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Lawmakers vote on budget during special legislative session

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HARTFORD -- Lawmakers returned to work Monday for day one of a two-day special legislative session. Democratic leaders said over the weekend that they had reached an agreement with the governor on the state's new two-year budget.

This session comes after weeks of criticism from businesses about the $1.5 billion in tax increases included in the $40.3 billion budget.

On Monday, the Senate passed the bill just after 10 p.m., and then sent it to the House.

But it was a long and complicated process.

One June 3, lawmakers passed a budget which Democrats called historic for its property tax reform and transportation improvements.

But after major corporations headquartered in Connecticut, such as General Electric and Aetna, publicly criticized the budget and those who creating it for implementing hundreds of millions of dollars in business tax hikes, it was back to the drawing board.

Gov. Dan Malloy then called for legislators to scale back $224 million of the $1.5 billion in tax increases. To make up for the lost revenue, he called for across-the-board budget cuts, but that in turn upset hospitals, social service providers and families who rely on state help.

The budget that passed on Monday was a compromise meant to make all parties satisfied.

Instead of across-the-board cuts, the lawmakers cut spending in specific, targeted areas, such as reducing the amount of leeway Malloy will have when he negotiates with state unions on future contracts. The new budget also cuts certain positions, and reduces overtime.

"Everybody has some pain in this budget," said state Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, "but it takes care of those critical places and the people of Connecticut who rely on us for critical services."

"It’s a really good budget that actually protects the working families of the state of Connecticut," said state House Speaker Rep. Brendan Sharkey.

Still, Republicans say the changes are weak, and not enough.

"Cutting back 10 percent of the damage you did isn't going anywhere far enough," said state House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides.

State Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, took it a step further, saying that the budget was hobbled together of random compromises in an effort to get everyone on board. "It's a Christmas tree of sorts, with different goodies to get people to buy in and pass the legislation," he said.

Earlier in the day a police oversight bill and Malloy's Second Chance Society bill both passed with bipartisan support in both houses.