Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
No teacher tax sign (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged that his press conferences criticizing various aspects of the Republican budget may look like political “grandstanding,” but he said, “I assure you it is not my intention.”

Just like the governor’s budget, which gets released in February and is scrutinized for months before the legislature trots out its own budget proposal, Malloy said he’s giving constructive feedback to the Republican Party “to bring to light the very reasons I will not be supporting it.”

He said they can’t have serious discussions about the proposals in the Republican budget “until these proposals are actually vetted.”

Since the bill didn’t arrive until 30-minutes after the state Senate began debate last Friday, the Democratic Party and the governor wanted some time to review it.

“I understand vetting them makes people uncomfortable,” Malloy said. “I understand it. You know why I understand it? Because it’s happened to every budget I’ve ever put out.”

He said he thinks the Republican Party, which hadn’t voted on a budget in 10 years, was out of practice when it put this one together.

Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the Democratic Party hasn’t had a stellar track record of budgeting in recent years.

“For 7 years we have seen tax increase after tax increase lead to deficit after deficit,” Fasano said Thursday in a statement. “We have seen failed leadership create an environment where job growth has lagged and some of the biggest job creators have fled our state. Instead of press conferences, it would be nice to see leadership from the governor.”

He pointed out that the governor and the Democratic leaders have yet to offer a budget that can pass the General Assembly.

Instead, of talking with the eight Democratic legislators who voted in favor of the Republican budget, Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders continue to focus on Republicans.

Malloy is expected to meet with Republican legislative leaders today.

Democratic Senators have joined Malloy in highlighting parts of the Republican budget they find objectionable. The House Democratic caucus has remained silent since Saturday morning.

There’s also some confusion about the Republican budget proposal.

Signs at a state Capitol rally organized by the Working Families Party said things like, “Tax the rich not teachers.”

The sign is in reference to part of the Republican budget proposal that increases the amount teachers must contribute to their pensions by two percent over two years. However, that money isn’t immediately deposited into the teachers’ retirement account. The Republican budget places it in the general fund, which is why the Connecticut Education Association is calling it a tax on teachers.

Fasano said it’s not their intention to keep the money in the general fund, but they had to put it somewhere before the actuaries are able to do an evaluation and recalculate the state’s contribution to the fund.

Malloy said Friday that the Republican budget deposits the money in the general fund and “I think that’s illegal and would violate the trust requirement under law and probably would put the whole teacher pension fund in jeopardy.”

Teachers currently contribute six percent of their salaries to the fund. Fasano said the national average is closer to 10 percent, so Connecticut is behind.

Connecticut currently contributes about $1 billion annually to the Teachers’ Retirement System. That contribution could top $6.2 billion by 2032 due to years of underfunding. Connecticut didn’t start setting aside money to pay for teachers until around 1982.

Malloy has promised to veto the document once it reaches his desk. Until then the criticism will continue.

Malloy said he expects to schedule bipartisan budget meetings next week.