Close, But Large Issues Still Linger In Budget Talks
HARTFORD, CT — Legislative leaders say they’ve made progress on the definition of a spending cap and the Education Cost Sharing formula, but they still have yet to tackle things like teacher retirement costs.
Following another four hours of closed-door meetings Tuesday, legislative leaders said they’re making progress and don’t plan to have a conversation with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy until they work out a few more issues.
If they don’t believe they need Malloy’s support they might have to find 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate to override a gubernatorial veto. They declined Tuesday to speculate on how much of their progress in these discussions the governor might support. They agreed that it was easier to have the conversations by themselves than with the governor.
“We are eager to see details from leaders on where they’ve found compromise,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said. “The governor has been very clear that our budget must be balanced with realistic spending cuts and not gimmicks or unachievable savings. We look forward to reviewing their ideas and finalizing a biennial budget in the days ahead.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they’ve all moved in their positions over the past few days.
“I really can’t see a way in which we don’t come to an agreement,” Aresimowicz said.
He said they are hoping to reach a point over the next day where they can engage with the governor.
“The variable we don’t know about is how the discussions are going to go with the governor,” Aresimowicz said.
They discussed an Education Cost Sharing formula, but still have yet to tackle other municipal aid categories.
New Haven Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the governor has expressed support for a conventional budget and doesn’t like having to use his authority to implement an executive order.
The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has all the policy changes the leaders have proposed and is running the numbers to calculate their impact.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they aren’t going to draw a line in the sand when it comes to taxes until the talks come to a natural conclusion.
At the same time, she said she still holds firmly on her position that they shouldn’t agree to any further tax hikes.
“We have to have the conversations we have to have in that room,” Klarides said. “Ok? And they have to be confidential conversations because they’re good faith negotiations. We still feel strongly about the fact that tax increases don’t move the state of Connecticut forward.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the budget is a “total package” and the Republican leaders are going to go into the room and fight for the things they believe in.
“We have to form a budget that moves Connecticut forward,” and funds things like education and economic development, Aresimowicz said. Then “whatever that bottom line is we need to come up with the revenues to fund that.”
Fasano said there’s more revenue in the compromise budget than what was in the Republican budget that passed with the help of eight Democratic legislators, and is that something they’re going to agree to at the end of the day?
“The answer is, I don’t know,” Fasano said.
He said if they feel they can move Connecticut forward with other proposals in the budget, then they have to evaluate whether the additional revenue is worth it.
Getting Democrats to consider pension debt in their definition of a spending cap could have a greater impact on the future of the state than a small revenue increase because it would help limit future spending.
Republicans are also looking to make changes to what the state’s relationship with labor will look like in 2027 when the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition plan expires, but “we are still talking about what that would look like,” Fasano said.