Republicans, Democrats Continue To Squabble Over Special Session
Republican lawmakers are hoping at least 12 Democratic lawmakers in the House and four in the Senate will join them in calling for a special session to make changes to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s emergency budget cuts.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said they are encouraging Democratic lawmakers who have been outspoken about Malloy’s $103 million in mid-year budget cuts to join them in calling for a special session. The General Assembly can be called in to a special session by the governor or by majority party legislative leaders. However, if rank and file legislators demonstrate that a majority in both chambers deem it necessary to meet in special session, they can initiate a session themselves.
Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern about the cuts to hospital funding and services for the disabled.
On Tuesday, Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, submitted the signatures of 79 Republican lawmakers to the Secretary of the State’s office. They followed that delivery with a state Capitol press conference.
Klarides said they’ve been thankful to the Democrats in the House and the Senate who have expressed their concerns about the impact of the governor’s budget cuts.
Democratic lawmakers are angry about the budget cuts, but they don’t seem willing to take the next step and call for a special session, Klarides said.
She said she can’t figure out whether Democratic rank-and-file lawmakers have been “strong enough in speaking to their leadership” or if leadership is “afraid of the governor.”
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Klarides said.
In a Sept. 28 letter to Fasano, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey pointed out the likelihood that Malloy would veto any proposed changes the legislature might make in a special session. And even if the governor allowed the revisions to become law, he would still have the power to unilaterally revise the budget.
“The result would leave us at status quo after having charged the taxpayers with all the expenses of a special session, and nothing to show for it,” Sharkey has said.
Sharkey and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are putting together an alternative list of budget cuts for the governor because they feel the revisions Malloy made on Sept. 18 are “devastating.”
As for the Republicans’ press conference, it was “merely a continuation of Republicans putting political grandstanding ahead of serious policy,” Sharkey said.
Senate President Martin Looney agreed.
“This is just more empty rhetoric from a party that doesn’t have a plan,” Looney said.
But Fasano believes it’s the Democrats who are playing politics.
Fasano said Democratic lawmakers “have to make a determination. Are they going to play politics? Or are they going to go with what they believe is the best policy for the state?”
Right now, “I see politics over policy and politics over people,” Fasano said.
Democratic legislative leaders have consistently argued that a special session is unnecessary and they will be able to correct some of the issues with the budget in the regular session, which starts in February 2016.
Klarides said that’s not a responsible position for Democratic lawmakers to take, because if the budget projections are off now and the budget is on the verge of running a deficit, then it’s only going to get worse, not better.
“It’s being compounded every single day,” Klarides said. “They’re trying to divert attention from the real problem.”
But do they have a solution?
Fasano and Klarides won’t be releasing their own alternative budget cuts because they said they will be dismissed by the governor. Fasano said he would rather team up with Democratic lawmakers and “ignore the governor.”
He said he’s not going to play the “foolish, childish game” where Republicans put out alternatives only to have the governor’s administration “slap it away” without a conversation.
But Malloy’s spokesman, Devon Puglia, said until they see a proposal, there’s no reason to take Republicans seriously.
“We’ve gotten plenty of letters, seen plenty of press stunts, but so far, not a single idea,” Puglia said. “The governor has made hard, unpopular decisions. Yet, we have not seen a single alternative from Republicans. If they don’t have a single idea now, what do they hope to achieve in a special session?”