Looney on Budget Fix: We’re Ready—Caucus Set for Monday, Vote Tuesday

Connecticut Senate President Marty Looney is setting an ambitious goal of Tuesday for a vote on a budget fix that he says will cut some $350 million from the current spending plan and make long-term changes for years ahead. Democrats, Republicans and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s people have been struggling for months to find a solution to the budget mess.

Speaking to The Hanging Shad Sunday, Looney was hesitant to disclose particulars because rank and file Democrats in the state Senate and House have not yet seen it. That happens Monday and if all goes according to planned, a vote would be taken Tuesday.

“We made about $350 million in reductions to the budget as well as addressing some long-term issues,” Looney said. State Comptroller Kevin Lembo has said without changes being made, the state is looking at a deficit of some $4.3 billion over four years.

“I think the chairs of the appropriations committee, Senator [Beth] Bye and Representative [Toni] Walker did a fine job in finding a balance between reducing spending and still meet the needs of the state,” said Looney.

Republicans last week took a powder from the budget talks that they spent months fighting to be part of. CTMirror.com reported that the real sticking point was the fate of the constitutionally mandated spending cap. Attorney General George Jepsen has opined that although the cap exists, there is no basis in law to enforce it. Republicans wanted the cap to be real.

“In the end, they backed out of their commitment to provide votes in favor [of what the talks produced],” Looney said. The New Haven Democrat did have positive thoughts about all three sides—Dems, Rs and the governor—coming together.

It remains to be seen if rank and file Democrats, particularly in the House, will fall in line and support the deficit mitigation plan.

The negotiators had to back track on some major ideas after a near revolt from House members. At first, the Democrats proposed suspending for a year the clean election program that provides for public financing of campaigns. Younger Democrats resisted, and the idea was dropped.

Also dropped was a retirement incentive program that has always been anathema to Gov. Malloy.