Details of Thursday’s budget negotiations between Republicans, Democrats, and the Malloy administration were supposed to remain private, but within a short period of time details of the plans proposed by the Republicans and the Malloy administration were leaked to the CT Mirror.
The Malloy administration and Republican legislative spokesmen denied leaking the documents, but the Republicans suggested that mischaracterizations of their proposal in the Mirror’s story didn’t come from them.
By the end of the day and after an FOI request for the documents was filed by CTNewsJunkie, the Malloy administration released their 36-page plan for spending cuts. The Republicans said they will release their proposed cuts at a 10 a.m. news conference Friday.
Republican officials said their proposal will reduce spending by about $370 million, but they declined to say Thursday exactly where they planned to cut. Malloy’s proposal calls for about $330 million in reductions and would order the closure of the State Police Barracks in Bethany, two courthouses in Bristol and Meriden, and the Enfield Correctional Institution.
Additionally, Malloy’s proposal includes the following:
• cuts to labor programs and museums;
• cuts to mental health grants and substance abuse treatment services;
• a 5 percent reduction in various Education Department accounts;
• additional cuts for state colleges and the University of Connecticut, and;
• an additional $16.5 million recession of funding that had been originally set aside for hospitals.
There were more than two dozen officials and staffers in the room Thursday morning and the stakes are high.
Thursday was the first time since 2012 that Democrats, Republicans, and Malloy have engaged in bipartisan deficit mitigation discussions.
Fasano and Klarides said they want the conversation about Connecticut’s budget shortfall to include not just ways to close the 2016 gap, but also restructuring the budget for the future.
“This is not about filling the hole with gum and different patchwork approaches to budgeting anymore,” Klarides said, adding that the Republican Party feels strongly that in order to help the state going forward, lawmakers can’t continue what they’ve been doing for the past few years.
“We have to make those changes,” Klarides said.
Fasano said they could be further ahead in these negotiations if Democrats had included Republicans in their budget discussions “in January, February, March, or April.”
But majority Democrats and Malloy excluded the Republicans for the fifth year in a row during regular session budget negotiations.
“They wanted to pass a budget based on what they wanted to do — not looking at facts,” Fasano said. “Had they had us in the room, I don’t think we would have been in the position we are in today because our ideas could have been out there and we could have talked about them.”
While Democratic legislative leaders didn’t agree with Fasano’s analysis, they are also the only ones currently at the negotiating table who haven’t put forward a proposal.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said Democrats put forward a proposal to reduce the $103 million in rescissions Malloy made in September by cutting 2.5 percent off every line item in the budget.
However, it’s unclear exactly what impact those cuts would have on programs or the operations of state government. Some have suggested that across-the-board cuts would be detrimental to programs Democratic lawmakers traditionally want to protect.
Malloy said he’s never seen any details of the legislative Democrats’ plan to cut 2.5 percent in spending.
Sharkey and Senate President Martin Looney declined to elaborate on the impact their proposal would have on specific services.
“Democrats are refining the proposal that we offered a few weeks ago,” Sharkey said before being whisked away by his staff. “And we’re going to refine that a little bit to reflect some of the new numbers we received and provide that to Republicans, as well as the governor’s office.”
Malloy said he’s requested that Democratic legislative leaders complete the process and put forth a proposal. Then, they can all sit down and figure out where there’s agreement, he added.
“But Democrats have to put their formal offer on the table,” Malloy said.
Malloy said he believes he’s led each step of the way by first using his executive authority to rescind $103 million from the budget and then putting forward suggestions for how to cut an additional $220 million. Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders and Republican legislative leaders want to restore some of the $103 million in cuts to hospitals and social services.
Malloy said he’s not surprised by the latest revenue estimates that show revenue falling $402 million short of projections in 2017.
“It all gets reported as a crisis,” Malloy said. “This is not a crisis.”
Malloy said he expects the budget issues to be resolved before Christmas.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of the downloadable pdf document detailing the governor’s proposed cuts was missing the final page. The complete 36-page document is now available.