(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) After weeks of negotiations, state policymakers have reached a two-year budget deal which legislators are expected to approve early next week, Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters after a Thursday press conference.
“We’ve got a deal,” Lamont said. “Now it goes to the bean counters. They’re making sure all the numbers add up.”
Policymakers have been brokering a roughly $51 billion tax and spending plan since February when Lamont made recommendations including broad-based income tax cuts. Lawmakers have countered with proposals from the Democratic-controlled budget-writing committees and each of the two Republican caucuses.
On Thursday, the governor said his income tax cuts had been included in what is expected to be a bipartisan budget deal. Another Lamont provision to expand the pass-through entity tax credit for businesses had been removed from consideration as had legislative proposals to create dedicated tax breaks for parents.
“It will be an honestly balanced budget,” Lamont said. “It will keep within the fiscal guardrails established by the legislature. It will include the biggest middle class tax cut in the history of the state and historic investments in education and housing. I’m really proud of what’s going to be voted on.”
Legislative leaders also described general agreement on the state budget on Thursday. During a morning press briefing, House Speaker Matt Ritter said that despite continued talks over finances involving a pending waste processing proposal and how to implement funding for paraeducators, leaders had more or less agreed upon a budget.
“Realistically, that budget document could be ready as early as Saturday and as late as Monday, I would say. But in terms of do we have a deal and all that stuff? We do. At some point the pens go down,” Ritter said. “It might be a point where we don’t agree on one or two items in the implementer, but we have to have a hard deadline and that hard deadline is some point today or tomorrow.”
The budget is expected to garner support from both parties. House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora offered a cautious endorsement Thursday of the agreed upon concepts but said Republicans wanted to ensure that the budget complied with fiscal constraints including a cap on state spending.
“I think overall we support the policies but we want to make sure we’re not overdoing it on the spending,” Candelora said. “We need to take a look at the fine details of the budget before we sign off.”
Throughout budget negotiations, Lamont and legislative Republicans have pushed for strict adherence to the recently renewed fiscal guardrails. However, some lawmakers and advocates have argued those restrictions have limited the state’s ability to use surplus funds to address long-neglected interests.
“There’s always a sort of conceptual argument about the spending cap itself,” Senate President Martin Looney said. “Does it need to be an absolute, restrictive straight jacket or can it be flexible enough to incorporate current problems that have arisen or current opportunities for more spending?”
Although Looney said he prefers a more flexible understanding of the cap, the budget framework is under the cap in both years covered by the budget. Still, he said he expects broad based support among Senate Democrats in part due to income tax cuts that affect the two lowest-earning brackets.
“The spending package is larger than both what the governor recommended in February and also what the Appropriations Committee voted in April,” Looney said. “There’s an addback of money for K-12 education, for higher education, for non profits groups.”
As they stand now, those spending increases do not go far enough for some lawmakers including Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, who said Thursday he would vote against a version of the budget he was briefed on last week unless more funding for nonprofit service providers is added.
Anwar said he would like the budget to include 4.5% funding increases for nonprofits in each of the budget’s two years.
“Today I was able to spend some time with one of my constituents who is in a group home,” Anwar said. “He has not been able to have the care that he needs because the individuals caring for him can not afford to survive on their own even though they are doing one or two jobs. That’s a problem.”
Though he would not offer an assessment of support for the budget agreement among Senate Democrats, Anwar said he had heard similar concerns from a number of his colleagues.
Meanwhile, around 50 unionized care providers to the state’s intellectually and developmentally disabled population were arrested after blocking traffic on Capitol Avenue Thursday in an act of civil disobedience meant to build pressure on state policymakers to approve better wages and benefits.
The governor acknowledged the spending included in the budget was unlikely to please all of the various causes that have sought additional funding in the next state budget.
“Will everybody be satisfied? No way. But I think they’re going to know it’s progress,” Lamont said.