House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said if Republican lawmakers want to be part of bipartisan budget negotiations they will need to follow three rules.
The first rule is “when you’re in the room, you stay in the room, until the job is done,” Sharkey said Friday after a closed-door caucus with his members. The second rule “is you come to the room with real ideas and a willingness to compromise,” and the third rule is “you bring votes.”
Sharkey said those are the three conditions they have to live by and “would expect the Republicans to do the same.”
Republican legislative leaders — Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides — sent out a one sentence response: “Speaker Sharkey’s conditions for Monday’s meeting are meritless.”
Aresimowicz didn’t know why Republicans wouldn’t agree to those conditions since they’ve done it in the past with the bipartisan jobs bill in 2011, the deficit mitigation package of 2012, and the post-Sandy Hook gun control bill in 2013.
“There’s something to be said for Republicans actually putting their ideas on the table,” Sharkey said.
So far Republicans have been reluctant to publicly offer any spending cuts because they are dismissed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy or his spokesman. Fasano has said he won’t offer any cuts until he’s at the negotiating table.
“I think you have to be willing to tell the public what you stand for. What are your priorities and what you plan to do?” Sharkey said. “We need the Republicans to be in the room, in good faith, under the conditions we have to live by.”
However, it’s not Republicans that have Democratic legislators concerned. It’s Malloy.
Sharkey and Aresimowicz admitted that their caucus was upset by spending cuts to hospitals, Department of Developmental Services, and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
On Monday, a few hours before Democratic legislative leadership proposed an across-the-board, 2.5-percent spending cut as an alternative to Malloy’s $103 million in targeted spending cuts, Malloy called for a special session and bipartisan budget negotiations to cut an additional $118.4 million.
“We’re not taking that initial round of cuts to hospitals as a given,” Sharkey said.
He said these are the things they fought with the governor to restore in the first budget.
“The cuts to the hospitals actually means jobs and I think we heard overwhelmingly in our caucus the impact it’s going to have on our local communities,” Aresimowicz said.
Sharkey said hospitals are an economic driver and Connecticut has not viewed them as such. He said it’s time to have that conversation.
Democratic legislative leaders and Republican legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with Malloy at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 26, for their first budget discussion.