Bipartisan Budget Negotiations Continue, Outside Optimism Fades
HARTFORD, CT — Legislative leaders insisted they were getting closer to an agreement Wednesday, but at least one of their staff members likened it to a relationship that will never work and neither side is willing to admit it.
“Just rip the Bandaid off,” a staff member said as legislative leaders were getting ready to leave the state Capitol shortly before 8 p.m.
Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have been negotiating behind closed doors since at least Sept. 28, when Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed the Republican budget proposal that passed with the help of eight Democratic legislators.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said one of the issues they’re struggling with is coming up with an Education Cost Sharing formula that includes changes to how the formula weighs wealth and other factors.
They plan to meet again today to continue the conversation. They anticipate that they will make enough progress by Friday to add Malloy to the negotiations.
“There are a number of other issues we may have some conceptual agreement, but not final resolution on the actual wording,” Looney said. “There are a number of areas where we have agreed on various categories of municipal mandate relief, incentives for regional cooperation. Some of that has been pinned down, some of that is somewhat conceptual.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he still anticipates a deal, but don’t take his word for it because he’s “forever the optimist.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said it’s tough because leaders are going one way on one issue and another way on another issue and “we’re trying to find that right balance.”
“We have to talk to our members about it to keep that right balance,” Ritter said.
He said they will know what that right balance is once they “hit it.”
What happens if that balance doesn’t exist?
“We’re not even going down that road,” Aresimowicz said. “We’re going to keep working.”
Looney said they’re not entertaining that question because they believe they are going to get to a bipartisan solution.
In the absence of a budget that he could sign, Malloy has been operating the state under an executive order since July 1.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they have hope that a deal can be reached. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in the room.
“We agreed on numerous things, but there are still very serious issues we have to work out,” Klarides said.
She said there’s always a chance they won’t reach an agreement, “but we’re in there believing we can come to some resolution.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he can’t recall a time when there’s been such a thorough vetting of various budget proposals. He said both sides have moved on various parts of the budget.
He said in the last two weeks they have gone “deeper and deeper” into issues and why they feel a certain way about a lot of policies.
“It is worth that investment to get a budget that we can all agree to,” Fasano said.
He said they’re striving to get an agreement, but even if they don’t get there he understands the other party’s issues more than he’s ever understood them in the past.
This will be the 104th day without a state budget.