HARTFORD, CT — Hours after announcing they had a deal Wednesday, the Senate and House approved a bipartisan budget with about a half hour to spare before the end of the legislative session. Only eight members of the General Assembly — all in the House — voted against approval.
The budget, which specifically is an adjustment to the second year of the current biennial budget for 2018-19, allows both Democratic and Republican legislators to have a “kumbaya moment” that many didn’t believe was possible in an election year.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said they can move the state forward even when they are evenly divided in the Senate.
The $20.85 billion budget agreement increases spending 2.1 percent over the current year budget. The deal does not include any tax increases, mostly because the April income tax collections came in much higher than expected, allowing them to deposit about $1.1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.
The deal maintains funding for the Medicare Savings Program and Husky A for low-income parents. The Medicare Savings Programs helps pay Part B insurance premiums for low-income elderly and disabled residents.
It also changes the definition of the volatility cap by allowing it to grow each fiscal year based on the annual rate of personal income growth. As such it increases the revenue available in the 2019 budget by $46.8 million, and also shortens the length of the bond covenant from 10 years to five years.
The 2019 budget is expected to end the year with a $23.1 million surplus. However, there are still large deficits in the out years for the next governor and legislature.
Over the next two years — 2020-21 — the budget deficit is expected to top $4.46 billion, according to the fiscal note. The budget does not account for the $386.7 million deficit in 2018, which will be closed with a portion of the Rainy Day Fund.
The budget agreement passed the Senate unanimously after about 20 minutes of debate and headed up to the House at 11 p.m.
Republicans were even able to propose their budget as an amendment. In an orchestrated debate — only one lawmaker, East Haddam Republican state Rep. Melissa Ziobron, spoke — the amendment failed 82-68 with three Republicans voting against it.
The budget then passed the House 142-8 after just 22 minutes of debate. There were two Democrats and six Republicans who voted against the bipartisan budget.
The plan also adds funding for additional judicial support staff to serve under the 31 new judges nominated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and confirmed by the legislature.
The budget also maintains funding for a program that helps working parents subsidize the costs of their childcare.
The agreement also speeds up payments to the Special Transportation Fund so that it doesn’t become insolvent. The diversion of the sales tax on new car purchases is sped up and deposited in the fund so that bus and rail service and road projects can be funded.
The deal restores municipal aid and appropriates $28.4 million more than the original budget.
The budget also preserved the $200 property tax credit, which had been eliminated in the original two-year budget. The plan also provides $16 million to the teachers retirement healthcare fund and restores $18.5 million to magnet schools in the state.
The agreement also lowers the sales tax on boat purchases from 6.35 percent to 2.99 percent.