HARTFORD, CT — With $1.57 billion in labor concessions in the rearview mirror, legislative leaders have pivoted to the remaining two-year, $3.5 billion budget deficit.
The Senate followed the House in passing the labor package Monday, which resolves about a third of Connecticut’s budget deficit.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said last week that if the Senate approves the labor deal then the House and Senate Democrats are about $200 million to $400 million shy of resolving the budget shortfall.
“This was a critical piece of the puzzle necessary to bringing funding certainty to our municipalities, our nonprofits that serve our most vulnerable residents, and our business community,” Aresimowicz said Monday following the Senate vote.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said it “increases our odds for a successful budget vote in the coming weeks.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been running the state by executive order for the past month, which means cities and towns and nonprofit organizations are feeling the squeeze.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said his caucus is ready to hear Democrat lawmakers’ ideas and hope to see a complete budget proposal from them soon.
He said the responsibility is on them to produce a budget.
“I have doubts that they will be sharing a budget that protects municipalities, protects core social services and does not significantly increase taxes, but Senate Republicans remain open to conversation as we have always been — although our attempts to negotiate together have been ignored,” Fasano said. “Rejecting this concessions deal would have left us more options to resolve our budget deficit together and protect all taxpayers, including the most vulnerable. But that’s sadly not what happened.”
It’s unclear if there would be any Republican votes for a budget, since there were no Republican votes in either chamber for the labor agreement.
Fasano said everyone who voted in favor of the labor agreement “is now obligated to vote for the budget.” However, he still left some wiggle room for those who voted against the labor deal to vote for a budget.
“Until we see a budget we’re not prejudging anything,” Fasano said.
He said as of Monday “there is no Democratic budget” that anyone has seen.
They were unable to get anything approved by the Appropriations Committee and have failed to put forth anything official since April.
Democrats have floated draft proposals to their caucus members and some of those documents have been shared with the media, but nothing has been formalized.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the budget negotiations will be “difficult.” However, it’s not as difficult as it would have been if the Senate failed to adopt the labor concessions.
Fasano said they had a budget they were willing to negotiate, but “nobody wanted to talk.” He said they answered questions about their proposals when asked by Democratic lawmakers and staffers, but “nobody wanted to have conversations.”
It’s been more than a month since the last formal budget meeting between Malloy and legislative leaders.
On Monday, Malloy said the $1.57 billion was “key” to help the state move toward adoption of a state budget.
“I am urging legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to work with our administration on finding a solution on this as soon as possible so that the most vulnerable populations do not suffer long-term consequences,” Malloy said.
The business community is also eager for lawmakers to complete a budget deal.
“Failure to adopt a new spending plan only adds to the uncertainty that has plagued our economy in recent years,” Joe Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said. “Lawmakers have to take the difficult but necessary steps to pass a new, two-year budget without resorting to the failed tax increases of the past.”