Behind closed-doors Wednesday evening,114 House Democrats brainstormed ideas for closing the state’s $1.24 billion deficits and reviewed Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s deficit mitigation plan.
House Speaker Chris Donovan emerged from the meeting Wednesday evening and said his caucus remains committed to closing the deficits. He said they were able to reach consensus on both some short-term and long-term solutions.
While some members expressed concerns about cutting social services, Donovan said there was consensus on restoring the reduction in the tax for wealthy estates and elimination of longevity payments for non-union state employees.
“But we really didn’t solve the problem,” Donovan admitted. He said it was more of a brainstorming session for the caucus.
Majority Leader Denise Merrill said there was no broad consensus on a specific plan, but there seems to be consensus on the estate tax, which Rell vetoed back in December.
It’s unclear if Democrats would have enough votes to override another veto if they returned the estate tax to last year’s levels. In December there wasn’t enough support to return for an override.
Merrill said there seemed to be a “recognition of the problem,” but “by no means is there a solution.”
However, she said there seems to be a better understanding that spending cuts have to be part of the solution at the same time there’s an acknowledgment there’s a lot of people hurting from the recession. She said last week’s free dental clinic was just one recent example of the need in the state. She said members who want to maintain funding for certain programs are coming back to leadership with plans on how to save money at the same time.
Rep. Cam Staples, who chairs the legislature’s Revenue, Finance, and Bonding Committee, said he doesn’t think the gap can be closed with revenue increases alone.
“I don’t think it’s going to be all cuts, or all revenue,” Staples said talking about the balancing act the legislature will have to do to balance the budget.
Rep. John Geragosian, who chairs the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said he’s aiming at getting the legislature’s budget proposal out in the next two weeks. The budget proposal is due April 1, but Geragosian said it’s possible the committee will have something completed sooner.