HARTFORD, CT — With fewer than four days left in the legislative session, Democrats and Republicans have different ideas of what needs to happen before midnight Wednesday.
The parties may have been able to reach an agreement on a two-year budget that was adopted last October, but they’ve been at odds over how or even whether to fix fiscal year 2019.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said there’s universal agreement between Republicans and Democrats on adding new car sales taxes to the Special Transportation fund, restoring funding for the Medicare Savings Program, and restoring funding to municipalities who were cut last November by the governor.
“Those really are the issues in our mind that we have universal agreement on,” Aresimowicz said.
He said it’s Saturday and they only have four days left so they should focus on where they can find agreement. Debating another full budget isn’t something that interests the House Democratic caucus.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the alternative is a day of debate while “watching things that are important to your colleagues fail.”
Republicans in the Senate said by failing to adjust the second year of the budget the state is simply “deficit spending.” They argue that a full budget plan needs to be debated and adopted before the legislature adjourns.
“I don’t know why suddenly half a budget is a full budget,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said.
Democrats were able to pass a spending plan through the Appropriations Committee, but have not proposed a revenue package, arguing there is no need since revenues improved and there will be about $1.2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund after they erase the fiscal year 2018 deficit.
Ritter said it’s time to “get the quick and dirty done” and put some of the other stuff aside. He said that’s why they do a two-year budget.
Klarides disagrees with that philosophy, but said the two sides would continue meeting.
She said they think the General Assembly should do a budget that says how much it would spend and where it would get the money from. “You know the normal things you get when you do a budget,” she added.
But there’s nothing normal about this year or the legislative process because of the tight margins between the parties.
In an election year, lawmakers already have a budget in place and can adjourn without adjusting the second year.
“The adjustments should be minimal and we shouldn’t be rewriting an entire year of the budget,“ Ritter said.
Aresimowicz said “let’s just agree where we agree, put it on paper and get it out for people to vote on.”
Doing that may get them out the door to campaign for re-election, but it’s unclear if that philosophy will win enough support to actually pass.
Democrats in the House hold a 79-71 majority over Republicans, but it’s not a working majority because of the various Democratic factions. And in the final days of the session the power will shift to those smaller groups.
Typically, the power would shift to the minority party, but the numbers would allow smaller groups inside the Democratic Party to stall action on bills until they get the bill they want called.
The Senate is split 18-18, so in order to get anything passed the Democrats, who have Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to cast any tie vote in their favor, have to give Republicans at least some of what they want in order to get anything done.