Gov. Ned Lamont used the bully pulpit Thursday to make sure lawmakers know they can’t spend as much as they want over the next two years and they shouldn’t expect to see tax increases in the future.
“I will say I want an honestly balanced budget,” Lamont said during a 4 p.m. news briefing. “… you can’t play games, you can’t do gimmicks, that’s what’s gotten us into trouble over the last generation or two, to be blunt about it.”
The governor’s comments come after House Speaker Matt Ritter threatened to run a budget regardless of whether the legislature had a deal with the governor over spending.
The two sides have already resolved their issues over tax increases, and the ones Lamont objected to, mainly a capital gains surcharge and the so-called consumption tax, have been removed.
“If we don’t have a deal by dinner time, then we’ll have to go our separate ways,” Ritter said Thursday morning.
As of 10:30 p.m. there still was no deal.
Ritter said they moved a lot over the past few days to the governor’s side. He says the main sticking point is whether some municipal spending should be under the spending cap.
“The legislature passed a spending cap just in 2017 so we’re having a discussion about what is in the cap,” Lamont said.
Lamont believes the $300 million in sales tax receipts collected and redistributed to municipalities should be under the cap, and thus, count against spending limits. Democratic lawmakers disagree.
“I can only support an honestly balanced budget that is in balance. A budget that takes care of group homes. A budget that doesn’t leave an enormous cliff in the out years,” Lamont said.
Ritter remained optimistic early in the day that they could still get a deal.
“We’re not going to get to a veto. We’re going to get to a deal today,” Ritter said.
But as the minutes remaining in the day dwindled so did hope for a deal.
“The current budget coming out of the legislature is not balanced. It doesn’t adhere to the spending cap and a little back and forth about how we allocate the municipal aid money,” Lamont said.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw said she thinks they can get to a deal by using federal dollars to reduce the burden on the general fund.
“There are a number of areas where compromise could achieve this package and could achieve it in short order,” McCaw said.
Democratic lawmakers, who are negotiating with the governor’s office, aren’t certain they will be able to get to a compromise and may have to pass a budget and force a veto.
There’s widespread support among lawmakers for the Democratic package that includes tax breaks for the poor and expands Medicaid eligibility, in addition to boosting money sent back to cities and towns.
The legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday. If a budget is not passed before then, they will be going into extra innings through a special session.