Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to say she’ll neither sign nor veto the $37.6 billion, two-year budget passed early this morning by the General Assembly.
Rell said she will, however, use her executive authority to veto about $8.3 million of $26 million in spending added back to the budget at the last minute by the legislature’s Democratic majority. But Democrats say that amendment originated with Rell herself.
Democratic lawmakers continued Tuesday afternoon to call the budget a compromise, but Rell disagreed.
“It’s hardly a compromise,” Rell said, adding that she was the one who made all the hard decisions when she put forth a budget last week that included tax increases she opposed in exchange for $520 million in spending cuts she never received.
“The Democrats just could not cut,” Rell said Tuesday afternoon on the south steps of the state Capitol. “The Democrats are unwilling or simply unable to make the meaningful cuts in state spending that we need.”
She said she will not veto the entire budget, but she also won’t sign it.
“I will not sign it into law because I do not believe in this budget,” Rell said. “A veto will not bring different results, I fear.” She said the budget will take effect in five days without her signature. Meanwhile she has signed an executive order to get the state through the next five days until the budget takes effect.
“In hours before this budget was brought to a vote yesterday, the Democrats had the audacity to add more spending,” Rell said. “It is as if they believe the people of Connecticut do not care, are not watching, or will not notice.”
Rell was referring to the last-minute, $26 million amendment that included – among other things – funding for a food pantry in Manchester and a nature center in Ansonia.
But Sen. President Donald Williams insisted Tuesday afternoon that a $20 million amendment was requested by Rell. He added that it was only fair that if she was going to return $20 million to the budget, that they could increase funding for some of their projects as well, bringing the total amendment to about $26 million.
“This spending is an insult. It is a slap in the face to our taxpayers,” Rell said.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said he was disappointed to hear Rell make “such disparaging remarks,” about budget negotiations.
It’s difficult to say where the truth lies between the two versions of the amendment story, because the negotiations took place behind closed doors.
“With respect to her intention to line item veto portions of the amendment introduced last evening, I would only say those items were agreed to by the Governor’s office,” Donovan said. “That was a negotiated amendment that had the blessing of her office, and included important programs for children and jobs creation.”
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the governor’s approach to allowing the budget to become law without her signature “reflects the ducking, dodging, and evasion that has been characteristic of her [administration] since February when she presented a budget that was unbalanced.”
He said the good news is that the state of Connecticut has a budget that raises revenues and makes painful spending cuts.
While Rell had asked for $520 million in spending cuts, Democrats were able to deliver about $400 million.
Republican lawmakers and Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy urged Rell to veto the budget all day Tuesday.
She said her decision to allow it to go into effect does not mean there’s division in the party.
“I have to govern,” Rell said.
Asked about her future and a possible run for re-election in 2010, Rell said, “I am more invigorated than ever, but don’t hold me to that.” She then turned and walked back into the Capitol.
Click here to read Rell’s veto message and download a copy of the earmarks she plans to veto.