Christine Stuart photo
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Senate President Martin Looney, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (Christine Stuart photo)

Democratic legislative leaders said they’ve reached a deal to close the $960 million budget gap in 2017 with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but the power has shifted to the Republican minority, who have to decide whether they want to defeat it.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the budget deal they reached cuts about $830 million in spending, doesn’t increase taxes, and “represents true structural change.”

Asked for specifics about where the cuts were made, Sharkey said “line-by-line reductions” in every line item in the state budget.

As far as structural changes are concerned, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said they consolidated the six legislative commissions into two commissions.

“That’s an example of structural change,” Bye said.

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and Children’s Commission would be under one umbrella and the other commission would focus on equal opportunity, presumably consolidating the African American Affairs Commission, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, and Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.

Bye said they increased premiums for all non-union state employees and added a provision that would prohibit employees from “spiking” their overtime.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the level of spending in the budget was essentially rolled back to the level it was in 2012.

Malloy, who met for more than an hour with legislative leaders, is on board with the proposal.

“This is a budget that doesn’t raise taxes and is built almost entirely on long-term spending reductions, which will help keep expenditures under control in the future,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “Our goal has been to do things differently this year, to ensure that — just like the households we represent — we do not spend money that we don’t have. If and when the legislature passes this budget, we look forward to signing it.”

Democratic legislative leaders marched up to the fourth floor press room Tuesday around 11 p.m. to deliver the news.

Christine Stuart photo
Senate Minority Len Fasano and Sen. Kevin Witkos (Christine Stuart photo)

However, in order to get this through both the House and the Senate in the last few hours of the legislative session, the Democratic majority will need the cooperation of the Republican minority. The group could easily filibuster the bill until midnight Wednesday.

While both Looney and Sharkey said they have the support they need to pass this through their respective chambers, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, didn’t seem to be in a generous mood Tuesday night.

Fasano said they stepped out of the way when Malloy went to negotiate a budget with Democratic legislative leaders who did not want Republicans in the room. Malloy continued to keep Republican legislative leaders informed as much as he was able.

“We talked to the governor’s office virtually every other day to keep informed about what was going on,” Fasano said Tuesday.

Fasano said it was Democratic lawmakers who refused to come to the room and negotiate a bipartisan budget deal.

While Fasano was critical of Democratic legislative leaders, he refused to say Tuesday whether he would filibuster the budget bill because he doesn’t know what’s in it yet.

“Unlike them, I’m open-minded,” Fasano said.

He said he’s happy to sit down and talk about his ideas with anyone who wants to listen.

“Their fear shows me they lack the self-confidence for how to lead in this building,” Fasano said. “That’s why they don’t want people in the room. The least number of people you have in the room, the least number of ideas you have to deal with. That’s sad.”

Fasano said he’s fine if Democratic legislative leaders want to come and talk about their budget with the news media, but he takes exception to their decision to discuss the Republican budget proposal when they don’t know what’s in it because they haven’t been in the room.