House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, responded in scathing terms Monday to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s revised budget proposal, calling it “a public enemies list” and “a personal hit list,” not a basis for negotiating how to balance the budget.
Sharkey, who also canceled a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with Malloy, appeared to be responding to Malloy’s statement Friday in an interview with The Mirror, as well as in an op-ed piece he published in the Sunday edition of The Hartford Courant.
In both, Malloy suggested negotiations begin with his balanced budget proposal. Sharkey rejected that suggestion.
“The legislature is developing a budget that will be based on the most accurate information available from April revenue forecasts,” Sharkey said. “In the meantime, however, his budget outline reads more like his public enemies list than a plan for Connecticut’s future.”
Sharkey and the Senate’s Democratic leadership notified Malloy’s office they would not attend what had been planned as a bipartisan meeting Tuesday. Malloy still intends to meet with the Republican minority leaders.
“It’s telling that the statement was issued a mere hours after the speaker canceled a bipartisan meeting with the governor and other leaders that he had previously agreed to,” Brian Durand, the governor’s chief of staff, said in an email. “Rather than sitting across a table and offering ideas, the speaker is sending out unprompted, vitriolic press statements.”
Sharkey said Malloy’s proposal never could win passage.
“Hospitals, smaller towns, property tax reform, and critical social services are all dramatically slashed under the governor’s plan, all while insisting he be granted broad block grant authority to unilaterally cut further without any public scrutiny or legislative oversight,” Sharkey said. “His proposal isn’t feasible, would never get enough votes from either side of the aisle to pass, and it offers no real basis for productive negotiations.”
Sharkey indicated that the legislature will send the Democratic governor a budget based on its priorities, not Malloy’s.
“What happens next is that, as the actual budget numbers become clearer, the legislature will vote on, and send to the governor, a budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year that is balanced and represents more than a personal hit list,” Sharkey said. “I welcome our Republican colleagues to work with us to help make sure everyone’s voices are heard, and to ensure that what the legislature adopts becomes law.”
In his op-ed, Malloy challenged the legislature.
“I won’t accept half-measures or band-aid solutions,” he wrote. “Anyone who wants to negotiate with my administration should either come ready with their own balanced plan, or be prepared to work off of mine. We can’t negotiate off incomplete budgets or no budget at all.”
But he ended on a gentler note.
“I know that I have been asking a lot of the legislature, and I know I haven’t always asked in the gentlest way. But we all need to finish what we started five years ago when we set off down this less-traveled path. Structural reform, living within our means, new economic reality, call it what you like. Making it happen is within reach now.”
Durand questioned Monday whether Sharkey is willing to engage on the budget.
“A week ago, the governor produced a balanced budget after the speaker failed to lead his caucus to a balanced proposal of their own, after committing to do just that,” Durand said. “A week later, is this statement the best he has to offer? Is this what he’s been working on all week?”
The legislature’s constitutional adjournment deadline is midnight May 4.
“The governor has produced a balanced plan,” Durand said. “He’s said he won’t use the rainy day fund to balance next year’s budget, that he won’t raise taxes, and that he won’t borrow to close the deficit. As the clock ticks, where are the speaker’s ideas? Where are his plans for Connecticut? What does he expect his members to vote on over the next two weeks?”