Lawmakers Look To Pass Budget, Float Sales Tax Increase
HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 4:17 p.m.) With the governor threatening to veto any resolution the legislature passes to keep government going in the absence of a state budget agreement, Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the House, are being encouraged to adopt a two-year budget.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told legislative leaders Wednesday that he would veto any short term spending plan the General Assembly passes, which means Republicans would have to deliver votes to override a veto, if that’s the path they choose to take.
Will Republicans help the Democrats override a gubernatorial veto?
“I don’t see that happening at this point,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Thursday outside the House chamber.
Klarides said a short term spending plan that decides how government is funded for a few months is “more amorphous than the budget.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said lawmakers may not agree with all of the governor’s choices in the budget, “but it’s not like the state is going to stop running,” if they don’t have a budget by July 1. He said the governor has the ability to operate the state through executive order until there is a state budget in place.
“I think my members want us to do as much as we can to get to the budget,” Aresimowicz said.
He said if they can’t do that then they will come in on June 29 “no matter what and we’ll decide whether it’s a continuing resolution or we’ll cede that authority to the governor.”
Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said the governor will not approve a budget that “adds to our fiscal challenges in the coming biennium. If members of the General Assembly choose to exacerbate our difficulties and kick the can down the road, they should be prepared to justify that fiscally irresponsible choice to their constituents.”
Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate met behind closed doors Thursday to get an update on the state budget.
However, there were few details available about exactly what the final product would look like since one doesn’t exist.
Aresimowicz, who has been reluctant to take any ideas off the table, said tolls will no longer be part of a budget package.
“We’re going to have to come back next year and do some sort of action to get the tolls moving,” Aresimowicz said. “So that changed.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said they also explained to their members what happens after July 1 without a budget in place.
“I think that’s a very different realization people have to come to,” Ritter said.
Another idea that was floated Thursday was an increase in the state sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.99 percent. The revenue generated from the increase would then go to cities and towns to help them offset their contributions to the teacher retirement system.
Aresimowicz said the increase in the sales tax is estimated to raise about $466 million. Ritter said in order to receive the funding local boards and councils would have to vote to endorse the idea.
Senate Democratic leadership said a sales tax increase was not part of their discussion Thursday.
Aresimowicz said he doesn’t know if he has the 76 votes necessary to pass a budget yet though because he doesn’t have a product in front of him to vote count. He said they’re sharing the guidelines of what his caucus believes is important with the Senate Democratic caucus on Friday.
Those guidelines will be used to draft a budget document.
Then legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle are expected to get together on Monday before they meet with Malloy to reassess the situation. Aresimowicz said he’s doubtful they will have a final budget product ready by Monday.
“It’s a really compressed time frame,” Aresimowicz said.
Klarides said she hopes they have at least 48 hours to go over any budget proposal if they’re going to be asked to vote on something June 29.
Getting all 151 House members and 36 Senators back together at some point in July or August becomes a logistical problem for a part-time legislature.
“I know where people are and I know how to find them so we’ll get them here if we need to,” Ritter said.