The changes to the budget bills Wednesday seemed endless as lawmakers sought to finish the longest budget debate in Connecticut’s history.
Drafts, revisions, veto threats and more drafts. At the end of the day they didn’t make the finish line, but will return Thursday afternoon.
Late in the afternoon Wednesday before heading to the Big E, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell threatened to veto the most current version of the four remaining budget bills.
“I must caution you that unless an implementer bill accurately reflects the terms of the budget bill, is supported by honest revenue estimates and contains properly drafted, workable language, I will veto it,” Rell wrote in this letter to legislative leaders.
She had numerous complaints about the draft versions of the bills, which were not available online even late Wednesday evening because final versions did not exist.
The House of Representatives delayed plans to vote on the remaining budget bills and instead opted to finish the less contentious bills.
Around 9 p.m. Wednesday evening the House passed a bill which reduces the number of probate courts from 117 to 54. The vote was 134 to 7.
The House also passed a bill 139 to 0 that conveys several parcels of state land in an effort to raise $60 million.
The concerns were the same.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said the revenue estimates adopted 23 days ago were no longer good because “we needed to raise revenue by $50 million over two years.”
“The revenue we thought we needed 23 days ago is not enough?” Cafero asked.
Democratic lawmakers argued earlier Wednesday that it was necessary to adjust the revenue estimates upward to accommodate the last minute amendment Rell had wanted to veto after she allowed the budget to go into effect without her signature. Democrats held that amendment, which included things Rell had wanted restored to the budget, as the reason why revenue estimates had to be adjusted. Most of the increase will be raised through Department of Motor Vehicle fee hikes.
In the end, that bill passed 106 to 34.
The House also voted 107 to 30 on a two-year borrowing plan. The plan does not include money for school construction projects because that language is in a separate bill, but it authorizes $2.38 billion in borrowing for capital projects over the next two years.
Rep. Shawn Johnston of North Grosvenordale, who doesn’t caucus with either the Democrats or the Republicans, objected to the bonding bill being raised because the Office of Fiscal Analysis had yet to complete a fiscal note for the bill.
Cafero said the Republicans agreed to waive the fiscal note requirement for the 51-page bill because it was very specific about what it was authorizing.
“Unless you’re a speed reader … I’m going to take an educated guess and say no more than a dozen people in this room know what we’re about to borrow,” Johnston said. “I think we have an obligation to understand what we’re doing here.”
The Senate convened briefly Wednesday to adopt the rules for the special session and is expected to return Thursday, along with the House.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said talks with the governor’s office over the language of the budget bills will continue.
Donovan described the process Wednesday as “fluid,” and said the talks continued with the governor’s people even after she sent out the letter threatening a veto. He said that’s why two days were reserved for the process.
He said he believes the implementer process has been harder this year than in the past because there was no agreement on the budget this year. Rell allowed the budget to become law without her signature.