attempt to kill this budget before sympathetic Democrats have a chance to witness the full devastating effect of the only alternative — the governor’s executive order,” Fasano said in a statement. “The speaker has not offered any budget that could pass the legislature to date.”
Altobello said a prolonged debate on a possible override is just a distraction from conversations on a new budget agreement.
“The sooner we get past this veto override vote, one way or the other, the quicker they can get back to the table,” he said.
As for the hospital tax, lawmakers were still waiting Monday to see if Malloy and the hospital association had reached an agreement on raising the current tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. The association supports the proposal because the state would reimburse hospitals, a move that would then allow the state to get a larger Medicaid reimbursement that it can then share with the hospitals.
Malloy has said that he wants the hospitals to drop a lawsuit regarding the hospital tax in exchange for assurances that they would be fully reimbursed for their tax payments.