First budget vote in state’s longest stalemate scheduled for Thursday

First budget vote in state’s longest stalemate scheduled for Thursday

Record-Journal


HARTFORD — Democratic leaders say they will vote on a budget today, adding they are “95 percent” of the way to an agreement with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“We may have a long night, but that’s our goal,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said after meeting with Malloy Wednesday afternoon. He said lawmakers and Malloy are working out “technical issues.”

Democrats wouldn’t share any additional details Wednesday on the agreement, and the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee postponed a scheduled vote on revenue estimates as lawmakers await a final agreement.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, acknowledged that there are “substantial hiccups that we need to figure out over the next 24 hours,” despite expressing confidence that budget talks are “95 percent of the way there.”

Malloy couldn’t be reached for comment after the meeting.

Democrats have said Thursday is a crucial date to avoid the municipal aid cuts under Malloy’s executive order, which went into place July 1, because lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement on how to plug a projected $3.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years. Lawmakers have yet to vote on any budget proposal for the current fiscal year, and the current budget stalemate has surpassed any in state history. Democrats have said that scheduling conflicts likely will keep them from having a vote between Thursday and Oct. 1, when the first round of major municipal aid grants are dispersed.

Under the executive order, 85 towns would see their Education Cost Sharing grants eliminated, and another 54 would see steep reductions.

Aresimowicz said discussions on revenue “remain fluid.” Malloy offered a compromise last week that included a sales tax increase to 6.5 percent, but Democrats have backed away from that due to concerns from some of their own members.

Democrats are instead looking at other revenue options to make up the difference, including a possible surcharge on cellphone bills.

Democratic leaders appeared accepting of other elements of Malloy’s budget proposal, including asking municipalities to make some contribution for teachers’ retirement benefits. Malloy is asking for a much smaller contribution than the $400 million he proposed in February, and instead has tied payments only to current payrolls.

Rank-and-file Democrats, though, had little if any knowledge of the near deal as of Wednesday afternoon, although leaders said they have had constant contact about what caucus members want to see.

Democratic leaders also passed on the chance for a bipartisan budget deal, saying they had to decide whether to compromise with Malloy or Republicans. Democrats are well short of the supermajority needed to ignore Malloy, who has previously threatened to veto all the budgets presented to him.

“The only budget that has a chance of becoming law is the one that we’re now working on,” Looney said.

Republicans produced a budget Tuesday that had no increases in the sales, income, or cigarette taxes. It also relied on savings from reduced pension contributions based on benefit changes that could be enacted in 2027 legislatively.

Aresimowicz didn’t remark on the specifics of the proposal Wednesday, but said the process for unveiling that proposal was “political gamesmanship” because Democrats were looking for something sooner.

“That does not make you a member of the negotiations,” Aresimowicz said. “Ultimately, to be a member of the negotiations for us it’s 101 in the House and 24 in the Senate to override the governor.”

The figures represent the number of “yes” votes needed in each chamber to obtain the two-third majorities necessary for a veto override.

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


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