(Updated 1:20 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged Thursday that the legislature hates cuts in his proposed budget and lacks consensus to raise taxes. But the governor said a lot can change in the three months before a budget plan must be approved.
“Listen, we get it off our desk on the 18th, do the best job we can and we meet our legal obligation to have a balanced budget go to the legislature. It then sits there for a number of months,” he said. “Lots of things can change. There are a number of moving parts on budget making.”
As things stand now, Malloy offered no clear path to how the administration and the legislature may arrive at a negotiated budget. He said there seems to be little appetite for raising revenues and strong opposition to the spending cuts he’s proposed.
“A lot of people serve in the legislature and everyone is complaining about the cuts I’ve made. It’s near unanimous. Other people can calculate what that means. What I will say is many of those cuts are things I don’t want to do,” Malloy said. “Whether some people believe tax increases should take place or don’t believe they should take place, I think there’s probably a pretty big divide. It remains to be seen.”
When pressed by reporters, Malloy predicted the legislature would not opt to raise taxes.
“I do not believe that there’s a consensus to raise taxes in Connecticut,” he said.
The budget is now in the hands of lawmakers, who will have to propose their own spending and tax plan in the next few months. Malloy told reporters Thursday that he delivered a balanced budget and will leave it up to the legislature to make sure it comes in under the constitutional spending cap.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said it was “frustrating” to start the budget process with a proposal that exceeds the spending cap.
“The state is already facing a major challenge this fiscal cycle, so starting with a budget that turns out to exceed the spending cap is a bit frustrating,” House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Friday. “Despite that we are prepared and committed to develop a new budget on time that’s balanced with no new taxes.”
Senate President Martin Looney said the governor and legislature were still at the beginning of a long budgeting process, which he likened to a relay race. He said Malloy had only just handed the baton of to the legislature, which will draft its own proposals. The “tricky” part will be negotiating a budget that Malloy and lawmakers will approve of, Looney said.
“It’s far too early to make an predictions where we’ll end up,” he said.
Malloy spent months on the campaign trail last year claiming he wouldn’t increase taxes if he was re-elected. He won re-election by more than 28,000 votes, but Republican lawmakers criticized what they believe are tax increases in his budget.
In addition to canceling tax credits for various programs, Malloy proposed increasing the tax on hospitals.
The tax was implemented by the Malloy administration a few years ago.
“I had to scratch my head wondering why we’re taxing a virtuous activity,” Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, told Malloy’s budget director Benjamin Barnes Thursday.
“It’s like why do you rob banks?” Barnes interjected. “It’s where the money is.”
“That’s on the record sir,” Frantz replied.
Asked if he would veto a budget that included tax increases beyond what he proposed in his budget, Malloy said he will watch what happens in the coming months but he’s not holding his breath.
“In the end something will come out in May or early June that represents our spending plan for the next two years,” Malloy said Thursday.
Malloy has faced criticism from Republicans this week over his budget proposal, which by his own admission is $54 million over the constitutional spending cap.
“The Governor delivered a wreck of a budget that included hundreds of millions in higher taxes and violates the spending cap and then says to the legislature ‘you fix it,’’’ House Republican leader Themis Klarides said Friday.
“Meanwhile, in national publications such as the Washington Post he called me and my fellow Republicans ‘frauds’ and tells Time Magazine that, as a Democrat, he has to clean up Republican messes.’’
“Disingenuous doesn’t cover it,’’ she added.