Speaker of the House Chris Donovan says he expects the legislature’s Democratic majority to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year—with or without Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s approval.
With budget talks between the legislature’s Democratic majority and Rell stalled, Donovan said Tuesday that legislative leaders have been revising their April budget proposal and expect to move forward with a budget before June 30th.
While he offered few details on the new budget, Donovan did say a proposal to eliminate a sales tax exemption on business machinery and equipment has been scrapped and the proposal to increase the income tax is still included.
Donovan says the publicity Democratic lawmakers have given some of Rell’s proposed cuts have moved them closer to a budget agreement because it has moved some of those cuts off the table. However, the two sides have not been at the negotiating table since late May.
When asked earlier Tuesday if she thought the Democratic publicity tour focusing on Rell’s proposed budget cuts was productive, Majority Leader Denise Merrill said “we’re telling the public what’s in her budget.” She said Rell “criticizes us at every juncture.”
She said the public still needs time to absorb Rell’s second budget proposal, which makes an additional $1.3 billion in spending cuts.
“We haven’t had really focused discussions with the governor as of yet,” Donovan said. “My hope is we have them sooner rather than later. I rather do a budget with her, but again I feel obligated as a majority party to at least run a budget.”
Donovan said Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate are still working out the details of an agreement and could have something to caucus as early as Friday when lawmakers return to the state Capitol to deal with the appropriation of federal stimulus funds for workforce development.
“Almost every aspect of our financial package will be different,” Donovan said Tuesday. He said there were also hundreds of millions more in spending cuts and they were looking at Rell’s proposal to borrow close to $965 million to close this year’s deficit.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the “Democrats talk a good game, but increasing taxes on the wealthy only gets you one-third of the way there.”
He said Rell’s budget proposal shrinks the size of government and government must do what families and business across the state are doing—cut spending.
“Government must be part of the solution,” Cooper said.
For more than a month, Rell has been telling legislative leaders to pass a budget if they think they have the votes. It’s more than likely that the Democratic majority has the votes to pass a budget, but are more concerned about having enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto, which requires a two-thirds majority of both chambers.