HARTFORD, CT — Democrats may have muscled a spending plan through the Appropriations Committee last week, but House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he’s not going to fight over which document they should use to start budget negotiations.
With two weeks left in the legislative session, the clock is ticking and there’s no time to argue over “semantics,” Aresimowicz said.
“I would like to skip the step of whose budget, what line items and just get in the room and start having that discussion,” Aresimowicz said Tuesday morning.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides sent Aresimowicz a letter asking for him to provide the revenue portion of the Democrats budget proposal. Last week, Democrats proposed a spending plan, but didn’t offer any revenue package to show how they would pay for a $216 million increase in spending.
“If we want to have serious negotiations, Democrats need to share with us their budget in full,” Fasano and Klarides said. “What Democrat lawmakers released on Friday was not a complete budget. As they admit, it was a spending plan only. While it spelled out what Democrats want to spend money on, it failed to define how they would pay for any of it. It was an appropriations package only, missing the revenue side and exceeding the constitutional spending cap.”
Republicans said they can’t negotiate half a budget. They said if Aresimowicz wants to work together then he needs to share the full budget proposal.
Aresimowicz said they plan to make themselves available for negotiations and will make any information Republicans need available.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he thinks they can get to a deal pretty quickly because they only need to adjust one year of the budget.
Connecticut passes a two-year budget in odd years and only adjusts the second year of the budget in even years.
The current two-year budget was a bipartisan effort and it offers a lot of agreement from the parties on the issues, but it was done long before the start of the 2018 election cycle, which has caused the parties to retreat to their corners on most issues.
Several months ago the parties could find common ground in their fight against Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whom they kicked out of budget negotiations. The unpopular governor isn’t seeking re-election, but all four legislative leaders are running, and drawing distinctions between the parties and their priorities in an election year is important.
“It is obvious we all agree to support core services and reject many of the governor’s cuts to these priority programs,” Fasano and Klarides wrote. “The real issue we need to negotiate is how we propose paying for these changes.”
They went onto explain: “The reason it took so long to negotiate a bipartisan budget last year was because your incomplete proposal made it difficult to find common ground,” they alleged. “We don’t have the luxury of that time this year.”