With negotiations over the state budget stopped on the “one-yard line,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Tuesday his chamber would pass a budget without the support of Gov. Ned Lamont or the Senate before it missed its June 9 deadline.
“We are prepared to run something so we can be done by June 9. I feel very, very strongly. It’s not a threat. I’m not mad at anybody, but you can’t get slow-played forever for four days,” Ritter told reporters during a morning press conference. “There’s not even a meeting scheduled today. No meeting!”
Ritter described the budget negotiations as both promising and frustrating because there was general agreement between the three parties on all but a few outstanding sticking points.
The biggest point of contention, he said, involved a proposed boost in state support for towns and cities. Although increasing town aid is popular — it helps municipalities avoid raising local property taxes — the increase would put the budget over a constitutional limit on state spending.
Legislative Democrats have proposed a financial workaround to keep funding for the programs from counting against the spending cap and the governor has opposed the accounting scheme. Ritter said it has been used in the past without controversy.
“It just seems that, if the Republicans didn’t insist on it [when the legislature passed a bipartisan budget] in ‘17, I’m not sure why we’d lose a budget over it,” Ritter said.
Asked about the comments Tuesday, Lamont maintained his opposition.
“I don’t agree with that. Back in 2017, [they] put in place the bill that included the spending cap. Don’t break it four years later. We can make sure we take care of folks most in need, keep within the spending cap,” he said.
Ritter said he was confident that any disagreements could be ironed out quickly if legislative leaders and the governor would meet for negotiations. He said many liberal members of his caucus already seemed willing to back away from proposals to increase revenues, which Lamont had also opposed. However, Ritter said there were no planned meetings even as next week’s deadline approached.
“My only plea to everybody is: let’s do this. Right now there’s no meeting scheduled today. I don’t know why. There’s no meeting scheduled tomorrow. I don’t know why,” he said. “But we can’t be slow-played. So at some point we have to take action. It’s not a threat. Just saying, amongst allies and friends, we have to get this done.”
The governor seemed less troubled by the June 9 deadline. He told reporters his administration had devoted significant time to negotiations with the legislature. He said lawmakers had a proposal from him already.
“I like getting budgets done on time as well,” he said. “Before I got here, the budget was done sometime in October, I think, so let’s see if we can get it done by June 9.”
The House speaker said it was imperative that the legislative and executive branches find consensus on the budget within the next couple days. He said the budget drafting process was cumbersome and could not be put off until the last minute.
Ritter said lawmakers in the House were not willing to miss the deadline and return to the Capitol for a special session on the budget. Many had families, businesses, and full-time jobs that required their attention, he said.
“This budget is done,” Ritter said. “It is there. It delivers for the people of the state of Connecticut and it delivers moderates and liberals to vote for it, who have all made sacrifices and compromises. We need to get it done in the next 24 hours.”