GUILFORD, CT — Republicans from the Connecticut shoreline are trying to resurrect an effort to override the governor’s veto of the two-year, $40.7 billion budget that was passed in September. The effort comes despite an assertion from the Democratic Speaker of the House that he wouldn’t be raising the override for a vote again.
“I know it’s a long shot,” Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, said at a gathering of officials at a press conference on the Guilford Green Wednesday. “But this is a crisis.”
Standing Wednesday with the Republican first selectmen from Guilford, Branford, Durham, and Madison, Kokoruda said she knows the vetoed budget “was hardly perfect.” But she said that it is unfair for Connecticut towns — which months ago approved their local budgets — to be kept in the dark about whether they’ll be receiving any state funding.
“We’ve pulled the rug out from underneath them,” Kokoruda said.
She said the purpose of Wednesday’s press conference was “to keep building momentum” for an override.
“We just have to keep reaching out to legislators,” Kokoruda said. “We have to find more votes.”
If that doesn’t work, she added, then legislators and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy need to get a new budget plan together that works better for towns than the executive order under which the state is currently operating in the absence of a budget approved by the legislature. Malloy’s executive order eliminates or reduces the amount of education funding most towns will receive from the state. Under the state constitution, Malloy has the authority through executive orders to spend the funds in the state’s accounts to maintain services. But he can’t raise any revenue and has been cutting spending in an effort to stretch out the state’s reserves as long as possible until an agreement is reached.
The Republican budget that passed in September was the first budget the party has gotten through the legislature’s Democratic majority in more than a decade. It narrowly passed the Senate and House with the help of eight Democratic legislators, and the governor later vetoed the measure, continuing the budget stalemate that is now in its fourth month.
The Republicans’ first shot at an override came Tuesday during a special session in the House.
After House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz called for any legislators who were on the prevailing side of the budget to move for a reconsideration of Malloy’s veto, the chamber fell silent. To get to the 101 votes needed to override, 29 Democrats would have had to flip and join the 72 Republicans in the House.
As House speaker, Aresimowicz is the only one with the authority to raise the issue again. On Tuesday, he said he wouldn’t.
Back on the Guilford Green, the first selectmen said they were tired of the budget shenanigans in Hartford and tired of their towns being the fall guys for the state’s fiscal ineptitude.
“It is unfair that we are being punished,” Guilford Republican First Selectman Joe Mazza said, adding he was referring to towns such as his own and Branford, Madison and Durham.
“Because we have managed our towns he (Malloy) is taking it out on us,” Mazza said.
Mazza said Guilford stands to lose about $3 million in state aid under the budget proposals that he’s seen.
He said it is only through Guilford’s fiscal prudence that he hasn’t had to, and doesn’t plan to, send out any supplemental tax bills. He added, however, that the budget stalemate has to be resolved soon for that to continue to be the case.
Madison’s Tom Banisch implored the governor and legislature to get to work “on a budget that does not add any additional property taxes on towns.” He added that switching any portion of teacher retirement costs from the state to the towns, which the governor has proposed, would be by anyone’s definition an increase in property taxes.
Both he and Branford’s Jamie Cosgrove reiterated a theme that was emphasized at a meeting of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities on Tuesday — that any final budget agreement needs to also address the issue of unfunded mandates and liabilities and binding arbitration laws.
“Municipal aid did not create this fiscal crisis,” Cosgrove said. “We need to address the root cause, which are these mandates that we have no control over.”
Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis said the budget situation is “frightening my residents.”
She noted that because Durham is a town that is part of a regional school district whose school budget is set by referendum, her town has no control over overall school spending.
But local elected officials aren’t the only ones dealing with fallout from the budget stalemate.
Malloy himself said Wednesday in Hartford that discussions with companies looking to locate or expand in the state have been stalled pending a budget agreement.
“There are economic development transactions that are awaiting a budget,” Malloy said. “And I think every day that goes on we’re doing more damage.”
Legislative leaders and Malloy are expected to meet again today to continue their negotiations. Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to have yet to pass a budget for the upcoming biennium.