HARTFORD, CT — It’s been five days since the Republican budget passed, but there’s been no bipartisan talks since Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vowed to veto the proposal.
The governor’s office has reached out to legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle and offered to meet today, Thursday, or Friday.
At the same time, his staff and others from various state agencies, the University of Connecticut, and the Connecticut State University System have been diving into the details of a budget they never thought would pass both chambers of the General Assembly.
UConn President Susan Herbst said her staff has done the math and the university and the UConn Health Center would lose $308 million over two years.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Herbst said the cut means they would not be able to keep the financial aid commitments they’ve made to students and, among other things, they would have to consider eliminating some of their sports programs.
UConn was recently ranked 18th among public universities in a U.S. News & World Report.
“The budget cuts we’re looking at could take us down very, very quickly,” Herbst said. “We’d be sinking in those rankings in a very unattractive place.”
She said they were prepared to cut the budget about $50 million per year based on the governor’s budget and the one proposed by the Democratic legislature. She said it will still be tough, but they will be able to handle it without making the “heartbreaking” choices they would under the Republican budget proposal.
Senate President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Monday that whenever someone is cut they’re going to try and find the “most Draconian, harsh language they can find to defend themselves and I appreciate she’s an advocate for UConn and that’s her job — she has to say that.”
However, he said the choice they were faced with when they were putting together the budget was whether to fund social services or higher education.
“UConn has other methodology for which they can raise money,” Fasano said. “They have alumni they can reach out to. They have a foundation they can tap into. They have federal funding that’s coming in.”
He said those who need social services don’t have anywhere else to go but the government to receive those services.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Herbst pointed out that none of the foundation money can be used to support ongoing operating expenses.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and members of the New Haven delegation will hold a press conference today at Gateway Community College to criticize the cuts to higher education included in the Republican budget.
Malloy will hold a press conference at East Hartford Middle School today to discuss the importance of adopting a state budget that adequately funds some of the state’s lowest-performing schools in order to help students receive a quality education and to close the achievement gap.
Meanwhile, Malloy wrote to Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides Tuesday explaining that he still intends to veto their budget when it reaches his desk. At the same time, Malloy said he would continue to vet the proposal and offer his thoughts.
On Tuesday, those thoughts revolved around the changes to the state employee pension system Republicans proposed.
Malloy said the proposal to underfund state employee pension obligations “is even more aggressive than similar ill-fated decisions by former Governors Rowland and Rell. Please understand that returning to the days of underfunding our state employee pension obligation is not something I can, or will, ever condone.”
Fasano disagrees with the assessment that the budget underfunds the pension obligations. He said they take future savings from changes they will require to be made through law and apply them to 2018 and 2019.
“Showing the courage to compromise also means telling the truth about numbers,” Malloy wrote. “Phantom cuts based on theoretical future actions do not embody this truthfulness.”
It’s hard to see how the two sides will get together to vote on a new deal before Oct. 1 when the executive order will zero out education funding for 85 towns and severely cut funding for another 54. There’s also the reality that Connecticut would lose its ability to leverage an increased hospital tax through a higher federal government reimbursement if it’s unable to approve a deal before Oct. 1, which is the start of the new federal fiscal year. In order to make sure the increased reimbursement to hospitals is retroactive to July, the General Assembly would have to approve something by Oct. 1.
Asked about potential scheduling conflicts, Looney said it’s a part-time legislature so anytime something happens outside the regular legislative session it’s hard to get everyone back together. He declined to comment on any specific members’ schedules.
Several lawmakers have been away this year during special session and have missed votes.