The Budget Abyss
HARTFORD, CT — Following their failure to find enough votes to pass a two-year budget, legislative leaders have retreated to their respective corners and decided to sell their own budget proposal to lawmakers.
The halls of the Capitol have been largely empty as lawmakers struggle to find a path forward. No formal budget meetings involving Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders have been held since last week.
House Democrats held a budget workshop Wednesday on the budget they proposed last week that would increase the sales tax and allow municipalities to decide whether they wanted to add an additional 1 percent sales tax to food and beverages sold in their communities.
House Republicans sent out an email to every lawmakers in both chambers on Thursday asking them to attend a presentation of their budget proposal at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 11.
“It is our hope that this process will result in a better understanding of precisely what House Republicans have put forth and we will explore in detail the common ground that we all share when it comes to the various proposals,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, wrote in the letter. “We expect that the different approaches that each of the caucuses has taken in dealing with the budget deficit will be thoroughly examined and better understood.”
The House Republican budget differs with the budget put forward by Senate Republicans. There’s disagreement over education and transportation funding formulas, the elimination of the property tax credit and a sweep of clean energy funds.
Senate Republicans have continued to push their own proposal, even though it would change the labor package negotiated by Malloy and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. Voting on the package, which guarantees no layoffs for four years and extends the contract for health and pension benefits another five years, has already begun.
Malloy doesn’t believe the Senate Republican budget proposal would achieve more in savings through changing how collective bargaining works in the state than the deal he was able to broker with the unions.
“There is no statutory answer that would deliver more savings than that which we have negotiated,” Malloy said last week.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has said he understands Malloy has to say that because he’s the one who negotiated the concession package with the unions. However, he maintains his budget is able to achieve more in labor savings.
The House Democrats said they plan to vote on their budget proposal July 18, which is the day after the unions are expected to finish voting on the concession package.
Lawmakers will know at that point whether they can count on the savings from the concession package.
Last week, Malloy said he would try to reconcile the differences between the parties to the greatest extent possible.
“There’s no job description for governor that says it’s going to be easy,” Malloy added.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the endgame is to try and get to a budget the governor will sign. He said at the moment there is no budget aside from the governor’s own budget that Malloy has said he would sign.
Connecticut is one of 11 states that started the 2018 fiscal year without a budget in place.