Christine Stuart photo
Majority Leader Denise Merrill (Christine Stuart photo)

The House of Representatives voted Friday on the $35.58 billion two-year Democratic budget proposal, which the Senate passed yesterday by a narrow margin.

Fourteen Democratic lawmakers in the House joined their Republican colleagues in voting against the budget package, which increases taxes and fees by $2.5 billion.

Following the 91-48 vote, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, said if he had needed the 101 votes “we would have had it.”

While some held out glimmers of hope, none of the lawmakers seemed to think Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell was going to sign the budget bill. Rell said Thursday in a statement that the Democratic budget “goes in precisely the wrong direction at precisely the wrong time.”

Rell’s office did not put out a statement Friday following the vote in the House.

Donovan and Sen. President Donald Williams sent a letter to Rell Friday asking her for a Monday meeting. The two sides haven’t been at the negotiating table since June 3, the end of the regular legislative session.

“While we look forward to the opportunity to meet with you in person to make the case for your support, if your intention is to veto the legislation, we hereby request immediate, bipartisan negotiations between the Executive and Legislative branches of government,” they wrote in this letter.

“These negotiations will be most productive if we all are fully engaged as active participants,” the two top Democratic leaders wrote. “Our top priority must be to agree on the size of the deficit for the biennium, and the necessary spending cuts, revenue increase, and borrowing that will be necessary to close the two year budget deficit.”

At one point during Friday’s debate the Republicans attempted to amend the Democratic budget with their own budget proposal, which included no tax increases and restored a majority of the cuts Democratic lawmakers have been complaining about for the past two weeks.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said many of the governor’s cuts, which Democrats have protested over the past few weeks are not included in the Republican budget proposal. He said the Republican budget does not increase bus fares, eliminate cultural and tourism grants, close libraries, or increases taxes.

Speaking out against the Democratic budget proposal—which includes a 25 percent surcharge on companies that make a profit and an increase in income taxes for individuals making more than $265,000 a year—“is not about protecting the rich,” Cafero said. He said what the Democrats are doing by increasing taxes is singling out by taxation a certain segment of the population. The same population, which is creating jobs that will help us get out of this economic recession, he said.

Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said he couldn’t vote in favor of his party’s budget because it relies too heavily on a revenue structure that’s “small and volatile.”

He said increasing the income tax on about 70,000 people, most of whom live in Fairfield County, is not going to help the state recover. He said the recent drop in income tax revenues should illustrate how volatile the income tax structure already is. 

However, that’s not to say the state shouldn’t be talking about increasing revenue, Tong said. “It’s dishonest not to have a conversation about how to raise more revenue,” he said.

Majority Leader Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, said a budget is about priorities and the Democratic budget illustrates that “we still have a moral obligation to all the people in our state.”

She said the Democratic budget restores funds for nursing homes, health care for children, libraries, job training, prison re-entry programs, and much more.

Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, said the legislature has an obligation to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year. He said they may not have closed the gap yet, but believes the Democrats are much closer to Rell than they were more than three weeks ago.

Staples said he looks forward to getting back to negotiations and getting a budget for the state of Connecticut.

Katy Nally contributed to this report.