New budget deadline looms
Published 3:46 pm, Sunday, September 24, 2017
With the potential loss of more than a billion dollars in local aid at stake, legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this week face their biggest deadline yet to finally reach a compromise budget deal for the fiscal year that began July 1.
If they fail to vote on a compromise that can clear the House and Senate, then get Malloy’s signature by Oct. 1, dozens of the state’s wealthier towns will fall victim to a bare-bones executive order from the governor and will miss out on the first of a scheduled four payments for local schools.
After a summer of failed negotiations and then a surprise Republican budget that Malloy has vowed to veto when it likely gets to his desk this week, those on the front lines said it’s time for lawmakers and the governor to end the state’s historic stalemate.
Bipartisan budget a goal
“For me — and for any of us — we wanted a budget by July 1,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Sunday morning. “October 1 is certainly another deadline. A bipartisan budget is the goal. Whether it’s possible or not is anybody’s guess.”
He said that he and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, will first try to come up with a revised two-year $39-billion budget that will bring back the three Democratic senators who recently sided with the Republican budget that also cleared the House.
“As more of the GOP budget is analyzed, we know now that not only does it have massive tax increases; is out-of-balance, with huge spending increases in first year; and defers $300 million in pension payments,” Duff said. “It should be rejected on the math because it doesn’t add up.”
Heading into Tuesday’s bipartisan talks with the Democratic governor and Republicans, he’s hopeful that some kind of common ground can finally be found.
Like Duff, Looney said there are glaring shortcomings with the Republican plan, including an over reliance on unassured savings; and unacceptable cuts to higher education, including the the elimination of 9,000 scholarships.
“This week we are hoping for a bipartisan deal,” Looney said. “We would prefer to have a new budget and not a continuing executive order.”
Looney said “a lot of line items are similar” to the GOP budget. “But the so-called no-tax budget has been unmasked.”
Looney agreed with remarks Malloy made last week, doubting that a new budget can win approval before Oct. 1. “Our conversations with the House Democratic leadership will continue Monday and we’ll talk with (the State Office of Policy and Management ) leading into Tuesday's meeting with the governor,” Looney said.
But Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, said Sunday that the GOP budget,which was also approved by three Democratic senators and five House Democrats, is still the best the state can hope for, despite Malloy’s promised veto.
“What I’m tired about is the lies that have been put out by the Democrats, hand-in-hand with their state-union allies,” Fasano said. “I’m tired of the perpetuation of those lies in many newspaper editorials and further, the total lack of understanding of our budget. Everybody wants change ‘but not my area.’ So everyone is talking change, structural change, but not now, not here, not me.”
He said that claims by the teacher’s union that a $1,500 annual payment per-teacher, in the GOP budget, would not go into their pension fund was a “total fabrication;” and that UConn President Susan Herbst’s claim that the Republican budget would cut the university by $300 million is overstated, when it would cut UConn $244 million over two years. Democrats would cut UConn back by $100 million over the biennium.
“President Herbst didn’t ask how we’re going to balance the books,” Fasano said. “Are we going to cut social services, raise taxes, cut municipalities? She’s quick to run for the mountain top and hit the panic button. She will never close the Stamford campus. She’ll never close Avery Point. All we know is hysteria from her. She should be ashamed. Also don’t forget UConn has the highest-paid people in the state, as well as UConn Health. Why would you not start there? This budget is a good budget and moves Connecticut forward. Now it’s time to smell the stink in the air. I’m not going to kowtow to the wrong ideas.”
“There’s a $5-billion deficit and everyone was afraid to make the difficult choices,” Klarides said in a phone interview. “This isn’t a perfect land. This is reality. There are two choices. Either Gov. Malloy can sign our bipartisan budget, the only budget that could pass. Or October 1, Malloy will zero-out 85 towns. I get what Susan Herbst is saying, but she’s forgetting the fact that UConn’s getting a billion dollars overall; as well as some structural changes in the procurement process.”
Meanwhile, sources said Sunday that if there isn’t an imminent compromise deal on an entire new budget deal, a special one-day session would be called late in the week to assure that $70 million in federal Medicaid reimbursement funding flows to state hospitals, beating an Oct. 1 deadline.
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