Budget Negotiation Abyss
HARTFORD, CT — Democratic and Republican leaders have been presenting each other with various budget proposals, but as of midnight before the final day of the legislative session there was still no agreement.
Depending on who you ask, they are either very close or very far apart. They could adjourn without adjusting the second year of the budget. But will they?
A hopeful sign that they may be close to an agreement was the announcement that the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee would meet Wednesday to adopt revenue estimates — a precursor to running a budget.
However, exactly what budget will they call? The Democratic budget or the Republican budget? Or maybe both?
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he’s hesitant to characterize the budget negotiations because he doesn’t want to be misleading.
“The goal is to avoid special session,” Aresimowicz said.
But it’s always an option and they have language waiting to call themselves back into special session as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Aresimowicz said that if they have to, they will break the glass on the special session language.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is also still involved in budget negotiations.
Last year, they kicked him out of the room in order to get a bipartisan budget deal. Malloy isn’t in the room this year, but Democratic lawmakers have been conveying his desires to Republican legislative leaders.
Aresimowicz said they haven’t publicly gone over all the details of the budget deal yet with their members.
But Republicans are still insisting on some of the collective bargaining changes that are deal breakers for Democrats and Malloy.
The Republican budget proposes eliminating matters of retirement and health care from collective bargaining after the current contract expires on July 1, 2027. They also would eliminate overtim as part of pension calculations. They said doing that now would result in savings of approximately $58.2 million in 2020 and $62.3 million annually every year after that.
Those are non-starters for Democratic lawmakers and Malloy, who is not seeking re-election next year.
Malloy didn’t address a joint session of the legislature last year because they didn’t have a budget. As of Tuesday, there was still no decision about whether he would address the General Assembly after they adjourn at midnight.
“They are more concerned and scared of the general election than I thought they were,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Tuesday afternoon.
Based on the Democrats’ majority in the House and the split Senate where Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman can break a tie, Klarides said “the notion that the Republicans get blamed for anything is beyond me.”
If at the end of the day Republicans and Democrats don’t agree, “that’s not disrespecting anyone,” Klarides said. “That means we have a different vision for Connecticut.
“If we can come to an agreement in regard to what will best help the people of Connecticut, we will be open to that,” Klarides said earlier Tuesday. “But we will not back down on policy and vision.”
If they failed to adjust the 2019 budget, they still have a budget in place. However, the budget gives Malloy the power to cut $227 million in spending, the car tax cap goes up to 45 mills, and the Medicare Savings Program benefits are reduced.
The list of horrible things that will happen if they fail to make changes to the budget has kept both parties at the table.
Technically, they have until June 30 to take action on the budget, but they are trying to avoid it at all costs so they can go campaign for re-election.