House speaker forces overnight marathon seeking votes for budget

Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey speaks with Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Mark Pazniokas / CTMirror.org

Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey speaks with Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Unable to assemble enough votes to pass a tentative state budget deal for the second consecutive day, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives kept members in session throughout the night in hopes of switching enough votes.

“We’re staying,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, told House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, when she asked about his plans for a House session that had begun 12 hours earlier.

House Democratic leaders get one more shot Wednesday to adopt the budget deal before the regular 2015 General Assembly session hits its mandatory adjournment deadline at midnight. The bill also would have to get through the Senate, where Democrats hold a 21-15 edge, and sources say the measure has enough support to pass.

But sources within the House Democratic Caucus said fears of the hefty tax hikes in the package continued to leave leaders unable to call a budget vote without risk of failure.

The $40.3 billion, two-year budget negotiated by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate and by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration would generate about $2 billion in extra tax revenue over the next two years combined, with about $1.5 billion coming from tax increases and the remainder from canceling previously approved tax cuts.

The budget also sends more than $435 million in sales tax receipts to cities and towns to mitigate property taxes.

But Klarides said swelling public opposition to the battery of tax increases in the plan is eroding Democratic support.

All 64 Republicans in the 151-member House are expected to vote against the budget, but Klarides said her colleagues nonetheless are being bombarded with calls and e-mails from constituents angry about the proposed tax increases.

The speaker was meeting with other House Democrats behind closed doors after his discussion with Klarides.

But the GOP leader described her conversation with Sharkey with Capitol reporters.

“He said, ‘This is going to continue until we vote on a budget.’” Klarides said. “And I asked when that would be, and he said he didn’t know. I said ‘this isn’t right. There are people that are here who haven’t slept in a day.'”

Though the House officially went into session around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans had arrived five hours earlier, around 11 a.m., to meet with their respective caucuses.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides

Mark Pazniokas / CTMIrror.org

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides

Klarides added that “the reality is whether it’s four o’clock in the morning, four o’clock yesterday afternoon or frankly, four o’clock two days ago, we’re in the same situation; there aren’t enough votes to pass this budget.”

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, said earlier in the evening that she remained hopeful a budget could be adopted before the adjournment deadline.

“I wish it was already passed,” Bye said, adding that she and others who negotiated the final deal worked hard to preserve crucial social service programs for the poor, disabled and abused children.

Does the budget ultimately have enough support to pass? “Certainly on the appropriations side,” she said.

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