Leaders of small towns may have headed to the state Capitol this week to lobby legislators not to cut their state funding, but what they got instead was a front-row view of legislative leaders bickering over the state’s budget crisis.

At issue is the fact that Democratic leadership and the governor are not allowing Republican minority leaders in the room as they finalize the state’s two-year budget that is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks.

Democrats say it’s because Republicans have not proposed a budget of their own for them to consider when closing a deficit of more than $1 billion a year.

“They are running away from difficult budgets,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey told the crowded room at the Capitol with a visually irritated House Republican Leader Larry Cafero seated five feet away clinching onto his seat.

They have “no interest in actually putting their fingerprints on an actual solution. Because all solutions are bad… Somebody has to be the adult in the room. Somebody has to actually make the numbers work,” Sharkey said.

Cafero, shaking his head as he walked to the microphone to respond, looked at Sharkey and said, “I am surprised at you because you know better.”

“If the Democrat — and by the way we are still waiting for the adult in the room — but if the Democrats would just promise to abide by the spending cap, I’ll produce anything you want,” Cafero said.

The budgets the Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the democratic-controlled Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees both propose redefining the state’s constituitional spending cap so the state budget can spend more.

But the bickering isn’t only partisan, as Rep. Toni Walker, the co-chairwoman of the legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee, publicly called out three of her Democratic colleagues Friday.

“People are proposing that we cut $400 million more out of the budget,” she told a roomfull of juvenile justice adocates at the state Capitol complex Friday of the budget negotiations.

“I don’t like to use names, so I won’t do that, but I will say if you do call legislators, call them from either Wethersfield or Middletown, or Milford or Waterbury because they seem to feel that we spend too much money,” she said of swing vote Senators who take issue with Democratic committee budgets.

The senators who represent those towns include Paul Doyle, Joan Hartley and Gayle Slossberg.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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