GOP leaders present revised budget, want vote Thursday

GOP leaders present revised budget, want vote Thursday

Record-Journal
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HARTFORD — Republicans presented a revised budget Tuesday as Democrats kept working toward a budget plan ready for a vote Thursday.

Democrats maintain they will be ready to adopt a budget Thursday, ending the executive budget order Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed to begin the fiscal year.

Democrats have warned that failure to adopt a budget his week would mean Malloy’s order would remain in place through Oct. 1, when municipalities would feel deep cuts in municipal aid.

The order would eliminate Education Cost Sharing grants to 85 towns and reduce those to another 54, something House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, called Monday a “bad situation for public education in the state of Connecticut.”

The legislature has yet to vote on a budget for the upcoming biennium amid ongoing disagreement over how to close a projected $3.5 billion deficit.

Malloy last week offered what he has deemed his final budget offer, agreeing to increase the sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.5 percent and a boost in the tax on hospitals. He has also agreed to reduce the cut to municipal aid and seek retirement contributions from municipalities only for currently employed teachers.

Municipal aid cuts and a larger contribution for teachers retirement benefits have been two of the major sticking points.

Aresimowicz said Monday that House Democrats have backed off their push for a sales tax increase — their proposal called for a 6.85 percent rate — as Senate Democrats still do not have unanimous support for such a hike.

The tied Senate means Democrats would need all of their 18 votes to force a tie, which could be broken by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, if they are unable to work out a bipartisan deal with Republicans.

Aresimowicz would not say Monday how Democrats would account for the change, other than to say revenue options raised during discussions are “consistent with things that had public hearings.”

Republicans, meanwhile, presented a new budget of their own Tuesday after an agreement with state employee unions, approved along a party-line vote in July, prevented some of the labor saving initiatives they had included in previous spending plans.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the Republican plan now includes $600 million in savings tied to structural changes.

Those structural changes include changes to pension benefits beginning in 2027, when the current employee benefit agreement expires. Republicans say the state could begin saving on pension contributions now, though, and they assume those reductions in their budget.

The plan also assumes an $85 million fee — $50 million in the first year, $35 million in the second — from Millstone to allow the company to bid on consumer contracts that currently go to clean-energy providers. Additionally, the deal includes no increases to the sales, income, or cigarette taxes, reduces the number of appointed positions within the executive branch, and increases municipal aid, Republicans said Tuesday.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Republicans will ask Democrats to allow for a vote on the budget on Thursday. Democrats must sign off on the emergency certification needed to allow the bill to reach the floor. “We believe we have a budget that is real,” Fasano said. “We believe we have a budget that can go forward, that puts Connecticut on the right track.”

Democrats said they would review the proposal, but Tuesday’s budget talks and budget announcement also resulted in both sides accusing the other of ending bipartisan negotiations. “Though it is disappointing Republicans decided to exclude themselves from our ongoing negotiations, we will be going through their revised proposal and if there are new things that are feasible and will help move our state forward they could be included in the final budget,” Aresimowicz said.

Klarides, meanwhile, said Democrats never intended to back off tax hikes.

“Senate and House Democrats were waiting for the moment where they can say ‘Republicans walked out of the room,’” she said.

msavino@record-journal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino


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