There wasn’t much Senate Republicans could do in order to change the destiny of the two-year, $40.11 billion budget adopted by the Senate Tuesday morning. But they tried offering 18 amendments, 17 of which were defeated along party lines and one that was ruled out of order.
The debate lasted for more than 11 hours until after 3:10 a.m., but in the end 19 Democratic Senators voted in favor and 3 Democratic Senators voted against. Sens. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, and Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury joined the 14 Republicans in voting against the budget proposal.
The budget, which Republican lawmakers said was pushed through the legislative process before anyone could figure out what’s in it, was heavily lobbied by several industries and special interests impacted by the $1.4 billion tax package. The tax package passed by the Senate Tuesday morning was about $100 million less than Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s original proposal, even though Republicans were quick to point out that it raises about $369 million in surplus funds in 2012 and $635 million in 2013.
Earlier in the day Monday, Republican lawmakers in a Finance Committee meeting said those surplus funds are evidence this budget “overtaxes” the people of Connecticut because it raises more revenue than the state needs.
“One of the problems that’s existed around here for a long time is we call something a surplus that’s not a surplus,“ Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said Monday during a visit to the Capitol press room. “We don’t have a surplus this year, not if you use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.”
He said Malloy has asked that any surplus to be used to pay down debt, transition to GAAP, and help build up the Rainy Day fund.
The budget passed by the Senate Tuesday morning also doesn’t include the $2 billion Malloy plans on getting in labor union concessions. Language requiring the General Assembly to return if the Malloy isn’t successful in those negotiations was debated at length Monday and Tuesday by Senators.
Republicans offered more than 17 amendments, including its revised no-tax-increase alternative budget.
Sen. Robert Kane, R-Watertown, said he heard someone speaking in the hallway that this was a “meaningless debate.” He said he found the comment offensive. “I thought this was America and this is what we do, debate,” Kane said.
Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said the no-tax-increase alternative proposed by the Republicans shows how difficult it is to cut spending without having an impact on economic activity in the state.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who has voted against his fair share of budgets said he voted in favor of the proposal because he likes the spending cuts, consolidations, and the fact the state isn’t borrowing or employing any gimmicks to balance it. He said it also fully funds the state’s pension obligations and asks labor to give back $2 billion.
“Love it or hate it, at least it’s free of gimmicks,” Duff said.
But Republican lawmakers said they were looking for more out of this budget and they were initially lead to believe they would have a seat at the table while the budget was being crafted.
However, the first Democratic governor in 20 years worked with the Democratic legislative majority in crafting a compromise to his budget. The two sides announced they struck a deal two weeks ago.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, pointed out that two months after the income tax was passed in 1991, tens of thousands of angry taxpayers rallied at the Capital once they starting seeing money coming out of their paychecks. He warned that this budget and the one-year, $1.4 billion tax package could draw similar attention from taxpayers.
The House is expected to vote on the budget later today.