HARTFORD, CT — Will the bipartisan effort among legislative leaders in closing the yawning budget deficit and restoring funds to the Medicare Savings Program continue?
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, is hoping that it does.
Looney sent a letter Wednesday to the other legislative leaders asking them to reconvene their marathon bipartisan budget negotiating sessions to close the estimated $224 million budget deficit and a few other items.
Specifically, Looney said they need to look at restoring funding for the Medicare Savings Program for 2019. They only approved the funding for 2018. He also wants them to look at a permanent resolution for Bridgeport, Hamden, and Torrington regarding the motor vehicle tax payments, and mitigating other municipal aid reductions announced by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in November. That’s in addition to restoring funding for parents who received Husky A Medicaid benefits.
“Although we received potentially good news this week with a $900 million jump in income tax estimates over previous projections, ongoing uncertainty remains regarding Connecticut’s projected budget deficit which is estimated to be between $200 million and $300 million, “Looney wrote. “Therefore, I am requesting that we once again hold bipartisan meetings and negotiations beginning January 15—the date of our next consensus revenue estimate.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Republicans are working on a deficit mitigation plan, but would not be willing to look at revenue increases to close the budget deficit.
“Right now that’s not a conversation we’re having,” Klarides said Monday.
However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to bipartisan talks.
She said the reason the state is in deficit at the moment is because of “bad decisions” made in the past.
“I don’t want to get into the SEBAC deal, but we do not agree on the effect that had,” Klarides said. “Now we are stuck being forced to make very difficult decisions.”
Republican legislators, all of whom voted against the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition concession package in July, don’t believe the changes made to health and pension benefits through collective bargaining are sustainable. Democrats largely believe the deal Malloy reached with the state employee unions was the best that he could get, even if it means they had to extend the benefits until 2027.
Republican Senate President Len Fasano said he’s not going to take anything off the table as they enter negotiations.
“We should sit down and talk without drawing lines in the sand,” Fasano said.
He said he wants to get in a room and figure out what needs to be done.
He said they won’t have new sales tax revenue until the first week of February, but that’s no reason they can’t have a preliminary conversation about closing the deficit.