HARTFORD — While lawmakers are focusing on other legislative priorities through Wednesday’s end of the regular session, they feel a sense of urgency to put a budget in place before the end of the month.
In particular, they say they want to avoid leaving spending in the hands of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy without having any say in the matter.
“We don’t want to give up our decision-making power to him,” Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said Monday.
If no budget is in place when the new fiscal year begins July 1, the responsibility of dictating how funds get allocated falls solely to the governor. Through executive order, Malloy can dictate,monthly budgets, capped by a prorated amount of the current year’s budget.
Malloy and legislative leaders are still negotiating how to close a projected $5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years. Leaders announced last week that they’ll need more time, but House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, urged lawmakers to come to an agreement and avoid the “worst case scenario” of Malloy’s having sole control.
Malloy, for his part, said Monday that he’s not looking for the authority. “Listen, I think it would be preferable for getting a budget,” he said. “I’m all in, I want a budget.”
Other Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about how funds will be allocated if Malloy is charged with balancing the budget until a formal spending plan is approved. Republicans, meanwhile, have said they won’t vote for a budget that includes savings from a labor concession deal that they oppose, prompting Democrats to worry that they’ll have to reach a budget deal on their own.
Among the concerns are cuts to municipal aid and human services, as well as just a lingering uncertainty about what will happen in the budget.
“I was probably one of the more outspoken because of the cuts to human services,” said Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, who added “there wasn’t anyone on our side who was in favor” of Malloy’s initial proposal when he unveiled it in February.
Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, also expressed opposition in a commentary appearing in today’s Record-Journal.
It’s also a scenario that worries recipients. Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, said nonprofit human service providers “will be in great jeopardy.”
“Alliance members rely on state funding to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, operate group homes and support services for people with developmental disabilities, run homeless and domestic abuse shelters,” Casa said in a statement. “If the state is without a budget, some of our most vulnerable citizens will be the first to be hurt.”