Christine Stuart file photo

One of the state’s top legislative Republicans was surprised to learn that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell met privately with top Democratic lawmakers to talk about the state budget.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Wednesday morning in a phone interview that unless all parties know what’s going on then a budget compromise will never be reached in good faith.

A mediator for more than 20 years, Cafero said he understands that Rell would want to meet with smaller groups of lawmakers at different times, but was upset he wasn’t told of the two meetings with Democratic leaders.

“The governor can meet with whoever she wants,” however, “by letting all parties know it makes everyone more confident that it’s an open process,” Cafero said.

Cafero said his members have been working their “butts off” trying to come up with solutions to the state’s $8.56 billion budget deficit. He said he just wants to make sure all their work isn’t a “waste of time because the real negotiations are going on somewhere else.”

Democratic lawmakers first suggested meeting alone with Rell last week while Republicans were in the room, but Cafero said no response was given at that time. It wasn’t until Saturday that he learned Democrats had met with Rell privately last Thursday. 

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said that they met with the governor for more than two hours Tuesday and expect those conversations to continue today. When asked if the Republican lawmakers were present Tuesday Donovan said “No, they weren’t there today. The governor’s a Republican she was there.”

Last week Democratic lawmakers revived their efforts to win public support for their budget, which raises taxes and fees by about $2 billion, over Rell’s budget, which raises taxes and fees by about $524 million.

Most of the taxes in the Democratic budget proposal would come from an increased income tax on wealthier residents. They say the public favors that kind of tax hike. Democrats were out reminding people in Hartford Tuesday why their budget proposal which reduces funding for the Harriet Beecher Stowe House is better than Rell’s budget which eliminates it.

“We owe it to ourselves to be out there talking about the differences between our budgets and our philosophies,” Williams said Tuesday.

Democratic lawmakers are in the majority and could theoretically pass a budget without the support of the Republicans or Rell, but Donovan conceded Tuesday that they don’t have the supermajority necessary to override a veto.

“We don’t have a supermajority and it’s as simple as that,” Donovan said.

“The governor needs to feel the same urgency as we do to get a budget sooner rather than later and certainly before Sept. 1,” Williams said.

It’s unclear at the moment when Rell and lawmakers will meet again to discuss the budget. Connecticut and Pennsylvania are the only two states in the nation without a budget.

While Democratic lawmakers were in Hartford at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Republican lawmakers were in Bridgeport talking to small manufacturers. Click here to watch the clip of Tuesday’s event.