HARTFORD, CT — Democratic lawmakers used their slim majority to push forward a plan to increase spending by $216.7 million Friday, while a Republican proposal died 27-25 in the Appropriations Committee.
The bipartisanship they used to pass a two-year budget last fall had largely evaporated as the two sides dug in and blamed each other for presenting budgets colored by election year politics.
Adjustments to the 2019 budget will be made by legislative leaders behind closed doors, if they are made at all.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, who isn’t seeking re-election said if she had been given an opportunity to vote on the Democratic budget she would have voted against it, just like she voted against the Republican one.
Because the Appropriations Committee was split, the Senate didn’t get a chance to vote on the Democratic budget proposal—just the House members.
“We all need to get together and come up with the best plan,” Slossberg said. “I’m hopeful that’s what’s going to happen.”
Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, said they worked hard to come up with a two-year bipartisan budget and she did not go through that exercise “to abandon it.”
Immediately following the end of the Appropriations Committee meeting, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said despite “obvious election year tactics,” he’s proud that “House Democrats were able to put forth budget adjustments that reflect the values and needs of the people we serve.”
Earlier, Republican Senate President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, called the Democratic budget “an election year political ploy,” even though the two budgets had a lot in common.
At a mid-day press conference, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlined his immediate budget concerns and was also critical of Republican plans to spend some of the increase in income tax receipts on paying down some of the unfunded pension liability.
“A majority of what will be in the Rainy Day Fund is one-time revenue,” Malloy said. “So if you have one-time revenue that gives you some amount of money in the bank and your first urge is to spend it all today. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
They would need to vote to violate the volatility cap or reallocate that money once it’s deposited into the Rainy Day Fund. He said they are too eager to spend what could be $1 billion more than expected in revenue.
“This is one-time money in a state that has a very low Rainy Day Fund,” Malloy said.
He said the money should be deposited into the Rainy Day Fund, which according to forecasts on Friday was up again from $915 million to $1.03 billion. That’s on top of the $212 million that was already in the fund.
“Everyone is rushing around trying to have a talking point,” Malloy, who isn’t seeking re-election, said.
Malloy said the legislature needs to address some of the immediate problem.
At the moment, the next governor could be sworn in and won’t be able to bond for transportation projects because there’s no money in the special transportation fund.
“It means we could be in a position to have to return hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government for lack of a match,” Malloy said. “We’ve got issues.”
Malloy said he wants what’s best for the state and he doesn’t want to hand the next governor huge deficits or undo the progress that’s been made on the unfunded pension liabilities.
“I’ve spent a lot of political capital on trying to make sure people understood the obligations,” Malloy said. “Could we just play this straight?”
Malloy said the bipartisan budget “exacerbated our out-year deficits with structural holes that created $1.2 billion worth of problems in 2020 and stretching out to $1.6 billion of deleterious impact in the out-years.”
Malloy encouraged legislators to reduce those deficits.
“If we can exercise restraint now, we can leave the state’s finances on a path to stability for the next General Assembly and Governor in 2019,” Malloy wrote in a letter to legislative leaders.
In addition, Malloy warned that the federal reimbursements for the hospitals may not come. That’s leaves a $150 million hole in the 2018 budget. The deficit for 2018 swelled Friday to $363.5 million, according to Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.
Nothing lawmakers presented Friday seeks to address the 2018 deficit.