Democratic lawmakers in the House were told Friday to be prepared to vote on a budget this week that increases professional fees.
“We think there needs to be some equity in the fees that have been on the books for a very long time,” Rep. Jeff Berger, D-Waterbury, said Friday.
By boosting the fees on professional licenses and possibly trying to get businesses to voluntarily give up their tax credits for two years, Democratic lawmakers believe they will be able to solve the 2017 budget shortfall.
At the same time, because of those fee increases, it’s expected that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will veto their budget proposal. The fee increases would be considered a new tax and Malloy has said he won’t sign a budget that increases taxes, borrows, or uses the rainy day fund to balance it.
Some Democratic lawmakers are concerned that House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, is putting their re-election campaigns in jeopardy by forcing them to vote for what is essentially a tax hike.
Sharkey, who declined to say exactly what’s in the Democratic budget package, said “everyone understands the nature of the problem and the choices that we have.”
As far as fee increases are concerned, Sharkey said it’s “not unreasonable to look at things that have not been looked at for five or six or 10 years.” He said he thinks it will generate enough revenue to prevent some of the harder spending cuts, which is the other thing people are the most concerned about.
Sharkey expects to have a better idea of what the revenue figures look like before Tuesday when they could vote on a budget.
Republican legislative leaders are expected to release their own alternative budget proposal at 11 a.m. Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has said Republicans have been hesitant to share their ideas because they could be stolen by Democratic lawmakers and then Republicans, who are at the negotiating table for the first time, would get shut out if the Democrats reconciled their differences with Malloy.
Fasano said he’s also scared they could cherry pick ideas from a Republican budget when “there’s a holistic approach” included in that budget.
“Taking some of it doesn’t make it bipartisan,” Fasano said.
Democratic lawmakers declined to meet twice last week with Malloy to discuss the budget.
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. That’s when Malloy took the unusual step of revising his first budget proposal and finding an additional $352 million in spending cuts.
That budget was viewed by lawmakers in his own party as a “public enemies list,” and prompted Sharkey and Senate President Martin Looney to skip meetings with the governor.
“I’m not about to cut another dollar out of anyone’s budget . . . until we actually know what we’re talking about,” Sharkey said last week.
Republicans legislative leaders continued to meet with Malloy.