HARTFORD, CT — By Thursday, legislative leaders said they will have an idea of whether they will be voting on a partisan or a bipartisan budget next week.
Republican legislative leaders have been pressing their Democratic colleagues to make changes that will improve future budgets, but don’t necessarily make it easier to close the current $3.5 billion budget deficit.
Most of the changes the Republicans wanted to make to the state’s relationship with its labor unions are unable to be accomplished following the $1.57 billion concession package approved in a mostly party line vote.
Republican lawmakers say they’ve revised their budget proposals to reflect the new labor agreement, but are not ready to release them to the public or share them with Democratic legislative leaders.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the “significant unanswered question” is how Republican legislators close the gap between their original proposals and the labor deal.
“We hope to get all of these issues resolved by Thursday so at least we will know where we stand in relation to each other,” Looney said.
He said they hope to have a vote in both chambers next week. None of them was willing to make a prediction about whether the budget would pass.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he believes it’s worth trying to reach a bipartisan deal, “but in the end I don’t know if the differences are too large to overcome.”
He said they can’t just pass a budget with the votes in either chamber because it also has to pass muster with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has not been complimentary of his own party’s efforts to put together a budget.
Aresimowicz said if they can’t get a budget with a veto-proof majority, then they know “what the governor’s priorities are” and what he has to do in lieu of a budget. If they don’t pass a budget in a bipartisan manner by Oct. 1, Aresimowicz said, then the cuts Malloy has said he would have to make “are owned by them too.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that for years the state has been solving “the problem of the day, the problem of the month, instead of the problem of the state.” She said that’s where the structural problems erupted.
“Clearly this keeps getting worse,” Klarides said.
However, since Republicans are on the verge of gaining control of the General Assembly, it might not be advantageous for them to resolve the budget problem. Democrats still hold a 79 to 72 majority in the House and the parties are evenly split in the Senate where Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman gives Democrats an advantage because she can break a tie.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said in order for there to be any progress on closing a $3.5 billion budget gap, there first has to be agreement over structural changes, such as a spending and a bonding cap.
“It is an appetizer to the main meal,” Fasano said. “You’ve got to get through this,” before you start talking about the budget numbers.
Democratic legislative leaders said they’re also interested in structural changes, but are not in agreement with how Republican lawmakers want to implement some of them.