HARTFORD — Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly are at odds over how to fix the projected $922 million deficit in next fiscal year's approximate $20 billion budget.
Malloy wrote in a Hartford Courant Op-Ed this week "I won't accept half-measures or band-aid solutions."
Malloy called for bipartisan talks in his office Tuesday so all sides could sit down and figure out how to get Connecticut's spending in line. Republicans arrived, but Democrats announced they would not come to the table.
It's a move Republicans criticized once the doors opened.
"They made the decision to not be in the room, which I think was an irresponsible decision on their part," said House Republican Leader Rep. Themis Klarides. "But we are going to continue having these conversations."
The disagreement comes as the legislature's May 4 adjournment looms. The governor has been critical of the budget put forth by democrats, which does not fully address the $900 million dollar budget hole for fiscal year 2017.
The governor last week took the unusual step of offering a revised budget proposal, about two months after unveiling his first budget. His latest plan would cut about $352 million more than planned to cover the entire deficit, which has worsened since Malloy's first budget.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey has said Malloy's plan couldn't pass the legislature, and on Tuesday had a sharp response, calling Malloy's budget proposal, which includes deep cuts, "a personal hit list."
In response, Malloy said, "I'm not going to take it personally. I'm going to chalk it up to everybody has a bad day."
Then Sharkey responded to the governor. "No, I had a very good day,” said Sharkey, “in fact we had anticipated this for a few days, it's not something that was an off the cuff remark."
Malloy remained diplomatic, also saying he didn't feel jilted by Democrats' refusal to join Tuesday’s meeting.
"I appreciate that they're having a hard time adjusting to a new economic reality," Malloy responded.
But Sharkey defended the Democrats' no-show at the meeting, saying Malloy knew Democrats wouldn't support some of his cuts. "What the governor's package did was cut all the things he knows are non-starters for the members."
The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Gov. Malloy released the following statement:
“The intentions laid out by the Speaker today are literally the opposite of how I’ve tried to consistently move the budget conversation forward this year.
“I’ve put all my ideas on the table in the form of two balanced budgets. The Speaker has not put a balanced plan on the table, and now says he doesn’t plan to do so until the very end of session.
“I’ve faced difficult realties head on and made tough decisions, even cutting things that I’d rather not cut, like ECS. I’ve said we can’t do this while still holding every line item sacred. The Speaker is now saying we can somehow get to the bottom of a $900 million problem without touching any of the numerous priorities each of us have, and without raising taxes.
“I’ve invited input from legislators, local leaders, and the public via town hall meetings. It appears the Speaker is now saying he will produce a budget with zero public input and hand his caucus and the legislature something to vote on in the waning hours of session.
“This kind of thinking is business as usual in Hartford. None of this is a recipe for a good budget, it’s a recipe for gimmicks and band aid solutions. This kind of thinking has failed us in the past. This year, we need to do things differently.
“I want to reiterate that I am willing to meet with Democrat and Republican leaders to move this conversation forward.”
Meanwhile, Senate President Martin Looney also released a statement:
“I appreciate that the Governor has presented a revised comprehensive budget but the reality is that there are many elements in the Governor’s plan that we do not support and that could not be a starting point for discussions.
“Democrats in the General Assembly are working on a $920 million plan and further talks would not be productive until we have specifics to reach that number. We are willing to work in good faith with Republicans and the Governor to balance our budget.
“Republicans want to have it both ways. They criticize Democrats but are content to sit in meeting after meeting without a plan of their own. The Republicans have shown no indication that they have a plan or a willingness to work on producing a balanced budget since they have rejected the Governor’s proposal and voted against the Appropriations Committee budget adjustment bill as well.”