Democratic legislative leaders will be putting together their own 2017 budget for approval by both chambers early next week, according to House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz.
“I think we said it all along that we want to pass a budget that’s consistent with our legislative priorities and I think our chairs are attempting to do that,” Aresimowicz said Thursday.
In the past, Democratic legislative leaders would go behind closed doors with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his staff to negotiate a budget.
This year they seem content to pass a budget and send it to the governor, who will then have to decide whether to sign it. Earlier this week, they informed the governor’s staff they would not be attending any more of his budget meetings until they had firm revenue figures.
Asked about the Democrats decision to move forward without him, “It’s entirely possible,” Malloy said. “. . . I hear the same rumors.”
The chairs of all the legislative committees will be working this weekend to come up with a budget that accounts for a yet-to-be-determined revenue shortfall.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they are waiting for more accurate revenue projections before they propose any further budget cuts.
Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan said revenue collections this year were $350 million ahead of last year’s by the end of March. However, he said revenue is still behind where the legislature anticipated it would be this year.
“They are not up to estimates and they won’t be up to estimates,” Sullivan said outside the House chamber Thursday.
Looney said there is still $390 million left to be collected, but the returns for at least the first three days of this week were ahead of what had been projected for those three days. He said that doesn’t mean they will hit their targeted number by next week.
Malloy met with Republican legislative leaders Thursday and discussed their preferences for several areas of the budget behind closed doors.
Malloy said he thinks they could have a good handle on revenues by Tuesday afternoon.
He said they may not be having robust discussions, but he’s encouraged by the fact the legislative Democratic majority “appear to be doing something. Something is better than nothing.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said everyone know the Democrats will have to cut more than the $570 million they proposed cutting earlier this month. He said they should join Republicans and the governor for a discussion.
“We know they’re heading north,” Fasano said referring to the shortfall. “Why not start heading north?”
Republicans are working on some proposals of their own, but are hesitant to share too much because at any minute Democratic legislators and Malloy could become friends again and cut them out of the conversation.
This is the first time under Malloy that Republican legislative leaders have been at the table negotiating a budget adjustment. They have helped negotiate two deficit mitigation packages.