HARTFORD, CT — Unable to reach an agreement on a spending package before its 5 p.m. Thursday deadline, legislative leaders from both parties blamed more than a handful of snow days for their inability to get the job done.
In a joint statement the leaders of all four caucuses, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Minority Leader Themis Klarides, Senate President Martin Looney, and Senate Republican President Len Fasano, said they are committed to “continuing that bipartisan approach.”
“We recognize that multiple weather related closings caused a backup of committee meetings and interfered with the continuity of budget negotiations,” the leaders wrote. “All four caucuses have been continuously working on budget proposals and we are all in agreement to continue our efforts to work toward a bipartisan solution. Therefore, for procedural reasons, each caucus has agreed to support placeholder budget bills which will be voted out of the Finance Committee tomorrow. These bills, Senate Bill 533 and House Bill 5588, will then be referred out of the Senate and House to the Appropriations Committee by April 20, 2018 for a budget vote. This will give the Appropriations Committee needed time to hold a vote on a complete fiscal year 2019 budget.”
Democrats hold a two vote margin on the Appropriations Committee and even though they held out hope they could reach a bipartisan agreement it became obvious that they wouldn’t have enough votes.
Complicating the situation is an election season that starts as soon as the legislature adjourns on May 9.
While cutting spending isn’t pleasant, raising taxes in an election year would be even more difficult.
Last week, Looney said there’s a reluctance to raise any of the standard taxes, but there’s a possibility collections in some of the categories will be favorable.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo on Monday said the state is currently running a $197.7-million deficit. That’s on top of the estimated $165 million deficit in fiscal year 2019.
Fasano said the 2019 deficit is actually probably closer to $300 million given all the cuts and holdbacks that were in the 2018 budget.
The budget gives Malloy the ability to holdback another $39 million and lawmakers are still uncertain if they will be able to restore $91 million in municipal aid cuts it gave the governor the power to make when it passed the budget in October.
According to sources, lawmakers wanted to know what the 2019 revenue package will look like before they approved a spending plan. Unlike Congress, the two budget writing committees do their work separately.
And they don’t actually have to adjust the budget at all this year. Because Connecticut approves two-year budgets, there is no reason they have to adjust it before they adjourn on May 9.