HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been careful during his first seven years in office never to say he would veto something before it’s on his desk, told legislative leaders Friday that he would veto their proposal to increase benefits for the Medicare Savings Program.
The bill, which was released online Wednesday night before a snowstorm hit the state, details how they would find the $54 million in spending cuts and savings to restore the program to its previous levels.
It shows they will take $19.3 million in savings from the teacher’s retirement account, reduce “other expenses” by $10 million, take about $6 million in savings from state managers and consultants, and $1.34 million from a consolidation of human resource functions in the Department of Administrative Services. They would close the remaining $17.3 million by keeping a transfer it planned to make from the 2018 budget to the 2019 budget.
The changes will restore the Medicare Savings Program until July 1, 2018, but not 2019.
“This isn’t a long bill, and yet it embodies of all the bad practices that have imperiled Connecticut’s state budget for decades. In terms of budget gimmickry, it shoots the moon: wishful thinking, pushing problems off into the future, and shoddy math – most egregiously in the form of double-counting savings in our already underfunded teachers’ pension system,” Malloy said Friday. “Ironically, this is supposedly being done to justify delaying changes to the Medicare Savings Plan until July 1, something my administration has already done through executive action. The bottom line is that this is posturing at best and bad budgeting at worst, and if it comes to my desk in its current form, I will veto it. Connecticut’s elected officials can and should do better.”
Legislative leaders are no longer moved by Malloy, who is not seeking a third term.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Malloy may have extended the program until July 2018, but he has no authority to guarantee the funding for it would be restored without legislative action.
“Despite the governor’s best efforts to try to stop us, lawmakers will be convening on Monday to pass this bill. If Gov. Malloy wants to veto it, just like he threatened with the bipartisan budget, he can have at it,” Fasano said. “But lawmakers have the power to override his veto and do what is right for the thousands of seniors who need lawmakers to take action.”
Fasano said he disagrees with the Malloy administration’s assessment of how legislative leaders found the money to cover the full cost of the program.
He said it simply canceled a “carryforward” of money from the 2018 budget to the 2019 budget.
Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, said the proposal will create an additional $150 million deficit in 2019 if the changes to the program are made permanent.
“The offsets are either double counted savings already identified, unachievable lapse targets, or shifts of deficit into next year,” Barnes said.
“The other cuts are clear and instruct the governor to make reductions to his own political appointees,” Fasano said. “While the governor may not be willing to put seniors and disabled individuals above his partisan appointees, the legislature is.”
Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said she understands how hard it must be for Fasano to vote for a budget “only to realize it was almost immediately out of balance, just as the governor had warned. We know he’s struggling with that fact.”
Donnelly said Fasano’s “new emotional reality” must be hard.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, called Malloy’s veto threat “childish.”
“We have much work ahead of us, and this message from the governor does nothing to improve the prospects of working together with the executive branch,” Klarides added.
But it’s not just Republicans. Even Democratic legislative leaders weren’t moved by Malloy’s veto threat.
“The Medicare Savings Program helps many seniors and residents with disabilities make ends meet. We have reached a bipartisan consensus to restore the program,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.
“We also agree that it is critically important that we continue our bipartisan work on a deficit mitigation package to bring the budget back into balance. That’s why I am calling on the legislative leaders to reconvene negotiations following the release of the January 15 consensus revenue report.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said there’s a “unified bipartisan consensus” for preserving the Medicare Savings Program.
“Despite a veto threat, I expect we will move forward Monday to ensure those affected can continue to rely on this important program,” Aresimowicz said.