House speaker: No vote on new CT budget Tuesday

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin

The House of Representatives won’t be voting on a new, two-year budget when members return to the Capitol on Tuesday, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, announced Friday.

But the speaker, who had hinted earlier this week that budget negotiations probably wouldn’t be resolved before lawmakers returned on July 18, said he hopes to have a new budget enacted by July 31.

The House’s Democratic majority and Republican minority each are expected to meet in separate, closed-door caucuses on Tuesday to discuss options for closing major deficits in this fiscal year and next.

“Talks with the governor’s office, Senate Democrats, and Republicans have all progressed, and we remain focused on a bipartisan agreement to the current budget challenge, but that result is not going to be ready for action by Tuesday,” Aresimowicz said. “We will caucus with our members and give everyone an update on exactly where we are, and also gauge interest in potentially overriding any gubernatorial vetoes. The significant progress we made this week, gives me further confidence we will have a budget adopted by month’s end.”

“We have made progress, and I remain optimistic that we will pass a budget by July 31,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “I expect an engaging House Democratic caucus on Tuesday and continued work with the Senate Democrats, governor and House and Senate Republicans as we move closer to a compromise.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokeswoman, Kelly Donnelly, said Friday that, “While it’s regrettable that a budget has not yet arrived on the governor’s desk for consideration, we appreciate the clear intention from all caucuses to work in earnest towards that goal. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to find common ground.”

Lawmakers have been gridlocked for months over how to close huge projected deficits. Analysts say state finances, unless adjusted, will run $2.3 billion in deficit, or 12 percent, this fiscal year, and $2.8 billion or 14 percent in 2018-19.

Malloy has been running the state’s finances by executive order since the new fiscal year began on July 1.

But because of declining revenues and surging retirement benefit and debt costs — which are contractual obligations — most other segments of state operations are experiencing deep cuts.

Legislative leaders had hoped to take action Tuesday because one major question surrounding the budget would have been answered at that point.

Unionized state employees are expected late Monday to complete balloting on a tentative concessions deal negotiated by the Malloy administration and by union leaders.

The deal, which includes wage freezes, furlough days, higher health care costs and increased pension contributions, is projected to save $1.57 billion across this fiscal year and next combined.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the speaker’s announcement was disappointing, but not unexpected.

“House Republicans have a budget that is ready to go, and we are prepared to vote on our budget — or any other budget — but this is not really surprising,” she said. “It is no secret that there is disagreement among Democrats on taxes and spending.”

Republicans have locked horns with Malloy, a Democrat, over the concessions deal, saying it doesn’t secure enough savings to offset the layoff protection and benefits contract extension it provides workers.

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