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Things are getting ugly as Connecticut’s governor and its state legislature—both Republicans and Democrats—are at each other’s budget throats. One Senator who was key in crafting the Democrats’ budget bill says while she is frustrated with Gov. Dannel Malloy’s attack on their work, she’s not worried and the result will be a balanced budget.
“I’m frustrated that [the governor] is acting like he’s the only one who made tough choices,” says Appropriations Committee co-chair Sen. Beth Bye. “It’s disingenuous for him to act like he is the only one making tough cuts. We have a lot of people upset at us for not restoring more.”
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be an end game as Democrats in the General Assembly rejected Democratic Gov. Malloy’s budget plan in favor of a one that raises taxes on the wealthy, lowers but expands the sales tax and reinterprets the spending cap. Meanwhile, the state’s budget deficit for the current fiscal year swelled to $162 million.
Malloy let loose with one of his patented sharp attacks Thursday clobbering both Democrats and Republicans for what he sees as a cop out on the budget. “I mean ultimately, everybody needed to, I guess, beat their chests, put out their ideas, make their political points,” CT Mirror quoted Malloy as saying. “At some point, we’ve got to get serious about getting a budget. Neither of these budgets are the budgets that we’ll end up with.” The governor was referring to both the Democratic-controlled Appropriations and Finance committees’ budget and the Republican alternative.
Bye says while she’s frustrated now, she has no doubt the end result will be a balanced, two-year state budget. “I understand some of this is political posturing as we head into negotiations. But we’ll sit down with the governor’s people and I’m confident three weeks from now, this won’t be the story. A balanced budget will be the story,” she said.
Bye also gave a nod of approval to legislative Republicans. “The Republicans deserve a lot of credit. It’s the first time since I’ve been up here that they came out with a line by line budget [proposal]. They are so much more engaged.”
Republican leaders in the General Assembly are indeed engaged. Not just in the budget process but in addressing the current budget that is now nearly $162 million in the red. The number is still below the one percent of the total budget that would trigger a required plan by the legislature to address the deficit.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano has been trying to address the deficit for months. He wrote yet another letter to the governor, this time sharply criticizing him.
“Month after month, in letter after letter, we have warned Gov. Malloy that hesitation will lead to devastation,” Fasano said. “Despite those repeated warnings, Gov. Malloy has been either unable or unwilling to confront our state’s fiscal crisis. Republicans have offered him solutions and advice, and he has dismissed us time after time. This mess is Gov. Malloy’s. It’s a reflection on his leadership. Unfortunately, state residents will be the ones who will have to clean this mess up.”
The question now is, can all sides come together and hammer out a new spending plan or will they poison the well beforehand to the point where it will be near impossible get an agreement. If the latter is the case it will be a long, hot summer at the state Capitol.