Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was all smiles Tuesday as he greeted reporters at the Capitol. With the Senate passing the budget in the early morning hours by one of the smallest margins possible and the House preparing to begin its debate, it looks like Malloy’s wish to have a budget on his desk before May 6 will come true.
The Senate spent more than 11 hours debating the budget into the early morning hours and Republicans argued that it raises about $1 billion more in revenue than the state currently needs.
Malloy said he doesn’t understand that argument when by all accounts the state is “flat broke.” He said frequently that argument is put forward by “folks who want to have their cake and eat it too.”
He said they want to be able to talk about the unfunded obligations of the state at the same time they want to talk about other things and vote against budgets that actually take a substantial step toward addressing those unfunded obligations.
“That’s the significance of this morning’s vote is that we will be in a position to address the long-term obligations of the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said.
He said the state doesn’t have a surplus. It has millions of dollars in unfunded obligations.
Republicans have speculated the additional money built into the budget will be used to reduce the $2 billion in labor concessions Malloy plans on getting from the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.
“I’ve made it very clear that what we are doing is putting Connecticut on a different financial footing. The money, any money, needs to address our operating expenses, and then to pay off our debt or to pay off our unfunded liabilities,” Malloy said.
Asked to describe Malloy and his dealings on the budget, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said the governor was, “unwilling to compromise, unwilling to listen, headstrong, not willing to be flexible in light of the changes.
“I mean the economy has changed since he took office, certainly since he was elected and he came out with a plan early on, he’s unwilling to bend on that plan, he’s unwilling to give in on that plan. It’s his way or the highway,” Cafero said referring to the increase in revenue projections adopted yesterday by the Senate and Finance Committee.
Malloy disagreed with the picture painted by Cafero.
“Obviously this document is evidence that’s just not true,” Malloy said. “As you know, the original budget I proposed had higher revenue numbers. This budget has lower revenue numbers.”
He said he was the guy that did 17 town hall meetings and came forward and led the fight for some of the changes incorporated in the two-year, $40.11 billion budget.
He said the proximity of the budget is not a reflection on the budget or his 17-week tenure as governor.
“I think it’s the nature of the building,” Malloy said. “I’m just happy that step one is down and hopefully the House will act sometime today or tomorrow morning and hopefully we’ll get an agreement.”
The House debate on the budget is expected to begin later this afternoon.