Budget debate: Malloy’s ‘childish,’ but GOP’s a ‘comedy show’

Rep. Themis Klarides and Sen. Len Fasano, the GOP minority leaders. At left, Sen. Michael McLachlan.

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Rep. Themis Klarides, right, and Sen. Len Fasano, center, the GOP minority leaders. At left, Sen. Michael McLachlan.

Leaders of the legislature’s Republican minority condemned Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget Thursday as savaging the social safety net, but they declined to commit to offering their own alternative to the one by the Democratic administration.

Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven and Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby, the GOP minority leaders, said the administration has reflexively and consistently dismissed Republican fiscal plans since Malloy took office four years ago.

“We did a transportation plan. In a half hour, he called the thing silly and something else,” Fasano said. “That’s the type of rhetoric we don’t need in this building, but that’s the type of rhetoric we get all the time. It’s so childish; it really is.”

Mark Ojakian, the governor’s chief of staff, responded in kind.

“The only thing that’s childish is the comedy show of the GOP,” Ojakian said. “Can they really say they’re doing their jobs as legislators if they haven’t put out a budget of their own? They say they have ideas — are they secret ideas? Apparently press releases are the only thing they’re able to put down on paper, so until they publicly release a real, detailed budget of their own, they can’t be taken seriously.”

The Republicans have made an issue of Malloy’s refusal to engage them on the budget, but the administration has countered that nothing is preventing the GOP from identifying alternative cuts or presenting their own proposal for how to balance the budget.

The backdrop for the sharp exchanges was a new estimate that projects the current-year deficit at $191 million, as well as widespread bipartisan opposition to the spending cuts Malloy has proposed in his budget for the biennium beginning July 1.

“I don’t think anybody wants to vote, or not many people would like to vote, for his proposals, because what you have heard in this building, you have heard criticism of his budget by at least as many Democrats, if not more, as Republicans,” Klarides said. “So this is clearly a budget that the governor has dropped in our lap.”

Fasano said proposed cuts to the Department of Social Services and Department of Children and Families are unconscionable.

“We can trim the budget where there’s fat, and there are many places,” Fasano said.

He did not name them, nor did he suggest that trimming “fat” would obviate the need for significant service reductions or new revenue to balance the next budget.

Fasano called the administration “childish” in its response to the GOP when asked if the Republicans’ fiscal criticism can be viewed as credible if they do not put forward their own alternative.

“We’re talking about that,” Fasano said of offering a GOP budget. When pressed, he added, “We’re just talking about it.”

The Republicans made their comments at a press conference on what they described as the Democrats’ refusal to close a series of loopholes opened in 2013 in the state’s campaign finance laws.

 

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