Democratic leaders said late Friday that they reached a deal on changes to the two-year, $40.3 billion state budget.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the revisions take the concerns of the business community into account by eliminating an increase in the data processing tax and delaying the unitary reporting requirement until Jan. 1, 2016. It also gives $30 million back to hospitals and $1 million to non-union nursing homes to provide more equity in pay. And it reduces by $13 million money set aside for raises for state employees.
To balance the budget, leaders identified the need for roughly $41 million in spending cuts.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said about $12.5 million of that amount would be “spread throughout the budget in very small amounts.” The rest would come from a concurrent reduction in Medicaid.
A week after the General Assembly approved a two-year, $40.3 billion budget, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reacted to complaints from the business community by calling upon the legislature to roll back some of the tax increases and to make up the difference through $223.5 million in spending cuts.
House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the revised plan doesn’t hit as hard as Malloy’s proposal but acknowledged some of the state’s neediest populations could still feel the effects of the cuts.
“While we’ve done better than the governor’s original proposal, there are cuts that I’m sure some families will feel, unfortunately,” Aresimowicz said.
Advocates for intellectually disabled people, those with mental illnesses and their caregivers had a vocal presence at the capitol throughout the session and especially after Malloy asked for more cuts.
Sharkey said the remaining $13 million in spending cuts in the revised budget is slated to come from reductions in raises for union and non-union state workers in 2017.
By taking money out of the fund reserved for salaries, Sharkey said lawmakers are setting a direction for Malloy when it comes to union negotiations: “The number in the account is what the governor has to work with.”
Aresimowicz did not discount the possibility that the funding reduction could lead to layoffs. “Is there room to trim maybe around the managerial levels? Maybe. We don’t know that. I think the governor and his commissioners are the ones that can decide that,” Aresimowicz said.
The General Assembly will convene Monday morning to vote on implementation language that backs up the numbers in the budget. They will also bring up Malloy’s Second Chance legislation to reform the prison and parole system as well as a bill to address excessive force by law enforcement officers.
Legislative leaders said they plan to tie up all the loose ends of the 2015 regular session in one day. Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said it may mean missing the Democratic party’s largest fundraiser of the year where U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will be giving the keynote address.