Republican legislative leaders unveiled their alternative budget that cuts about $157.5 million from various state agencies, eliminates part of the municipal revenue sharing account, gets rids of the Citizens Election Program, and adopts the same reduction in the state labor force put forward by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said everybody needs to tighten their belts here.
The Republican proposal closes a $935.7 million 2017 budget deficit by increasing non-union state employee contributions to healthcare by 20 percent, lowers the amount of borrowing the state plans to do, implements a hard wage freeze, and delays the amount of money the state plans to transfer to the special transportation fund for the governor’s transportation improvement program.
The Republican budget would also close the fire and police department at the University of Connecticut Health Center and eliminate all six legislative commissions.
Klarides said she doesn’t see a lot of interest from the Democratic majority going forward with a Republican budget alternative, but that shouldn’t stop Republicans from putting forward a plan.
“We are no longer interested in sticking gum in a hole,” Klarides said. “And that’s why we have this very thoughtful, very thought out, very valid long-term plan for the state of Connecticut.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, acknowledged last week that the majority party could cherry pick their ideas, go into a room with the governor, and kick them out.
“It would have been easy for us to sit back and say, let the Democratic majority stew in the juices of bad budgeting that they put upon us, but that isn’t what leaders do,” Fasano said Monday.
“Enough’s, enough,” he added.
“We have to stand up and say we have a vision,” Fasano said. “If they want to go through and cherry pick, you’ll see it. You guys will pick it up.” He said if they fail to adopt the long-term structural changes, such as voting on labor contracts, then Democratic lawmakers will “fail again.”
Instead, of panning the Republican budget, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said he’s “glad” the minority finally came through with a budget proposal that contains “some helpful ideas, many similar to what is contained in the Democrats’ plan.” The Democrats plan to close a $570 million budget deficit was released earlier this month, but plans to close the full amount of the projected deficit have yet to be released.
Last week the House caucused a vague outline of a budget proposal that sought to close a $920 million deficit, but details about that proposal have not been made public.
Sharkey encouraged Republican legislative leaders to sit down Monday and “get this done together.”
“I would like to remind the Speaker that Republicans are the only members of the legislature with a complete and balanced budget,” Fasano said. “If time is really of the essence for Speaker Sharkey, why did he walk out of the negotiation room with the governor? Republicans prefer to pass a budget that the governor won’t veto, so we should all be sitting down together like adults.”
A spokesman for Malloy, who was the first to release a revised budget that closed a $922 million deficit, thanked Republicans for putting together a budget, which appears to tackle the entirety of the current deficit.
“This budget shares key elements with the governor’s proposal,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “While there are many similarities, there are also clearly several areas where we have questions and concerns. We look forward to having our respective staffs meet in the coming days to answer those questions and move the conversation forward.”