Lawmakers inch closer to final state budget deal
HARTFORD — House and Senate leaders, inching closer to a budget that is almost three-and-a-half months late, think they might finally have a draft document to show the governor Wednesday.
Speaking after another three-hour, closed-door round of number crunching and negotiations in the House Democrats’ caucus room, the lawmakers admitted they still have some major hurdles in an attempt to solve the country’s longest budget delay.
“We are definitely making progress,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, after the session, detailing gains on school-funding formulas and so-called structural changes to save the state money in the long run.
“Each time the conversations are getting us closer and closer together, in my view,” Fasano said.
“That’s what this is about, right? Trying to figure out what your priorities are and what you can agree to and what you can’t,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “And that’s what will be the sum of this at the end of the day.”
“One of the things we are making progress on is a consensus spending cap we all can agree on,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, speaking of a favorite Republican issue.
“We’re making progress,” said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin. “Really the progress we have made over the past couple of days, at this time I don’t see a way that we don’t come to an agreement.”
Aresimowicz said that if all goes well in Wednesday’s negotiations, the group may be ready to go back to the governor with a budget document for his review.
Last month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a Republican budget that narrowly passed the House and Senate with several votes from Democrats. Last week, the GOP and Democratic leaders, after meeting with the governor for several days, agreed to meet on their own and create, with advice from nonpartisan legislative budget staff, a two-year, nearly $40-billion budget proposal for Malloy’s review and possible agreement.
Since the fiscal year began on July 1, the state has been operating on a barebones executive order from Malloy. “He does not want to be in the position of having to implement his executive order,” Looney said of Malloy. “He’s made that clear to us that he has as great a stake in getting to an agreed-upon budget that we can pass and that he will sign, as we do.”
Fasano said that the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has been researching the various fiscal implications and should have detailed report on the tax-and-spending package Wednesday.
“We’re all in there because we believe moving forward on a budget we can agree on is the best way to go,” Klarides said.