Christine Stuart photo

Democratic leaders met Tuesday in the Senate President’s office to discuss the possibility of holding a special session—five days before the start of the regular session—to address Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s deficit mitigation plan.

After meeting for more than an hour Speaker-Elect Chris Donovan and Majority Leader Denise Merrill emerged to say very little about the discussion. “The release will be out before you know it,” Donovan said not willing to offer anything about what to expect.

As Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, breezed out of the office to catch the elevator he said, “We’re going to deal with this in January.”

Does that mean Friday, Jan. 2 in a special session or later? According to an emailed statement that arrived around 4:21 p.m. from Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, Jan. 14 has been set aside as the date to deal with Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s mitigation plan.

Williams and Donovan confirmed the Jan. 14 date in a 4:33 p.m. emailed statement saying, “In the next two weeks we expect to work closely with Gov. Rell to reach agreement on a budget mitigation plan that can be approved on January 14th.”

While they’re required to gavel in on Friday, Jan. 2, Capitol insiders say it’s unlikely they will act on Rell’s deficit mitigation plan.

Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said in a phone interview that the governor believes “we need to take immediate action.” He said there’s “no good reason or any reason for that matter to delay action.”

“The governor submitted the plan on time and it’s irresponsible for them not to act,” Cooper said. “Whenever they come in reality will be waiting for them.”

“If the Democrats are serious about passing the Governor’s mitigation plan, then there isn’t a moment to lose; certainly not two more weeks.  We should be in special session Friday, or at the very least be prepared to vote on opening day,” Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said upon learning of the Jan. 14 date.

“Governor Rell has done the heavy lifting over the past several months, ordering rescissions and making the difficult decisions necessary to balance the FY09 budget.  Now that she has all but exhausted her statutory authority to cut spending, it is up to the legislature to finish the job,” he said.

Later Tuesday evening Rell sent out a statement saying, “I am very disappointed that Democrats in the General Assembly are delaying action on addressing the state budget deficit. As each day passes our deficit is likely to increase, and each day of delay makes the job of addressing the deficit that much harder.

“However, if legislative leaders are determined not to act right away, they should at least wait until revenue estimates from the January 15 tax collections are in. Everyone agrees the deficit estimate is likely to change – and not for the better – because the January 15 numbers will be an accurate reflection of the Wall Street meltdown. My fear is that if the Legislature acts on January 14 they will be a day early and potentially millions of dollars short.”