Governor, Lawmakers Renew Call For Bipartisan Budget Negotiations
HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reiterated his intention to veto the Republican budget passed early Saturday morning at the same time that he called on Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to set up a meeting for more negotiations.
“I ask that each comes ready to have frank, constructive discussions and share their ideas on how best to move forward,” Malloy said Monday at a Capitol press conference.
Despite promises Friday night of bipartisan budget negotiations, none occurred Monday as Republican rank-and-file lawmakers emailed statements calling on the governor to sign the budget, and Democratic rank-and-file lawmakers detailed the spending cuts included in the Republican budget proposal.
Since the two-year, $40.7 billion budget wasn’t immediately transmitted to the governor Saturday morning, it will take days to get to his desk where he has vowed to veto it.
The state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years and Malloy has been running the state by executive order as the stalemate has now lasted more than three months.
While he waits to veto the Republican plan, Malloy said his staff will review the budget, which is built largely on not funding state employee pensions under the assumption they would be changed in 2027 when the current contract expires.
Malloy said it includes “irresponsible changes to pensions” and does not “fully fund the actuarial pension contribution.”
He said he’s not going to go back to “Rowland economics,” in reference to former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland, where Malloy said savings were derived from failing to fund pension obligations.
“That’s not something I’m likely to agree to,” Malloy said.
Malloy said people can criticize him over a lot of what he’s done, but they can’t tackle his desire to fund the state employees pension. The unfunded pension liability is contributing to what will be 33 percent of the budget going to fund long-term debt.
“That’s the same cliff that scared GE,” Malloy said, referring to General Electric’s decision in January 2016 to move its headquarters to Boston.
He said the Republican budget defunds pensions by hundreds of millions of dollars, and billions in the future. He said he’s sacrificed “his personal popularity” on the issue.
Later Monday afternoon, Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, defended the decision to use the savings.
“He might not appreciate that but obviously it passed bipartisanly in the House and in the Senate,” Fasano said. “So there’s certainly a number of folks who believe that’s what we should be looking at.”
The Republican budget says the cost of living increases for retired state employees won’t be funded until the state employee pension fund is funded at 80 percent. And no overtime payments would be calculated as part of pension payouts for current state employees and they would ask that employee contributions to the pensions go up to 7 percent.
Fasano said those changes to the state employee contract will reduce Connecticut’s long-term debt.
“If it is law, then after 2027 this is what you’ll be doing,” Fasano said.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said even though the 2027 savings have been approved by an actuary “they are legally suspect,” meaning he expects the changes would end up in litigation.
Both Fasano and Looney addressed the news media after Malloy’s press conference.
Malloy also criticized the Republican budget for failing to send additional money to Hartford, and he objected to the “excessively deep cuts to higher education.”
But it was also the first budget Republican lawmakers voted for in 10 years, which Malloy took as a positive sign that a bipartisan agreement is possible.
“It’s clear we need to have a bipartisan agreement that I can sign,” Malloy said.
Even though Looney believes there are “many fundamental problems” with the Republican budget, which passed both chambers, he agrees with Malloy that they need to come together for “renewed bipartisan negotiations.”
It’s not clear when those negotiations will begin.
“There is no more room or time for political posturing,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said in a statement. “The Republican budget is clearly not the answer, but there is momentum and the reality is that the parties are not that far apart. Time is of the essence, so let’s all finally put our D & R aside for the betterment of our state we all love.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy reacts to passage of Republican budget.Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Monday, September 18, 2017