HARTFORD, CT — After spending most of the day behind closed doors the Appropriations Committee declined to vote on a two-year, $41 billion spending package Tuesday.
Democratic leadership blamed Republicans and Republicans blamed Democrats, who hold a two seat majority on the Appropriations Committee.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the process of putting together the spending package was bipartisan and he wasn’t going to force his Democratic colleagues to vote on a package that didn’t resemble a Democratic spending plan.
“For two months we’ve worked on a compromise bill,” Aresimowicz said.
He said the package released Tuesday morning is not a Democratic budget.
“I can’t ask my members to vote for a budget that is already compromised from the beginning,” Aresimowicz said.
He said they had the votes and wanted the Republicans votes, which is why they stayed at the table as long as they did.
“We were hoping for a bipartisan process,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said following the failure of the committee to raise the spending package for debate. He said the budget would have looked much different if it wasn’t a bipartisan compromise.
Aresimowicz said at the very last minute Republicans “pulled the rug” out from under our feet and informed the Democrats they wouldn’t be voting for the package.
He said it fell apart Monday night.
Without a spending plan, Aresimowicz said he doubts the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee will have a tax package later this week.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said it’s obvious Democratic lawmakers didn’t vote on the package because they didn’t have the votes “for one reason or the other.”
Fasano said Republicans will put forward a budget later this week and move forward from there.
Democratic lawmakers now only hold a slim 79-72 majority over the Republicans in the House and the Senate is evenly split. Tuesday was the first time in decades Democrats were forced to try and find consensus with Republicans and the moderate wing of their own party.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said all they want is to sit down and create the best budget for the state of Connecticut. Democratic lawmakers argue that’s what they were trying to do by compromising.
“The bipartisan message they’re sending out might not be accurate,” Klarides said.
She said her ranking member was not included in all the budget negotiations.
Since the state Senate is evenly split between the parties, Sen. Paul Formica, R-Waterford, is a co-chair on the Appropriations Committee, and he also was left out of conversations, Fasano said.
“The budget that came out today was much different than the budget that was talked about behind closed doors with Paul as chair,” Fasano said.
It’s been a decade since there have been Republican votes in favor of a state budget.
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee, said they were unaware Republicans were working on their own budget proposal until last week.
She said Sen. Formica told them last week he was not going to be able to deliver any Republican votes, and at that point Democratic leadership considered changes to get the votes necessary to pass the package, but decided against it. She said Formica told her his members were not going to vote for it because it would require a tax increase or some sort in order to balance it.
Walker said unlike Congress, Connecticut does not have a Ways and Means Committee to handle both the spending and the tax side of the equation. She said passing a spending plan is the responsibility of the Appropriations Committee. The Finance Committee approves the revenue package and then they negotiate the rest behind closed doors, Walker said. She said the Republicans have to figure out a way to navigate the two committees.
Both Klarides and Fasano told the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee they would be releasing their Republican budget proposal, which includes no tax increases, this week.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is away in Puerto Rico, said in a statement that the only balanced budget proposal on the table is the one he presented in February.
“I will continue to share and discuss that plan publicly, listen to new ideas, and work toward a substantial cost-saving agreement with our state employees,” Malloy said. “What I will not do is sign a budget focused on taxes rather than spending cuts. I will not push off this year’s problems onto future generations. And I will not support a budget filled with gimmicks or unsupported revenue projections.”
The Legislative Branch’s Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Executive Branch’s Office of Policy and Management are expected to release agreed-upon revenue figures at the end of the week.
Based on early income tax returns, it’s likely the state budget deficit will continue to grow.