HARTFORD -- Connecticut lawmakers tried hard to pass a last-minute Democratic budget for the new fiscal year that would finally fix the state's projected $960 million deficit, but announced around 5:30 p.m. that it would not be possible.
The General Assembly had until midnight Wednesday to pass the approximate $19 billion compromise that was reached between Democratic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy late Tuesday, but Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz released a statement saying it was just not enough time:
As a matter of democracy and fairness to all the members of the House, it is not possible to do a budget this evening. The time it took to reach an agreement, combined with the challenge of staff to physically get a printed bill to the floor, and then achieve passage, would likely require a cutoff of discussions. That scenario would not be fair for the purpose of allowing a complete and reasonable debate, and at this point would be a disservice to House members and the public they represent to move forward tonight.”
This means a special session will have to convene to iron out the budget before fiscal year 2017 starts July 1. Democratic Senate President Martin Looney says he expects the special legislative session will be held early next week.
Republicans had voiced concern about the decline in estimated revenues included in the budget plan. Republican Sen. Michael McLahlan says the drop in income taxes represents an "atomic bomb."
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano praised the delayed vote, saying lawmakers need more time to review the legislation that was still being crafted.
Malloy released a statement as well on Wednesday evening, praising the agreement and conceding that it's good to give Legislature members time to read it through before a final vote is conducted.
I want to thank members of both parties in the General Assembly for their work this session. The budget agreement is honest, sustainable, and adjusts to Connecticut’s new economic reality. It adheres to our principles that we will balance the budget without raising taxes, without raiding the rainy day fund, and without borrowing to cover operating expenses. It is based almost entirely on recurring, structural reductions in spending.
It’s a good agreement. If it happened too late in session to finish on time, and this delay is about giving members more time to understand what they’re voting on, that’s fine and even admirable. I said in February that we should not pass a budget on the last day of session.
However, if this delay begins a discussion about re-opening the agreement in order to find a way to avoid difficult decisions, that’s unacceptable. I will not move from the principles we’ve agreed to. I want to reassure the citizens of Connecticut that if we don’t take the necessary action together, I will take whatever steps necessary to bring our budget into balance.
I urge the General Assembly to pass this budget as soon as possible.
Wednesday is the final day of the legislative session.