HARTFORD, CT— One day after bipartisan budget discussions ended in finger pointing, one Democratic leader is holding out some hope that the legislature will approve at the very least a revenue package.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he was still holding out hope following the Appropriations Committee failure to pass a spending plan yesterday that the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee would still release a tax package by the end of the week, even though the committee is no longer meeting privately.
Looney said any package the Finance Committee releases would not have sales and income tax increases that were the subject of a seven hour public hearing Tuesday.
“It does have some fees and other things, but no broad based sales tax increase or income tax increase,” Looney said describing a package that may never be publicly released. The deadline for the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee is Friday. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he was a little more cautious about the possibility of a revenue package.
“They’re working really hard,” Aresimowicz said.
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee’s Democratic caucus was behind closed doors for several hours Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, income tax receipts had fallen by $293 million, or approximately 20.4 percent below the budgeted amount. That likely means the $1.7 billion hole lawmakers are looking to plug with their proposals will continue to grow.
“The best process would be to have the committees vote out a bill, both a budget bill and a tax bill, because that would put us in our traditional situation of having a clear legislatively presented alternative to the governor’s budget,” Looney said.
Looney said he anticipates that no matter what happens negotiations with the governor will begin even if there is no legislative budget alternative to bring to those negotiations. Looney rejected the notion that the governor’s budget will be the basis for the negotiations. He said the spending plan they publicly released Tuesday will be part of the discussion even though it never received a vote.
“From the legislative point of view that is still our base,” Looney said.
Republican legislative leaders said they plan on presenting their alternative budget proposal by the end of the week.
Neither House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, or Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, could recall this ever happening over the past two decades.
The legislature’s Finance Committee was unable to get together a tax package in April 1989 as some lawmakers were pushing for an income tax, according to the Hartford Court’s archives.
In the recent past, the two budget-writing committees would approve a spending and tax package and then the co-chairs of those committees would go behind closed doors to negotiate it with the governor and his staff. The final product would usually be an emergency certified bill that included ideas from both the legislative and executive branch.
There have been times over the past 20 years when the governor has vetoed budget proposals and the current budget has expired on June 30, requiring the governor to keep government running through executive order.
The last time that happened was in 2009. Then Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the budget and ended up operating state government through two executive orders before allowing a budget to become law without her signature in September.
In 2003, the legislature tried to pass a continuing resolution to allocate money to keep government running in the absence of a budget deal with then Gov. John G. Rowland. Rowland vetoed the continuing resolutions and operated government through five executive orders.
In 1991, the legislature passed temporary spending measures, which were then signed by the governor as negotiators worked to reach an agreement that would include the state’s first income tax.