Malloy Tosses Budget Problem into Legislature’s Lap

It’s déjà vu. The Connecticut state budget is out of whack, more than $100 million in the red. Gov. Dannel Malloy makes draconian cuts to social service programs including those for the disabled, substance abuse issues and mental health challenges. He also whacks hospitals, cutting Medicaid payments that are exacerbated by the loss of federal funds. The Democratic-controlled legislature won’t stand for it, lawmakers become the heavy, forced to come up with solution. It happened earlier this year when a new two-year state budget was proposed. It’s happening now. The governor has basically drop the problem into the laps of legislators.

Whether Malloy knows when he proposes these cuts that the legislature would “fix” things is anyone’s guess. It’s certainly tough to believe he actually wants these programs cut. But this latest exercise looks an awful lot like the last one.

At the end of the last legislative session, Democrats came together, refused to shred the state’s safety net (as “proposed” by Malloy) and ended up proposing a boatload of new taxes. They then negotiated with the governor and came up with a compromise. The legislators were the bad guys, the governor “forced” to accept their restoration of cuts.

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In this go-round, Democrats have to get really creative to restore Malloy’s cuts and they may do the unthinkable (for Democrats): ask state employee unions for givebacks. Powerful state Sen. Beth Bye is grudgingly raising the question of concessions. That’s significant and speaks to the very deep desire to restore funding for programs that help the most vulnerable.

Ironically, legislative Republicans have been raising the union-giveback solution dating all the way back to last session. Their “Blueprint for Prosperity” budget alternative relied heavily on union concessions. Their plan has been coupled with a plea to be included in the negotiations something Democrats reject unless GOP leaders guarantee votes for the final product.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano clearly sees an opening. “Democrats are beginning to listen to Republicans and realize that we have to take action to restore funding for the most vulnerable,” Fasano said.

“I appreciate Senator Bye’s openness to ideas that many Democrats have rejected in the past….We need to immediately take action to put money back into our hospitals, back into mental health and substance abuse care, and back into supports for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” he said.