With two-and-a-half weeks to go before the end of the legislative session, it doesn’t look like the Democratic majority and Gov. M. Jodi Rell will strike a budget deal before midnight, June 3.
While both sides remained optimistic and “hopeful” Monday following another closed-door budget discussion, at least one lawmaker included in those discussions didn’t think a budget deal by June 3 was realistic.
Sen. Dan Debicella, the Republican ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, said flatly, “I don’t think it would be likely at this point that we would have an agreement by June 3.” He said possibly shortly after the session ends and maybe before June 30, but not before June 3.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said one of the biggest hang-ups in negotiations is the disagreement on how big the deficit is. The Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated the budget deficit at $8.7 billion and the Office of Policy and Management has estimated the budget deficit at $7.95 billion.
Is it possible then to have a budget before June 3? “Yes it is,” Williams said.
“I think the ball is in the court of the governor at this point,” he said Monday. “What we need is some give and take. We’ve had criticism, but we haven’t had alternative solutions.”
Rep. John Geragosian, co-chairman of the Democrat-controlled budget writing committee, said the legislature may vote on another deficit mitigation bill this week, along with approving the $220 million in off-budget accounts it said it would find during February’s deficit mitigation plan.
“I think we can still do it,” Geragosian said when asked if the General Assembly could pass a budget by June 3.
“We’re talking about substantive items in a productive way and we’re making progress,” he added.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she thinks she’ll have a better feel for how much progress is being made after this week. Rell is not part of the negotiations yet, but her Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody and her Budget Secretary Robert Genuario have been part of the meetings and update her daily on the progress.
“I am hopeful that we could still pass a budget,” Rell said. “I think there are a lot of people waiting to see can we offer enough cuts so that people will say this is better than the $3.3 billion taxes that the Democrats put on the table. Then I would prefer to do that as painful as they will be.”
As far as the