Rift on bud­get down to $100M

Democrats, Repub­li­cans to con­tinue dis­cus­sions

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Dixon

Af­ter a day­long ne­go­ti­a­tion on a state hol­i­day, leg­isla­tive lead­ers Mon­day said the dis­tance be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats is now only about $100 mil­lion in a two-year, nearly $40 bil­lion bud­get.

That’s sub­stan­tially closer than the two sides were last week, when Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can lead­ers broke away from Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy to dis­cuss their dif­fer­ences to­gether, be­fore tak­ing a pos­si­ble com­pro­mise back to the gov­er­nor.

But 101 days into the bud­get­less fis­cal year, Se­nate Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said he doubts a bi­par­ti­san deal can be voted upon this week, as Mal­loy orig­i­nally tar­geted last week.

“I think it’s paid off in a big way,” said Se­nate Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Len Fasano, R-North Haven, dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with Democrats af­ter 5 p.m.. “I think we’ve

made tremen­dous strides. We talked about is­sues and num­bers. We’re cer­tainly hav­ing good con­ver­sa­tions.”

In a va­cant Capi­tol, House and Se­nate lead­ers spent most of the day in the House Demo­cratic cau­cus room, with staffers and non­par­ti­san leg­isla­tive re­searchers from the Of­fice of Fis­cal Anal­y­sis (OFA), seek­ing com­mon ground on thorny is­sues.

Those is­sues en­com­passed GOP pro­pos­als for spend­ing and bond­ing caps; a deal for hos­pi­tals to seek tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral Med­i­caid re­im­burse­ments; and fund­ing for statewide school sys­tems. Un­der the ex­ec­u­tive or­der that Mal­loy has been us­ing since the start of the fis­cal year on July 1, 85 of the state’s wealth­ier towns did not re­ceiv­ing state school aid last week un­der the Ed­u­ca­tion Cost Shar­ing formula (ECS).

“The ECS formula is one of the largest for­mu­las we put out to the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” said Speaker of the House Joe Ares­i­mow­icz, D-Berlin. “It’s im­por­tant to us all. It’s a bal­ance. The OFA an­a­lysts have given us dif­fer­ent op­tions and we’re go­ing to dis­cuss those again to­mor­row.”

“We cer­tainly un­der­stand the hospi­tal is­sues,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader Themis Klar­ides, RDerby. “There are is­sues of not hav­ing a bud­get in gen­eral. The towns and cities are most af­fected at this point and we want to make sure we get the right bud­get done for the state of Con­necti­cut, which means it doesn’t get rushed, but there’s a sense of ur­gency and that’s why we’re here to­day and we’ll con­tinue to do that un­til we get a doc­u­ment that we can move for­ward.”

Looney said the goal is for a bi­par­ti­san deal among the four House and Se­nate cau­cuses.

“At which point we’ll then be shar­ing that with the gov­er­nor and there will be, ob­vi­ously, an­other ne­go­ti­a­tion be­cause we ex­pect he will, of course, re­act to that,” Looney said. “So that will take some ad­di­tional time this week. So at this point we will be into next week be­fore we’re able to vote on a fi­nal prod­uct.

In the predawn hours of Sept. 16, three Democrats in the Se­nate and five in the House agreed to a two-year, $40-bil­lion GOP plan that Mal­loy ve­toed. Mal­loy last week said that if the Gen­eral As­sem­bly can’t vote on a com­pro­mise bud­get by Oct. 13, he ex­pected the im­passe to drag into Novem­ber. The pre­vi­ous record for Con­necti­cut to be with­out a bud­get was Sept. 1, 2009.

“We would have done it yes­ter­day if we could have,” Klar­ides told re­porters. “But we’re go­ing to just con­tinue to plug along and work day and night to get to the point where we can come to an agree­ment, or come to a bud­get that we can move the state of Con­necti­cut for­ward with.”

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press file

Speaker of the House Joe Ares­i­mow­icz D-Berlin.

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