UPDATED (6 p.m.) – The optimism expressed yesterday by Democratic lawmakers quickly faded after today’s meeting with Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and Sen. President Donald Williams said no progress was made during Wednesday’s budget negotiations and no future meeting was scheduled.
Frustrated with the lack of a budget, Williams said “we have moved substantially toward her position,” but “we need to have her come just a little bit toward us.”
“We believed our proposal would get us a budget agreement,” Donovan said without giving away any details about what exactly had been offered to Rell.
“The governor’s actions today leads me to believe that she really doesn’t understand the impact of the cuts that she’s looking for, nor the need for a very modest income tax on those who make over $500,000,” Donovan said.
“She’s just protecting the wealthiest folks in the state of Connecticut at this point in time,” Williams said. “That’s wrong.”
Williams and Donovan said they were willing to lower their proposed income tax increase to reach a compromise with the governor, but they weren’t willing to talk about what specifically about the proposal had changed or what else they may have offered as a compromise.
Donovan said there really was a sense of optimism after discussions Tuesday, but “today it’s as if yesterday never happened.”
Donovan and Williams went as far to say that it’s possible they will vote on another budget next week even if they don’t have a deal with Rell.
“Obviously we’re not ruling out anything at this point. We would like to have the governor’s agreement, but our basic goal is to have a budget for the state of Connecticut before September,” Williams said.
Rell responded Wednesday afternoon with a statement that said, among other things:
“I want a compromise state budget passed and put into effect as soon as possible. But I will not support or sign a budget that is unaffordable and unsound. I will not support or sign a budget that will kill jobs and choke our economy for years to come.
“I respect Democratic legislative leaders and the views they hold. But I disagree strongly with their desire to close our budget deficit almost completely with higher taxes, fees and other revenue. The cuts they have offered since negotiations began nearly two months ago total less than four-tenths of one percent of the total budget for the next two years. That’s hardly ‘whittling away’ or ‘moving substantially’ on reducing the size and cost of government, as I am asking.”
Rell then criticized what she described as the Democrats’ focus on the revenue and tax side of the budget, rather than spending.
“Instead, they have focused on revenue and taxes – across-the-board revenues and taxes on several groups of people and employers. Taxes and fees that will hurt our families and our economy and artificially finance, for just a year or two, a state government that is too big and costs too much. The budget decisions we make will have long-lasting and profound effects. Our differences are more than just philosophical. We are separated by hundreds of millions of dollars, if not $1 billion.
“I do not want to see a budget passed for the simple sake of having it passed, especially if the cuts are insignificant and phony and the taxes and revenue increases are burdensome and hurtful.”
Rell then targeted the Democratic leadership.
“Thus far, the only real movement made by Democratic leadership is not forward or back, it is shuffling – shuffling revenue and taxes and fees from one column to another, from one format to another, while doing precious little to cut spending. Again, the majority party has approved spending cuts representing just four tenths of one percent of the total budget – that’s the ‘hang up.’
“Our discussions and disagreements are worth having and worth hammering out. I am committed to continued negotiations with the Legislature and I am hopeful that we will get an agreement soon. But my job as Governor, which I cherish, requires that I sit at that table protecting the families of Connecticut, along with their pocketbooks, their jobs and their hopes and dreams for the future.”