Gov. Dannel P. Malloy effectively told Republican legislative leaders Thursday to put up or shut up when it comes to the next state budget.
Republicans in the Senate and House have spent the past two days blasting a Democratic proposal to give cities and towns extra time to adopt local budgets — given that legislators here are struggling to find ways to balance Connecticut’s finances for the next two fiscal years.
Len Fasano and Themis Klarides, GOP leaders in the Senate and House, respectively, said the best way to clarify the municipal aid picture is to get the next state budget adopted well before the legislature’s June 7 adjournment deadline.
The Republicans suggested in a recent letter to Malloy that a new budget could be adopted by May 5 — one week after the legislature’s Appropriations Committee and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee finish their work.
The Democratic governor’s response: Well then can we see the Republicans’ budget proposal now?
“I assume that your commendable resolve on this front is accompanied with a clear plan to bring forward your own balanced budget proposal very soon,” Malloy wrote Thursday to Fasano and Klarides. “If you believe that a May 5 deadline is not only appropriate but achievable, it follows that your own budget would be ready in the very near future, in order to allow for the necessary public discussion, legislative deliberation and negotiation.”
“Please let me know at your earliest convenience when your full, detailed budget will be shared,” the governor continued. “I am eager to learn your ideas for reaching a balanced budget this year and look forward to your constructive partnership.”
“House Republican members and staff are fully engaged in the budget process,” Klarides responded to Malloy through a press release. “As your budget winds its way through the committees we expect to offer alternatives to the tax and spending plans as they were presented just one month ago.
“Presumably, the administration used its considerable resources all last fall and into this winter to come up with the” biennial budget it presented on Feb. 8 to the legislature.
“Thank you for your obviously politically charged and partisan letter today,” Fasano wrote in his response to Malloy.
The Senate Republican leader noted that the governor and the legislature adopted a state budget by May 4 in 2011 — Malloy’s first year in office — so a May 5 target for adoption this year is reasonable.
“Therefore, we urge you to write a letter to your Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate and ask them to agree to a May 5th deadline and to join us and sit down and begin budget discussions,” Fasano continued, adding that Republicans have offered a combination of 12 alternative budgets and deficit-mitigation plans since 2011. “We remain committed to working together to craft a bi-partisan budget that provides predictability, stability and restores confidence in our great state.”
Republicans traditionally unveil their plan in late April to coincide with the deadlines of the legislature’s budget-writing committees.
Fasano and Klarides, who rose to the top spots in their respective caucuses starting with the 2015 session, have continued that trend.
The GOP unveiled their last two proposals on April 25 in 2016 and on April 24 in 2015.
The upcoming two-year budget cycle is particularly difficult because of surging pension and other retirement benefit costs, which are expected to continue rising significantly over the next 15 years because of decades of inadequate funding.
State finances, unless adjusted, will run $3 billion in deficit over the next two fiscal years combined, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. The Malloy administration pegs the potential shortfall at $3.6 billion.
The governor offered several controversial proposals to close these gaps, including:
- Shifting more than one-third of municipal teacher pension costs — about $400 million per year — onto cities and towns;
- Reducing or eliminating tax credits for middle-income and working-poor households;
- And ending the real estate property tax exemption for nonprofit hospitals.