Republican legislative leaders are calling on their Democratic colleagues to return to the Capitol Monday to override parts of the 2017 budget the Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed last week.
Before signing the 2017 budget into law, Malloy cut $22.5 million from the $19.76 billion package to make sure it was balanced. The governor used his line-item veto authority to cut $20 million in municipal aid earmarked for regional efficiencies, $1.73 million for the Connecticut Humanities Council, and $775,000 for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they would like to restore the $20 million in municipal aid and $775,000 for the Federally Qualified Health Centers.
Democratic legislative leaders have been privately discussing the possibility of returning for a veto session to override some of the budget items, but would not comment about where those discussions might lead. Some political insiders, who asked not to be named, believe overriding an unpopular governor in an election year would be a smart political move for Democratic lawmakers, who have lost the support of labor by approving a budget that lays off state employees and cuts many state services.
Adam Joseph, communications director for the Senate Democratic caucus, said Democratic Senators will meet privately next week to “make a final decision concerning any potential overrides.”
A session to override the line-item budget vetoes has been scheduled for Monday, June 13, according to the Secretary of the State’s office. However, they could gavel-in-and-out without overriding any of the vetoes using only a handful of lawmakers. It would not be necessary for every lawmaker to return.
Republican legislative leaders told their Democratic colleagues, who have never overridden any of Malloy’s vetoes, that it’s time to challenge Malloy.
“The legislature has the power to override these vetoes and stand up for the people we represent. We hope your caucuses will find the courage to stand with us,” Fasano and Klarides said in a letter to House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven.
Fasano and Klarides said the governor vetoed those line items in retribution for the General Assembly’s failure to raise his Second Chance 2.0 criminal justice reforms for a debate.
The legislature’s failure to pass the Second Chance 2.0 legislation pushed the budget out of balance, because savings based on the passage of the legislation had been included in the state’s spending plan.
“We believe these cuts were selected to inflict pain on lawmakers who refused to call his Second Chance 2.0 bill for a vote. It’s not right that our towns and low-income families will suffer as a result,” Fasano and Klarides said.
Republican legislative leaders said municipalities have already approved their budgets and additional cuts will only increase property taxes. In addition, the cut to the FQHC means Connecticut would be foregoing federal funding to help serve low-income individuals with medical needs.
“This cut may be a small piece of the budget as a whole, but it is a cut that will cause significant pain to the poor seeking care for their families,” Fasano and Klarides said in their letter to Democratic legislative leaders.
They suggested looking for the money elsewhere in the budget.
Joseph said the suggestion is hypocritical because none of the Republicans voted in favor of the budget, even though it included no tax increases.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans to decry these cuts,” Joseph said.
He said the Republican budget proposal ”would have delivered the largest property tax increase in Connecticut history by revoking $130 million in promised municipal sales tax sharing and canceling $100 million in state aid for local construction projects.” Fasano disputed the characterization of their budget.
“Now I fully understand why the Democrat budget and economy is so out of whack. In analyzing our budget, the Democrat’s analysis is not even close to reality,” Fasano said. “Once again, roll over Democrats continue to support the disastrous fiscal policies of the administration.”
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Republican legislative leaders’ call for a veto override to protect this funding is simply politically posturing.
“For them to now suggest these things are their priorities ignores thousands of votes cast over many decades,” Duff said. “They care about only one thing: trying to win in November. That’s all this is about.”
A spokesman for Sharkey said they will hold a caucus on Monday “to discuss the potential for veto overrides.”
Since the budget was a Senate bill any veto override would have to start in that chamber. To override a veto, each chamber would need a two-thirds majority, which means they would need Republican lawmakers to vote in favor of the override.
“It is helpful to know where the minority party is,” Larry Perosino, Sharkey’s spokesman, added.
The governor’s office joined the criticism by the Senate Democratic caucus of Republican lawmakers.
“It’s hard to overstate the hysterical hypocrisy of Connecticut Republicans right now,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “They voted against a budget that cut more than $820 million in spending, and now they’re calling on Democrats to come back in and increase expenditures by $20 million, putting the budget out of balance. If this story were pitched to Hollywood screenwriters, it would be rejected as too far-fetched.”