Democratic legislative leaders declined to meet with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican legislative leaders Tuesday because they felt the governor’s revised budget released April 12 reads “more like his public enemies list.”
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Malloy’s revised budget proposal that closes a $922 million budget deficit for 2017 wouldn’t receive enough support from either side of the aisle to pass and “offers no real basis for productive negotiations.”
Sharkey said he will continue to be absent from budget negotiations with the governor until his caucus, maybe in concert with the Republicans, come up with their own budget proposal based on more accurate revenue numbers which are expected on April 29. The first budget proposal the Democrat-controlled Appropriations and Finance Committees put forward the first week of April fell short of addressing the entire deficit.
“I’m not about to cut another dollar out of anyone’s budget . . . until we actually know what we’re talking about,” Sharkey said.
Malloy, who met Tuesday with Republican legislative leaders, Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, took the criticism from members of his own party in stride.
Malloy said he didn’t feel slighted by Democratic legislative leaders’ decision not to attend the meeting.
Malloy acknowledged that it’s not easy to balance a budget and refused to take the opportunity — when questioned by reporters in his Capitol office — to beat up on Democratic legislators.
“I think it’s really hard adjusting to a new economic reality,” Malloy said.
He chalked Sharkey’s comments up to a “bad day.”
But Sharkey said he had a very good day and that his remarks were prepared. He said they reflect where his caucus is right now.
“There’s a lot of frustration in our caucus over what they [the governor’s staff] perceive as a disrespect for the priorities we have,” Sharkey said.
Malloy said everybody knows they have to cut $922 million and he’s the only one who has put a proposal on the table.
“I appreciate that the governor has presented a revised comprehensive budget, but the reality is that there are many elements in the governor’s plan that we do not support and that could not be a starting point for discussions,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.
Looney said Democrats in the General Assembly are working on a $920 million plan and “further talks would not be productive until we have specifics to reach that number.”
Municipal aid cuts and hospital cuts in Malloy’s proposal are just two of the the proposals Democratic legislative leaders say are untenable.
Malloy said he won’t sign a budget that includes borrowing, use of the Rainy Day fund, or tax increases.
In a later statement Tuesday, Malloy said It appears Sharkey plans to put forward a budget “with zero public input” and ask legislators to vote on it “in the waning hours of session.”
“This kind of thinking is business as usual in Hartford. None of this is a recipe for a good budget, it’s a recipe for gimmicks and band aid solutions,” Malloy said. “This kind of thinking has failed us in the past. This year, we need to do things differently.”
Sharkey said it’s up to Malloy to decide what he wants to do with the budget proposal the legislature puts forward, but make no mistake that it will be a process driven by the General Assembly rather than the governor.
“We need to pause a little bit,” Sharkey said. “There’s not a lot to talk about at this point . . . We’re waiting for those consensus numbers. We’re putting together a budget that will make sense in that context. To sit around a table and talk about why his ideas are bad and why our ideas are bad, isn’t necessarily a productive conversation at this point.”
The legislature technically already approved a 2017 budget when they passed the two-year budget last year. So they could adjourn without adjusting the 2017 budget even though it’s out of balance.
“I don’t have a magic wand. I can’t make people do their jobs,” Malloy acknowledged.
However, the governor said he could “make it uncomfortable not to do their job.”
Sharkey signaled that it was their intention to approve a budget before they adjourn on May 4.
Republican legislative leaders, who have put forward alternative budgets in the past, signaled they are also considering putting forward one of their own again.
Fasano and Klarides said they have another meeting with Malloy scheduled for Thursday to continue the conversation.
Klarides said it’s the responsibility of Democratic legislative leaders to go to the meeting with Malloy even if they have an issue with him.