(Updated) More than a dozen lawmakers returned to the Capitol Monday to adjourn the pre-Christmas special session. And as expected, they didn’t override Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s vetoes of two deficit-cutting measures.
The session in the House was brief, but House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, held a 20-minute press conference afterward to talk about why the legislature’s Democratic majority proposed much smaller budget cuts and dismissed Rell’s much deeper budget cuts.
“We are saying that the governor’s cuts equal job cuts,” Donovan said. He said the cuts proposed in Rell’s deficit mitigation package would have cost the state 5,000 jobs.
“Why would you jeopardize 5,000 jobs in the state of Connecticut and instead favor a new tax break for wealthy estates?” Donovan said.
When she released her deficit mitigation plan in December Rell had proposed $116 million in cuts to social services and $84 million in municipal aid. The legislature’s Democratic majority proposed increasing the state’s revenue by more than $70 million by delaying the scheduled reduction in the estate tax. It also proposed cutting about $12.4 million from the General Fund and about $23.5 million from off-budget special accounts.
Laurence A. Tanner, president and CEO of the Hospital of Central Connecticut, said Monday that Rell’s proposed reductions would have cost the state’s 32 hospitals more than $80 million and 2,000 jobs. That reduction is “potentially catastrophic” Tanner said. For his hospital it means it could have lost $2.4 million in Medicaid funding, and at $40,000 a job that’s nearly 60 jobs, Tanner said.
Rell’s budget office has disputed the number of jobs that would be lost under her proposed mitigation package.
But by not taking any action to override Rell’s veto Monday the state is left with a $337 million budget deficit. Rell has the executive authority to cut about $83.9 million, but needs legislative approval to cut about $253 million, according to a report by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Donovan said he expects the legislature to address the deficit when it reconvenes in February and one of the proposals that will be making a come back is the delay in the estate tax reduction. He said the more than $70 million in revenue from delaying the tax break would “go a long way toward solving our problems.”
While Donovan believes he would have had the 101 votes to override Rell’s veto of the bills in the House, he said it takes “two to tango” and the Senate just didn’t have the 24 votes necessary for an override.
Derek Slap, spokesman for Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said “it’s unfortunate the governor didn’t sign it.” He said on budget matters there’s generally not 100 percent consensus, however, if Rell had signed the bills the deficit would be “substantially less” than it is today.
“Apparently, the dog has eaten the legislative Democrats’ homework again,” Rell’s spokesman Adam Liegeot said Monday. “Fortunately, more and more Connecticut residents and businesses are seeing through their excuses. It’s still not too late for them to make a New Year’s Resolution to cut spending.”
In response to the lack of action Monday Republican lawmakers again asked for bipartisan budget talks to begin immediately.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney,R-Fairfield, and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, renewed their request to meet with Democrats to discuss the budget deficit. Click here to read their letter to Democratic leaders.