HARTFORD, CT — It’s been a week since the General Assembly approved the $40.7 billion Republican budget proposal that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vowed to veto.
The first time Democratic legislative leaders, Republican legislative leaders, and the governor will get together to discuss a path forward will be Tuesday, Sept. 26 — five days before Oct. 1. That’s the same day the revised executive order, which eliminates education grants for 85 communities, will go into effect.
Malloy still has the ability to modify the distribution of the funding he’s expected to give to communities, but he said so far no changes have been made to the plan.
Following a Friday meeting with Malloy, Republican legislative leaders said they will get a line-by-line comparison of the Democratic and Republican budget proposals and see what they have in common.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he believes they should use the bipartisan budget that passed with the help of eight Democratic legislators as the basis for negotiations. However, “there was some push back,” Fasano said.
There’s no secret about what the governor and Senate Democratic legislators find objectionable because they’ve held press conferences almost every day this week to highlight portions of the budget they oppose.
On Friday, Democratic legislators were at the home of a South Windsor resident highlighting the difference between their plan and the Republican plan for homeowners with crumbling foundations.
Back at the Legislative Office Building, the University of Connecticut brought six busloads of students and professors to rally outside against the proposed budget cuts.
State Capitol Police estimated the crowd peaked at about 300 people.
Chanting things like “Tax the rich” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the students asked lawmakers not to cut their funding.
Tom Bontly, president of UConn-AAUP, said he can’t believe that the people who voted for the Republican budget even knew what they were voting for. He said the budget, if it were signed into law, would be devastating for the state’s flagship university.
He said this is a university that enrolls 32,000 students per year and most are children of Connecticut taxpayers.
Fasano said the Republican plan would cut the state appropriation to UConn $244 million over two years at most, as determined by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
The university claims it’s closer to $309 million because Republicans failed to account for last year’s mid-year funding cut, and they failed to include the increase in the fringe benefits the university is asked to pick up as part of the proposal.
“I think the governor agrees UConn has to be part of the solution,” Fasano said.
However, it’s clear Malloy doesn’t agree on the amount.
Malloy and Democratic legislators would still cut UConn about $100 million over two years.
“There’s a difference between going to a dinner and being eaten at the dinner,” Malloy said. “We’re inviting them to dinner but we shouldn’t be eating them.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said asking professors to teach one more class is a reasonable solution to a budget “that’s in dire, dire straights.”
The budget deficit after the savings from the labor agreement is about $3.5 billion over two years.
The two choices on the table at the moment, according to Klarides, are the “Draconian cuts he’ll be required to make on Oct. 1 versus a budget that is certainly not perfect … but a budget that moves the state forward in a fiscally responsible way.”
Malloy said there is common ground, but there isn’t enough common ground in the Republican budget to sign it.
“There are things in the Republican budget that I can absolutely support,” Malloy said Friday. “Some of the assistance for local government for instance, on the other hand violating tax laws I can’t agree with, violating labor laws I can’t agree with, kneecapping UConn I can’t agree with. Sorry.”
He said he believes they need to pursue all avenues to get to a budget.
Getting the eight Democratic legislators who voted in favor of the Republican budget on board with a different budget proposal seems like a less complicated path. However, Malloy is continuing talks with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders.