HARTFORD, Conn. — In a story Sept. 15 about the Connecticut budget, the Associated Press reported erroneously about the status of the Office of Consumer Counsel under the Republican budget plan. The budget would eliminate part of the office, not the entire agency.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Senate passes budget from GOP minority; House considers it
Connecticut lawmakers are trying to approve an overdue state budget
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s state Senate on Friday stunned the state’s political establishment by passing a Republican-backed budget plan after three Democrats broke with their party’s leadership.
The $40.7 billion plan, which includes no tax hikes and large spending cuts, passed the upper chamber Friday afternoon on a 21-15 vote.
The House began deliberations on it Friday night and lawmakers were still talking early Saturday, the Hartford Courant reported.
Democratic Gov. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, however, warned Friday that if the Senate’s version of the budget reaches his desk, he’ll veto it because it is “unbalanced.
The Democrats, who control the legislature, have their own proposal, which includes several increases in taxes and fees.
Both plans are designed to eliminate an estimated $3.5 billion deficit over two years.
The Democrats’ $41 billion proposal failed to come up for a vote in the House early Friday morning, leaving the debate to start in the state Senate in the afternoon.
But Democrats Paul Doyle, of Wethersfield, Gayle Slossberg, of Milford, and Joan Hartley, of Waterbury, all said they could not support their party’s plan and instead voted with the GOP.
“All I can say is that I did what I was elected to do for the people of the state of Connecticut,” Doyle said. “It sounds naive, but that’s the bottom line. I did what I thought was right.”
Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin, had expected a vote in the House on Thursday. Representatives were in session until early Friday morning but went home without taking a vote. Aresimowicz said there was a delay in the writing of an implementer bill and it wouldn’t be ready until Friday morning, but Republicans alleged there weren’t enough votes to pass the proposal.
The GOP plan relies heavily on changes in state employee pensions after the current state union deal ends in 2027. Republicans say it achieves $270 million in savings by requiring workers to pay more toward their retirement benefit, eliminating cost of living adjustments until the fund balance of the state employee retirement system is deemed healthy by national standards and by eliminating overtime from the calculation of an employee’s salary for pension benefits.
The plan also would eliminate several state agencies and commissions including the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity. The Office of Broadband, which is part of the Office of Consumer Counsel, would be eliminated. Other agencies would be merged.
The governor sharply criticized the Republican plan.
“I believe the amended budget that passed in the Senate today is unbalanced, and if it were to reach my desk I would veto it,” Malloy said in a statement. “It relies on too many unrealistic savings, it contains immense cuts to higher education, and it would violate existing state contracts with our employees, resulting in costly legal battles for years to come.”
The Democrats’ plan includes a new 49-cent monthly surcharge on cellphones, a $12 surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies, a new vacation home tax, higher taxes for hospitals, a 25-cent charge per trip on ride-sharing services like Uber and a 45-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. The budget also would decrease the personal property tax exemption on state income tax forms, from $200 to $100, and set aside $115 million for improvements to the XL Center arena in Hartford.
The Democrat budget also includes $1.9 billion in education aid to cities and towns this year and would avoid large cuts to local education aid proposed by Malloy as part of a spending plan that would take effect if lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the end of the month.
Malloy said the Democrats’ budget would not increase the income or sales taxes, would cut spending by hundreds of millions of dollars and would restore hundreds of millions of dollars in town aid.
He said Friday night if the Democrats’ budget isn’t going to be passed then lawmakers needs to reach a new agreement soon, “one that is realistic, and, ideally, bipartisan.”
Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and are tied with Republicans in the Senate, but Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman would break any tie vote.
The budget is two months late. The plan is for the fiscal year that began July 1 and the year beginning next July 1. Malloy has been running government with his limited spending authority.
If no budget passes by Oct. 1, major spending cuts would automatically go into effect, including to cities and towns. Hartford officials have said that city could be pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Eighty-five school districts will lose all of their state Education Cost Sharing funding and another 54 would see reduced funding.