(Updated) The legislature’s Democratic majority and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell are on the precipice of an agreement on the 2011 budget deficit, according to Republican lawmakers who say they’ve been shut out of any future budget negotiations. Democratic lawmakers say nothing has been agreed upon, but they feel good about it and Rell’s office sent out a statement saying they’re not close to a deal.
“The Governor and the Democrats are not on the verge of a deal,” Donna Tommelleo, Rell’s spokeswoman, said. “Talks are ongoing and Governor is hopeful that everyone will work together in a respectful manner to balance the budget by the end of session.”
The increased $350 million in state revenue over two years, $366 in additional federal funds, and deferral of another state employee pension payment, has all but offset the $726 million projected deficit. However, there are still ongoing negotiations regarding how the state moves forward with the $1.3 billion securitization piece of the fiscal puzzle.
“At this moment here in May I feel good on our prospects,” of adjusting the 2011 budget, House Speaker Chris Donovan said Saturday. But “we don’t have an agreement yet.”
The securitization or borrowing piece seems to be one of the last hurdles for all involved in negotiations.
“The Governor remains insistent that a budget agreement must use any new revenue to first reduce the amount of borrowing in the Democrats’ budget,” Tommelleo said in an emailed statement.
Republican lawmakers held a press conference Friday urging lawmakers to use the increased revenue to lower the debt payment the state will have to make, either by securitization or by the borrowing method recommended by Rell earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers feel like their input about various proposals to shrink state government is no longer wanted.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said the pending deal as he understands it does not include any state agency consolidations, any labor concessions, privatization of state services, and does not take any action against future deficits.
Cafero walked out of budget discussions Friday night in protest.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who stayed for the duration of the talks, said the news of “some extra revenue” has given the Democratic majority an excuse not to seek “real structural reform.“
“The will of the majority is now to simply put a Band-Aid on the problem,” McKinney said.
McKinney said negotiations have come down to two proposals and the gap between the two are small. He said Rell’s proposal has more cuts than the Democratic proposal, but neither deals with the structural deficits in 2012 and 2013.
When asked if Rell has turned her back on her own political party by reaching an agreement like this with Democrats, Cafero replied: “the macaroni is cooked.”
“We don’t believe this is the right deal for the state of Connecticut,” McKinney said. “It was nothing to do with personalities, it has nothing to do with what party you’re from, it has to do with what is the best result for the people of Connecticut.”
When pressed McKinney said “I’m disappointed in everybody’s actions.”
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the governor is attempting “to push the easy button,” by using increased revenue realized after the April 15th tax deadline to fix the budget. It’s more difficult to fix the structural deficit issues going into the future, he said.
“All we’re doing is delaying the decisions for the next governor,” Candelora said.
Majority Leader Denise Merrill said the Republicans were never asked to leave the discussions and have been at the table since negotiations on the budget began.
“I think we are trying to work together with the Republicans and the governor on the budget,” Merrill said. She said she was surprised by the Republican’s reaction.
“The new revenue has made a lot possible that was not possible,” Merrill said. “We need to deal with the immediate problem, which is the 2011 deficit.”
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said the legislature’s Democratic majority doesn’t get it, but there’s lots of Republican candidates “that offer a clear path out of this.”
When asked if he was placing any blame on Rell, Healy said he’s been fairly critical of the governor in the past, “to be a little bit more firm.”
Rell is not seeking re-election and some have privately opined that it may be a different if she was. However, Democrats have said that it would be to the GOP’s advantage not to have a budget agreement in the run up to the 2010 elections.
This story will be updated throughout the day.