Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle believe they have enough votes to pass a two-year budget package that they negotiated without Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

However, exactly how much support they will receive from their parties remains questionable as details of the compromise continue to trickle out.

Legislative leaders were at the state Capitol until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning working to close the last $23 million in 2018 and the last $77 million in 2019.

One of the outstanding issues was the announcement last week that they would eliminate the municipal motor vehicle tax in 2019. The car tax generates more than $700 million a year for municipalities and the decision to eliminate it caught local elected officials off-guard.

The compromise budget the Senate will vote on Wednesday will cap motor vehicle taxes at 39 mills in 2018 and 45 mills in 2019. Under a public policy adopted in 2015, the state pays municipalities the difference if they have a car tax that’s higher than the aforementioned caps on mill rates for autos. This year the car tax was capped at 37 mills.

“There will be a placeholder for later reform,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.

Looney said they expect to debate the possibility of eliminating it in the future, or they may create a state-based property tax on motor vehicles in 2018.

Sen. Looney equates the budget process to a tooth abscess being extracted.

Posted by on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Looney said they were able to preserve the “bulk of municipal aid,” and called that a “big victory.”

The compromise budget, according to Looney, doesn’t cut funding for higher education by as much as the Republican budget that passed with the help of eight Democratic legislators before it was vetoed by the governor.

Looney was unable to say Tuesday afternoon how many votes the budget will have in the evenly divided chamber. It needs 19 votes to pass the Senate, but it will need 24 votes if they expect to have to override a gubernatorial veto.

Gov. Malloy did not have any public appearances Tuesday. His staff said he hadn’t seen a copy of the budget yet Tuesday evening.

Looney said the entire budget process has been like an abscessed tooth that you weren’t able to get to the dentist to resolve, and “finally we think that we’re at the point where it will be extracted, at which point we’ll have a combination of exhaustion, pain, and relief.”

He said they’re pleased that the overall budget is a “responsible one given the fiscal constraints.”

Republicans had pushed hard to change how state employee pensions are calculated in 2027 when the current contract they just revised expires. None of those proposals are included in the final product, which was a disappointment to his caucus, Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said.

He said they’re disappointed, but that doesn’t mean they won’t vote for the budget compromise.

He said there is language that will give the executive branch some flexibility in 2027, but nothing to the extent that his caucus wanted.

He said it’s at the point where they need to pass a budget or “let Rome burn.” And “leaders don’t do that,” he said.

“If we can’t pass a budget, I doubt very highly a budget will pass in the Senate without Republican votes,” Fasano said.

Under the compromise budget, Fasano said teachers would still be required to contribute 1 percent more to their pensions and the state’s contribution would be reduced.

As far as the hospital tax is concerned, there haven’t been any changes. However, it’s still a gamble because the federal government would still have to approve the increase in funding. It’s unclear what will happen.

Sen. Fasano gives out some details on the budget

Posted by on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The budget compromise being presented to rank-and-file lawmakers also includes a 45-cent increase in the cigarette tax and a 25-cent per ride fee on ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The budget also still sweeps funding for clean energy accounts paid for through a small fee on electricity and natural gas customers. However, the amount of the sweeps could change.

Looney said he’s still hopeful the governor will sign the budget. He said there was some positive discussions today between Senate staff and staff from the governor’s office.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said he had not seen a copy of the budget around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.