HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was back in Connecticut Thursday after being away for a week. While he was gone not much progress was made on the state budget.
“I don’t speak with anger, but ultimately we need a budget,” Malloy said.
Malloy said a lot of the angst could have been avoided if the General Assembly went along with his idea for a “mini-budget,” when it became clear it wouldn’t be passing a budget before the end of the last General Assembly session.
A mini-budget could stretch up to 90 days and would give legislators breathing room as they continue negotiating a two-year, $40 billion budget.
But the legislature couldn’t get a mini-budget passed and instead Malloy has been operating the state by executive order.
Malloy said the executive order route, so far, has been one “that hasn’t punished the citizenry” by shutting down state beaches, or other programs.
However, he said as the days drag on, however, it will be more difficult to avoid draconian cuts.
“It will substantially more obvious in September,” Malloy said, alluding to cuts to nonprofit programs or municipal aid, if there is no budget agreement in place by then.
Malloy added as the days go by he predicts there will a be a new “sense of urgency” among legislators to get a budget done.
At the state capitol, Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate met for the second time this week to try and come up with an agreement.
After Thursday’s meeting, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said, “I think we agreed to a couple of things today and we are going to continue to meet in the coming weeks.”
Pressed on what those agreements were, Aresimowicz declined to be specific. He did say that the House Democrats would be revising the first budget they put out on June 28, which called for increasing the state sales tax from 6.35 to 6.99 percent.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said legislators are feeling the pressure to get a deal done.
“No one wants to run the state by executive order,” Ritter said.
That feeling is bipartisan.
“The process is going on,” Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said. “It’s the first time we’ve had true substantive conversations on the budget which I think is a plus. We’ll see where that goes.”
“Talking is always better than not talking,” Fasano added.
Fasano said that if the Democrats and Republicans are able to reach a bipartisan budget agreement then Malloy’s often stated threat to veto a budget he doesn’t like “is meaningless.”
“We’re all as frustrated as everybody else in the state is, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. “This is not the place we want to be. We have very different ideas of a vision for the state of Connecticut.”
At the same time, “we wouldn’t all be in the room if we didn’t want to try and move some consensus to move forward,” Klarides said.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Democratic and Republican legislative leaders met for the first time since passage of the state employee concession package.