(Updated 7:32 p.m.) The General Assembly will adjourn at midnight Wednesday without adjusting the 2017 budget, but legislative leaders promised to return, possibly as soon as next week, to balance it.
Lawmakers didn’t have a copies of the budget online or in their hands as of 7 p.m. Wednesday. They only had unofficial spreadsheets and revenue estimates.
“As a matter of democracy and fairness to all the members of the House, it is not possible to do a budget this evening,” House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said in a statement at 5:30 p.m Wednesday.
The statement came as the House Democratic majority caucused the budget, which seeks to close $960 million revenue shortfall with $830 million in spending cuts and about $136 million in revenue changes.
“The time it took to reach an agreement, combined with the challenge of staff to physically get a printed bill to the floor, and then achieve passage, would likely require a cutoff of discussions,” Sharkey and Aresimowicz said. “That scenario would not be fair for the purpose of allowing a complete and reasonable debate, and at this point would be a disservice to House members and the public they represent to move forward tonight (Wednesday).”
Aresimowicz said that legislative staff wasn’t able to draft the document in time for lawmakers to read and digest the information, which includes details about funding for every municipality and local school district in the state.
Aresimowicz said the House will reconvene for a special session in the near future to vote on the document. He suggested they could return as early as next week.
Democratic legislative leaders had been optimistic Tuesday night — after striking a deal with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — that they would be able to vote on the budget Wednesday. However, they still did not have the document with seven hours left in the 2016 legislative session.
If they had the budget document at noon Wednesday, they would have run it, Aresimowicz said.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they had the votes to pass it, but the document simply wasn’t ready.
He admitted that the longer the budget is out there for people to digest and analyze — the more difficult it could be to pass.
“We hope it won’t be hard,” Looney said. But somebody could liken it to “something that stays too long on a counter like a fish that stays out there and may start to smell after a few days. We think this one will hold its freshness long enough to get it voted next week.”
Looney said it’s a “Spartan budget” with a large number of cuts. He said there’s no desire to make changes to that final budget document.
“It’s a difficult budget for challenging times,” Looney said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy agreed with lawmakers that delaying a vote was best.
“It’s a good agreement,” Malloy said. “If it happened too late in session to finish on time, and this delay is about giving members more time to understand what they’re voting on, that’s fine and even admirable. I said in February that we should not pass a budget on the last day of session.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the majority party made the right decision.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Klarides and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, signaled that they had a lot of questions about the document, which they received around 3 a.m.
She said the reason Democrats initially wanted to rush this budget through is because the longer it’s out there the more accountable they will have to be to their colleagues and the residents of Connecticut.
Klarides said she doesn’t know if the Democrats had the votes to pass the budget, but “the reality was that time was not on their side anymore.”
“As every minute passed it became obvious that it would not be reasonable for the House and the Senate to vote on a budget,” Klarides said. “It’s a $20 billion budget. There needs to be a reasonable conversation and questions asked and statements made. That doesn’t happen in an hour.”