HARTFORD, CT — The House voted 123-12 Wednesday to make changes to the bipartisan budget they passed last month before adjourning what was the longest special session in state history.
At least two Democratic lawmakers protested some of the changes that require the Office of Policy and Management to cancel $8.5 million of funding to municipalities.
Rep. Michael Winkler, D-Vernon, said Vernon will now be responsible for having to figure out how to close a $144,000 budget shortfall.
“That doesn’t seem like much, but in Vernon we budget very tightly,” Winkler said.
He said the “budget crisis is over” and the “housekeeping” should be done correctly.
Winkler was the lone Democratic lawmaker to vote against the budget changes.
However, his remarks that the “budget crisis is over” prompted rebuttal from Republicans and his own Democratic leadership.
Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, said making a statement that the budget crisis is over “is not true.”
“We know the budget we just passed has out-year deficits of over $4 billion,” Ziobron said. “Tough choices were made in order for us to close this deficit of over $5 billion and certainly the renters rebate program was one of them.”
She said based on the revenue estimates that came out on Monday the state is already facing a deficit because revenues are behind $178 million.
“Let’s be honest [about] the fiscal climate of this state,” Ziobron said.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they’re scheduled to return on Feb. 7, 2018, for a new legislative session and if they need to return before that because the projections continue to fall short, then they will.
“There’s no end. It’s going to be an ongoing discussion,” Aresimowicz said.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said monitoring the budget will be a “daily problem” for the next several years.
The largest part of what the House approved Wednesday and sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature involved changes to the hospital provider tax. Approval of the changes mean the state can now submit their application to the federal government and ask for a higher reimbursement rate.
There’s no guarantee that even with the new language the House approved Wednesday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will approve the additional funds, but the administration believes it has a better shot.
“The final language that was delivered to the governor’s desk today is a positive development that will enable the administration to proceed without delay in our amended submission to CMS,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said. “We are grateful for the leadership in the House and Senate for recognizing Governor Malloy’s concerns about the flawed hospital supplemental payment and provider tax language that was included in the adopted budget bill, and their agreement to quickly come in and rectify it to make the law workable.”