HARTFORD, CT — The actual language to implement the budget still wasn’t available Thursday at 8:30 p.m. as Democratic lawmakers went behind closed-doors to caucus a two-year, partisan budget proposal.
At 5:15 p.m., House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and Senate President Martin Looney spent about 15 minutes taking questions from the news media outside the House chamber.
They smiled as they explained why they chose to use Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order, which would drastically cut funding for municipalities and schools, as the placeholder for the budget bill.
“The e-cert that was sent out was done so purposefully,” Aresimowicz said.
E-cert is short for emergency certification. It allows a bill to be raised in either chamber immediately outside the regular process.
Aresimowicz said it’s their opinion that “if you don’t vote in the affirmative for a bill that will pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature, you are in essence voting for that executive order that will decimate public education in the state of Connecticut.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that’s no way to show leadership.
By threatening his own members, Klarides said Aresimowicz is making it easier for Republicans to take over the majority in 2018.
“Yes, it will affect the 2018 election,” Klarides said.
Right now, Democrats hold a 79-72 majority in the House and the parties are split 18-18 in the Senate.
“I think people have got to be crazy to elect people who run government this way,” Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said.
Looney said a budget deal has been hard to reach because of the nature of the state’s fiscal challenges and the “very close partisan balance in both the House and the Senate.”
He said lawmakers need to keep in mind the “crushing blow to public education” they will prevent by passing the Democratic budget proposal.
He said he’s been a lawmaker for 37 years and he believes they will pass a budget, “because everyone recognizes the urgency of it at this point.”
Fasano said that as of 6 p.m. Thursday they still hadn’t seen one word of the budget, which is expected to be around 800 pages.
“It’s simply outrageous, disrespectful, and dishonest to the people of the state of Connecticut,” Fasano said.
Klarides said the Democrats can’t have it both ways. “You either want transparency or you don’t,” she said.
She said Connecticut is at a crossroads and this budget will either change Connecticut for the better or the worse.
Fasano said saying it’s either a vote for a Democratic budget package they haven’t seen, or it’s support for the executive order, is a false narrative.
“Our budget is the third alternative that they don’t want to talk about,” Fasano said.
Klarides said they introduced the governor’s executive order as the placeholder because they didn’t have the votes they needed to pass it.
“They want their members to be scared to death of having to vote for the governor’s draconian cuts instead of just letting it happen,” Klarides said.
Republicans are prepared to introduce their budget as an amendment during the budget debate.