The Democrat-controlled General Assembly has no control over the $2 billion in union concessions Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will need to get from the state labor unions in order to balance the $40.2 billion, two-year budget.
The notion that the General Assembly will be asked to vote on a budget before Malloy has an agreement in hand is making some lawmakers uncomfortable, but that’s not the consensus of the majority.
“They want us to keep talking to the governor about that,” House Speaker Chris Donovan said after leaving the closed-door caucus Wednesday evening.
Donovan said there are times things can happen very quickly in the building and while there’s some work that still needs to be done on the budget, it’s possible a vote could be called as early as next week.
Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said the legislature has passed budgets in the past assuming large amounts of federal funds will be forthcoming without any guarantee. He said this scenario is really no different even though the numbers are admittedly much larger.
Tercyak said lawmakers need to understand this is between the governor and unions. He said it’s no different than lawmakers having to realize they can’t hand out speeding tickets because they don’t have that authority.
He said he understands getting a budget passed quickly may be more of a priority for the Senate, which has a smaller margin for error. The theory in the upper chamber is that the longer the budget sits, the greater the chance Senators will be picked off by lobbyists or special interests or a pet issue, he said.
The lobbyists sat patiently outside the closed-door caucus Wednesday ready to pounce on lawmakers as they left.
Sen. President Donald Williams was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening. His closed-door meetings with Senators went so long they prevented him from showing up at a rally on SustiNet where he was scheduled to speak.
There are 22 Democratic Senators and 14 Republican Senators, which means just a handful would have to vote with Republicans against the budget in order to defeat it.
It’s not certain, but almost every Republican is expected to vote against the budget mainly because of the $1.4 billion in tax increases it will raise in the first year.
Republicans are anticipating revenues will come in much higher than projected and believe any increase should be applied to lower the amount of proposed taxes.
“Like over $200 million more, under our current tax structure than they had previously anticipated,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, said.
“This governor and this Democratic controlled legislature for the first time ever, ever, is ignoring that.”
But now that it’s been discovered that the state has more money than anticipated, Cafero said the logical move would be to reduce the tax increases.
“Maybe fully restore the property tax credit. Maybe eliminate the $.03 per gallon gas tax increase. Maybe take away the tax on over the counter non-prescription drugs. All these things that are going to hurt the middle class,” he said. “The governor said, ‘No. I’m not even going to consider it.’”
“All I know is the taxpayer is getting ripped off and he’s breaking his word,” Cafero said.
But Malloy never took a no-tax-increase pledge when he was running for office and admitting it will take spending cuts and tax increases to close the $3.2 billion budget gap almost cost him the election. Also Democrats have been fond lately of reminding Republicans that their alternative no-tax increase budget also assumed Malloy would be successful in obtaining $2 billion in concessions from the unions.