(Updated 1:27 a.m. Friday) Connecticut’s budget battle continued Thursday mostly behind closed doors.
After waiting around most of the day for the bills to be revised and rewritten, the Senate voted on one of the four remaining bills before deciding to call it night. It adjourned around 11 p.m. and decided to return Friday at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile the House convened for the first time Thursday at 11:30 p.m. and passed two of the four remaining budget bills after 1 a.m. Friday morning.
The budget bills known as implementers help clarify the $37.6 billion two-year budget plan passed on Sept. 1.
“The bills are so long and there’s many substantive changes that it took awhile to do,” Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, said about the process. “It’s not something you want to rush.”
Geragosian, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, sat in meetings most of the day with other Democratic leaders and members of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s staff working on the language. Republican lawmakers were not involved in the discussions because they did not support the budget, which became law without Rell’s signature.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Democrats were trying to blame the delay on a bipartisan struggle, “no one’s buying it.” He said it’s the Democrats fighting amongst themselves. He used the deal to give $40 million in bonding to start a controversial partnership between UConn’s John Dempsey Hospital and Hartford Hospital as just one example.
According to sources Democratic leadership in the House was in favor of authorizing the bonding, but leadership in the Senate was unable to get its caucus to support it. In the end the bonding package passed both chambers Wednesday without the bond authorization for the partnership.
When asked about the internal Democratic struggle, Geragosian and Majority Leader Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, dismissed Cafero’s accusation saying it was absolutely not true.
“The Republicans aren’t in the room,” Merrill said. “There’s hundreds of issues to resolve.”
However, if some of the issues aren’t resolved soon Merrill said they would pull the plug and come back tomorrow.
“We don’t do our best work after midnight,” Merrill said.