After much debate, the legislature’s Republican minority plans to release its own budget proposal this week.
For the past seven years, Republicans, who have largely been left out of budget negotiations even during former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration, have released their own budget proposals. Even though their budgets have largely been ignored by the Democratic majority, Republican legislators represent a large number of Connecticut residents and feel it’s only appropriate that they be part of the conversation.
There were some in the caucus, which grew during the last election, who felt it would have been better to sit back and criticize the Democratic proposal. But Republican leaders felt it was important to put forward their own ideas in order to remain credible and relevant.
This year, Senate Republican leader Len Fasano said Republicans want to release their budget before Democratic lawmakers release their own response to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget. Democrats, who are struggling with the spending cuts in Malloy’s proposal, are expected to release their budget on Thursday.
“We believe we have some very good ideas and we want to give them time to incorporate them in their budget proposal,” Fasano said Monday.
In previous years they’ve released their budget after the Democrat-controlled budget writing committees. This year, Fasano said they want to lead the conversation, not trail it.
“We look forward to seeing — specifically, in detail, by line item — how Senator Fasano and Republicans in the legislature plan to pay for whatever they propose,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “So far, we have asked for, and not seen, any specifics. The question is: have they chosen to actually present a real, specific, line-by-line proposal? Or will they resort to what we have seen for the last several months — political talking points without any serious specifics or proposals.”
The budget Republican lawmakers will release later this week will be balanced based on feedback they’ve gotten from the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, according to Fasano, who added that they have spent the last six weeks going over the governor’s budget and coming up with their own.
Last week, Republicans emailed social service providers who are unhappy with Malloy’s budget cuts and asked them to join them for the unveiling of the budget, which restores some of those painful cuts.
Some of the $590 million in spending cuts Malloy proposed in the first year of his two-year budget will be restored by Republicans. What isn’t clear yet is how they will be balanced.
The Republican budget, according to an email obtained by CTNewsJunkie, will restore health coverage for all low-income pregnant women on the state’s Husky insurance program.
The governor’s budget eliminated health insurance for more than 34,000 parents, including pregnant women, on the Husky program. Malloy’s budget assumes that these adults will be able to purchase private coverage on Connecticut’s insurance exchange, but advocates say the coverage is still unaffordable.
Democratic lawmakers who are remaking Malloy’s budget also have been upset about the cut, which saves $40 million in the first year and $80 million in the second year of the budget.
The Republican proposal also would restore $10.5 million to urban-focused education and social service programs including funding for Community Action Agencies and Alzheimer’s respite funding. They would also restore money for mental health services through the regional action councils.
When it comes to the Department of Children and Families it won’t count future savings from closures of group homes and instead require greater legislative oversight. It adds three new positions to the Office of the Child Advocate and funds an independent review of DCF.
“We believe we have very good ideas,” Fasano said.