Legislative leaders on CT budget: We’re in uncharted territory

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HARTFORD -- State leaders are disagreeing on fiscal and philosophical grounds when it comes to Connecticut's budget.

"We are now in somewhat uncharted territory." said Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney.

Democrats and Republicans appear to be digging in their heels over methods to generate revenue in the face of more dire deficit projections. Estimates from various sources project the state deficit to be between $1.7 billion to $3 billion in the coming years.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking battling legislative leaders to meet with him next week to "chart a course together" for reaching an agreement on a new, balanced state budget.

Malloy extended the invitation Wednesday, a day after the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee abruptly adjourned without taking a vote on a proposed $40.3 billion, two-year spending plan. The move prompted Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to blame each other for the breakdown.

Democrats said a vote wasn't taken because there wasn't enough bipartisan support, claiming they expected GOP votes for the bill. Republicans said they always intended to present an alternative budget, now planned for Friday.

"There is strength in numbers and if we can stay 72 strong that's better than the Democrats can do with their caucus and I think having those kind of numbers it will hopefully drive the discussion away from taxes," said State Rep. Vincent Candelora, Deputy Republican Leader.

A meeting of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee was scheduled for Wednesday morning. That meeting was rescheduled for Thursday.

The legislature's budget-writing committee has suddenly halted plans to vote on an alternative to Gov. Malloy's budget proposal.

Democratic leaders of the Appropriations Committee made a surprise announcement Tuesday that they were adjourning without taking the scheduled vote, expressing disappointment there wasn't bipartisan support for the two-year, $40.3 billion proposal.

It's unclear whether a spending bill can be passed before the committee's Thursday deadline, or whether a separate tax bill will be voted on as well.

Democrats say they didn't know until recently that Republicans weren't supporting the spending bill and instead planned to release their own budget. But the GOP leaders say they've been upfront for weeks about their budget proposal, expressing concerns with proposed Democratic tax increases.

Democrats hold a slim majority on the committee.

"We'll get it back on track," said State Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, Democratic Speaker of the House. "I think yesterday was an opportunity to hit the reset button, all understand that we have to compromise and work together to come up with the budget for this state."