HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 2:59 p.m.) While he waits for legislative leaders to strike a seemingly unattainable bipartisan deal on a two-year state budget, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released his fourth budget proposal Monday.
“This is a lean, no-frills, no-nonsense budget,” Malloy said in a press release. “Our goals were simple in putting this plan together: eliminate unpopular tax increases, incorporate ideas from both parties, and shrink the budget and its accompanying legislation down to their essential parts. It is my sincere hope this document will aid the General Assembly in passing a budget that I can sign into law.”
Legislative leaders from both parties have been meeting behind closed doors for 11 days now and have been unable to agree on a budget to bring to the governor.
Malloy’s budget removed some of the last-minute revenue ideas included in the Democratic budget proposal, but it was unable to find any ground with Republican legislators over how state employees should be treated in the future.
“This is a stripped down budget,” Malloy said.
It cuts funding for social services, marketing, security, and clean energy.
Malloy’s budget makes an additional $144 million in spending cuts from the Democratic budget proposal, including:
• about $5 million from tax relief for elderly renters;
• $5.4 million for statewide marketing through the Department of Economic and Community Development;
• $292,000 in grants for mental health services;
• $11.8 million from the Connecticut Home Care Program over two years, and;
• about $1.8 million from other safety net services.
Malloy’s budget would eliminate the cellphone tax and a statewide property tax on second homes in Connecticut, as proposed by the Democrats. It also eliminates the 25 cent fee on ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft and it reduces the amount of money Democrats wanted to take from the Green Bank, which helps fund renewable energy projects.
It also cuts about $3.3 million each year from the legislature’s own budget and eliminates the legislative commissions for women, children, seniors, and minority communities. Those commissions had already been reduced from six to two over the past two years.
It also reduces the number of security staff at the capitol complex to what it was before the metal detectors were implemented. The move would save about $325,000 a year.
In what will be viewed as a controversial move by the state employee unions, the plan eliminates the Contracting Standards Board, which was created a decade ago in reaction to two government scandals. Malloy’s budget would eliminate the board and the two full-time positions to save $257,000.
It would also phase in a requirement that municipalities start picking up the normal cost of the teacher’s pension fund.
Municipalities would have to contribute a total of about $91 million in the first year, and $189 million in the second year of the budget. Those savings for the state will be counted on the revenue side of the ledger and are less steep than Malloy initially proposed, but still much higher than many municipalities may have expected.
“Governor Malloy’s revised budget proposal is a swing and a miss,” Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council for Small Towns, said. “The revised budget proposal continues to shift teachers’ pension costs to towns in a way that will overwhelm property taxpayers.”
She said if the state decides to go in this direction they will be forced to take legal action because requiring towns to pick up millions of dollars in teachers’ pension costs without any ability to manage those costs going forward is “simply unfair.”
They have also argued that it violated the 2008 bond covenant.
Malloy said the new budget changes the Education Cost Sharing grant and it reduces magnet school funding by about $15 million a year. It would zero out ECS funding immediately for 36 communities.
He said he eliminates about 130 pages of implementation language and focuses more on structural changes necessary to carry out the budget.
Legislative leaders took a hands off approach to the governor’s budget proposal. They maintained their focus on their own negotiations during a break in their closed-door meeting Monday.
Is the governor’s latest budget proposal helpful?
“It may be,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said. “We haven’t focused on that in any detail yet.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, echoed the sentiment.
“I appreciate the Governor’s effort to try and help move our budget negotiations toward a final agreement,” Aresimowicz said. “I look forward to fully reviewing his latest compromises, and continuing our bipartisan discussions on how best to move our state forward and get to a budget that becomes law.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they would review the governor’s proposal, but “it appears to contain some elements of our previous proposals. However, we remain focused on our own budget negotiations with our Democratic colleagues.’’
Malloy said legislative leaders have been negotiating for 11 days and have not been able to reach a consensus. He said they’ve already blown by a “mutually accepted date of Oct. 13” to get this done.
But Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said what the governor put forward Monday will not pass the legislature.
“It is obvious that the governor’s proposal, including his devastating cuts to certain core services and shifting of state expenses onto towns and cities, would not pass the legislature in its current form. Therefore, legislative leaders will continue our efforts to work on a bipartisan budget that can actually pass,” Fasano added.
Looney said it could help accelerate the debate because we know in advance of a meeting with the governor what he’s thinking.
Klarides said the reason it’s taking so long is because there are two different budgets, and lots of different ideas from four different caucuses.
“We want to see how much compare and contrast we can do and how much progress we can make on a negotiation. We do not feel the need to stand out there, pound our chests and say ‘here’s my budget now because I was left out of the room,’ which is what the governor did,” Klarides said.