HARTFORD, CT — More than three weeks into the new fiscal year and there’s been no vote on a two-year budget proposal.
Legislative leaders have promised a vote on a budget and the $1.57 billion union concession package before the end of the month, which is fast approaching.
If the General Assembly doesn’t adopt the labor agreement before next year, then it won’t be able to achieve the $1.57 billion it’s estimated it will save. That means the $5.1 billion deficit will grow and lawmakers will have to search for other places to find the savings.
If they fail to adopt the labor agreement Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said they would have to answer for that failure to their constituents because the budget would have to be cut “by hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to what it would take to get to a balanced budget today.”
Malloy said he believes it’s in everyone’s best interest to vote for a budget and the labor deal, but there’s been no talks between legislative leaders and the governor for at least two weeks. Conversations have been happening at the staff level, but there’s still no final product to vote count.
“This process has a ways to go,” Malloy said Thursday. “I think we should get to a budget. I’ll say again here in this room that if we’re not going to get to a budget soon we should do a mini-budget and give some relief to the not-for-profit community providers who are caring for about 500,000 people in our state.”
Republican legislators in the meantime continue to defend their opposition to the labor agreement even though the House and the Senate have different proposals about how they would like to see it handled.
“They are proposing things that are not legal—cannot be accomplished,” Malloy said.
He said he thinks Republicans want to have the savings from the labor deal, but they also don’t want to have their fingerprints on it.
“They want to be able to take credit for that which is positive, but they also don’t want to take any responsibility for what has been done in the past by their leaders and what is being attempted to be done in the present,” Malloy said.
Republican plans to change how Medicare is administered to retirees without changing benefit levels is similar to the one included in the labor deal. However, House and Senate Republican plans for changes to other parts of the labor deal are different and the main reason why the Republican legislative leaders have been unable to jointly agree on a budget package to bring to negotiations with the governor and Democratic legislative leaders.
Meanwhile, one of the unions, who earlier this week approved the concession deal, was out with a new television ad Thursday criticizing Republican lawmakers as being protectors of billionaires and corporations.
The ad casts the two Republican legislative leaders as “protectors of billionaires,” and calls for a hero to step up and protect the middle class. At the end of the 30-second spot it shows an empty podium full of microphones waiting for that hero.
“Where are they?” the narrator asks. “They’re supposed to be here. ‘Connecticut: The Movie,’ now casting for heroes.”
Jennifer Schneider, SEIU 1199 spokesperson, said the Republican budget proposals “revolve around pain for working class people. Meanwhile, they defend and protect billionaires and corporations at every turn and refuse to ask them to pay a penny more. The working class people of this state are waiting for someone to stand up and ask the same of billionaires and corporations that they do of everyone else.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, disputed the characterization and pointed out that the unions are attacking the wrong party.
“Right now in Connecticut, in order to pay for the state employee concessions deal negotiated by the governor, Democrats have balanced their budget on the backs of the middle class and working poor,” Fasano said. “Democrats have proposed dramatic sales tax increases and deep cuts to social services all to protect state benefits that far exceed what even municipal union employees such as teachers receive today. A sales tax increase to nearly 7 percent is incredibly regressive and, along with deep social service cuts, will hurt the middle and working class most.”
Fasano added that, “Everyone knows the state cannot afford to raise the income tax and drive even more people out of our state.”
Malloy said he wasn’t going to tell the unions how to do their business “particularly when they’re not focused on me.” However, Malloy was not moved by their argument that taxing millionaires and corporations would get the state to where it needs to go.
Asked if he was sympathetic to their view the governor said “not particularly, no.”