Senate Democratic leaders confident deficit-mitigation cuts will pass

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff

CTMirror File Photo / CtMirror.org

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Majority Leader Bob Duff

Leaders of the Senate’s Democratic majority announced Thursday they believe there is enough support to pass a plan next week to close most or all of the $220 million deficit in the current state budget.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said talks also continue with the Democratic majority in the House and Republican caucuses in both chambers in hopes of passing a plan with bipartisan support.

“There was a broad-based consensus on having to pass this mitigation plan,” Looney said after a 90-minute, closed-door caucus. “It is our intent to vote this on Tuesday, as painful as it is.”

Democrats control 21 out of 36 seats in the Senate and 87 out of 151 seats in the House.

A tentative plan crafted by Democratic leaders obtained Wednesday by The Mirror outlined $192 million in cuts.

About $62 million of that plan involved one-time fixes, such as sweeps and transfers from accounts, most from outside of the General Fund. A Republican plan offered last week relied on about $40 million from these sources.

About $56 million would be saved under the Democratic plan by small cuts to dozens of accounts spread across most agencies.

Democrats would cut $16.7 million from municipal aid, though it was unclear which grant programs would be affected.

The plan incorporates about $14 million in savings from raises already canceled by the executive and judicial branches, and also assumes $6 million in savings from layoffs that Malloy said would be ordered before the fiscal year ends in June.

Another $15 million would be cut from the state’s $2.5 billion Medicaid program, though specifics on how the savings would be achieved were not available.

And $10 million would be cut from judicial and legislative branch operations, $9 million from the courts and $1 million from the legislature.

The House and Senate Republican caucuses offered their own deficit-mitigation plan last week, which would:

  • Reduce spending by about 15 percent for higher education and many social services agencies.
  • Cut charter school funding by $12.9 million.
  • Furlough all state workers for two days. This couldn’t be done without approval of state employee unions, who have said they won’t grant concessions.
  • Reduce legislators’ pay;
  • Eliminate two high-ranking posts in Malloy’s administration;
  • Cancel a $24 million deposit into the sales tax revenue-sharing program for cities and towns.

Malloy encouraged both sides to come together and adopt a plan next week with bipartisan support. “They’re close enough that they should be able to do that,” the governor said, adding that if either side opposes the final bill, they should be held accountable for doing so.

Looney acknowledged the potential for more red ink to pop up in the budget on April 30, when analysts reassess revenue projections shortly after the state income tax filing deadline.

“We have no idea” what will happen, he said. “We’ll have to deal with that in April. When the final returns come in, we will see what happens then, but as of now we are faced with this deficit. The number we have is the number we have.”

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