Repub­li­cans pro­pose bud­get; Democrats con­tinue ne­go­ti­at­ing

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Chris­tine Stu­art

HART­FORD » Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy was ne­go­ti­at­ing with Demo­cratic leg­isla­tive lead­ers Tues­day, but both said they don’t have a two-year bud­get deal to an­nounce.

“I’m hope­ful, but there’s no white smoke,” Mal­loy said fol­low­ing a meet­ing in his of­fice with Demo­cratic leg­isla­tive lead­ers.

Se­nate Demo­crat Pres­i­dent Martin M. Looney, DNew Haven, said the gov­er­nor gave them feed­back on their lat­est spend­ing and rev­enue pro­posal and they went back to “de­velop a re­sponse to the per­spec­tives he of­fered.”

As of Mon­day the pro­posal no longer in­cludes an in­crease in the sales tax, but there’s still no de­ci­sion about how they would make up for the loss of rev­enue from the tax hike.

Rank-and-file Demo­cratic law­mak­ers who were at the Capi­tol Tues­day ex­pected that they would re­ceive a draft doc­u­ment by at least to­day. Un­til they see a doc­u­ment many law­mak­ers have been re­luc­tant to say whether it would have their vote.

Ear­lier Tues­day, Rep. Josh El­liott, D-Ham­den, said he made it clear that if any changes were made to a pre­vi­ous bud­get pro­posal then he re­served his right to change his mind.

Looney said leg­isla­tive lead­ers would be work­ing Tues­day evening to fi­nal­ize a bud­get agree­ment.

“Things are mov­ing and they’re mov­ing fast,” Mal­loy said.

He said he’s asked Democrats if they have any new rev­enue ideas to speak about those pub­licly. He said he never wanted to raise the sales tax, but he did want to get the dis­cus­sion go­ing.

Mal­loy es­ti­mated there would be a fi­nal bud­get ready in the next 24 hours.

House Speaker Joe Ares­i­mow­icz, D-Ber­lin, said he in­tends to hold a vote on a bud­get Thurs­day.

Mean­while, Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers said they do have a two-year bud­get they can run Thurs­day.

The bud­get, which no longer in­cludes re­duc­tions in the prop­erty tax credit or sweeps of clean en­ergy funds, is bal­anced largely through the savings re­al­ized from changes in 2027 to the state em­ploy­ees con­tract.

The Repub­li­can bud­get says the cost of liv­ing in­creases for re­tired state em­ploy­ees won’t be funded un­til the state em­ployee pen­sion fund is funded at 80 per­cent. And no over­time pay­ments would be cal­cu­lated as part of pen­sion pay­outs for cur­rent state em­ploy­ees and they pro­posed that con­tri­bu­tions to the pen­sions go up to 7 per­cent.

Se­nate Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said that would gen­er­ate savings in 2018 and 2019 be­cause it means the state would not have to con­trib­ute as much in those years to the pen­sions, know­ing those changes would be made.

“We can an­tic­i­pate and work those into what we need to pay be­tween now and 2027,” House Mi­nor­ity Leader Themis Klar­ides, RDerby, said.

She said those changes to the spend­ing and bond­ing caps and other struc­tural changes they pro­posed gen­er­ate about $600 mil­lion in savings.

But it’s un­clear whether the savings tied to the changes made to the state em­ploy­ees con­tract in 2027 would pass le­gal muster be­cause there’s a pro­vi­sion in the State Em­ploy­ees Bar­gain­ing Agent Con­tract that says any changes must be made through col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

Fasano said he had lawyers look at that lan­guage and be­lieves it would with­stand any scru­tiny.

The Repub­li­can bud­get also in­cludes $85 mil­lion over the next two years from the own­ers of the Mill­stone Nu­clear Fa­cil­ity in Water­ford. The money is an “ap­pli­ca­tion fee” for the op­por­tu­nity to bid on state con­tracts re­gard­ing elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion. It wouldn’t guar­an­tee that the Pub­lic Util­ity Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity would award them the bid.

Mal­loy said he’s op­posed to tak­ing what amounts to “ratepayer” funds to ap­ply for an op­por­tu­nity to bid.

“If you’re go­ing to raise some­body’s taxes be hon­est about it,” Mal­loy said.

He said he’s not com­fort­able with the idea of re­quir­ing com­pa­nies to pay an ap­pli­ca­tion fee to bid. Mal­loy said he likes his ex­ec­u­tive or­der which es­sen­tially re­quires Do­min­ion En­ergy to share in­for­ma­tion about its fi­nances with reg­u­la­tors.

Mov­ing For­ward

Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers re­fused to say which Demo­cratic law­mak­ers have come to them to ask for in­for­ma­tion about their bud­get. How­ever, they said they’ve granted the re­quests.

As far as rais­ing their bud­get for a de­bate, Ares­i­mow­icz has con­sis­tently said Repub­li­cans will have a chance to call their bud­get. But that also poses a risk for Democrats. It means there’s a small chance that a Repub­li­can bud­get could pass.

“Sure, ev­ery bud­get has a chance to pass, but that’s why peo­ple buy lot­tery tick­ets, too,” Mal­loy said. “Ev­ery­body has a chance of win­ning.”

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