(Updated 2:30 p.m.) The House and the Senate convened Tuesday, then just as quickly adjourned without presenting an alternative to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s deficit mitigation plan.
Majority Leader Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, said the legislature left Rell’s call for special session on the table as it prepares its own, which means it can bring up any part of Rell’s call when it reconvenes.
When House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, sought to object to the motion to adjourn he was told it was not an objectionable motion and the session was adjourned.
It was uncertain when the legislature will reconvene its own special session to address the budget deficit, but lawmakers seemed to be backing away from statements Monday that it would be before the Christmas holiday.
Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he hopes to come back as soon as the Democrats in the House and Senate have an agreement.
“We have to come up with a consensus package,” Looney said. While he wouldn’t get into specifics, he said the plans presented by the House Monday and the Senate last week still have to be merged.
State Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, said he didn’t think the timing of the next special session was a big deal.
“Whether it happens today, whether it happens within the next two weeks, is not a real major issue,” he said.
But Cafero said when you’re talking about deficits, it’s all about the timing.
“They adjourned without doing anything,“ Cafero said Tuesday. “They talked a good game, but once again they broke their promise.”
Standing with the 36 members of the House Republican caucus behind him, Cafero said it feels very much like a repeat of last year.
“They did the exact same thing last year,” Cafero said. “And what happened we ended up having to borrow $1 billion just to pay our bills for 2009.”
Democrats argued Monday that if they implemented Rell’s proposed $337 million in spending cuts, mostly to social services, the state would lose an estimated 5,000 jobs. Rell’s budget office disputed those numbers saying no jobs would be lost as a result of the spending cuts.
Instead, the legislature’s Democratic majority will get to work on a plan that asks Rell to delay a scheduled $100 million contribution to state employees pension plan, delay the planned estate tax changes, and reduce the budget by about $60 million. The plan offered by the House Democratic caucus Monday didn’t propose an cuts to social services or municipal aid.
But apparently the Senate Democratic caucus came up with a slightly different plan. Details of the Senate plan are still vague, but there seems to be some consensus emerging.
There does seem to be consensus on delaying the estate tax changes on Jan. 1, Looney said Tuesday.
On Jan. 1 the estate tax threshold will be increased from $2 million to $3.5 million. Looney seems to think there’s consensus amongst the Democrats to keep the threshold for the tax at $2 million.
“Now that we’ve forfeited the reduction in the sales tax, how can we allow the windfall for big estates to go forward?” Looney said.
As for the governor’s proposed cuts, Looney said she was “banking on the fact that many of her proposals would not be accepted.” He said if she had been serious about the $84 million cut to municipal aid then she wouldn’t have created a panel of lawmakers and mayors to make the cuts for her, which in the end they refused to do.
Rell was not pleased with the legislature’s lack of action Tuesday.
“I know that it is difficult for legislators to make spending cuts – it is difficult for me to propose them,” Rell said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “Each cut has a constituency and each of those constituencies has been very clear in communicating their dismay. However, none of these constituencies has suggested a realistic alternative to making real, concrete reductions in state spending.”
“I am certainly open to ideas for other cuts,” Rell said. “But simply bemoaning the necessity for cuts is not constructive. For months now the Legislature has done everything in its power to avoid making difficult decisions about cutting spending. Those decisions can no longer be avoided.”