As Latest Budget Deadline Nears, Republicans Will Meet With Malloy

Repeating a promise to veto the Republican budget enacted by the General Assembly, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday that it is “highly unlikely’’ that the state will have an approved fiscal plan by Oct. 1.

Negotiations between Republicans, Democrats and Malloy have yet to resume, despite the prospect of additional cuts looming in October if there is not a balanced state budget in place. The governor will meet with Republican leaders Friday, a week after the the legislature approved a Republican budget in a surprise vote.

Legislators have been trying to avoid potential cutbacks promised by Malloy and have been hoping to pass a budget by the start of next month. State legislators and Malloy have failed to reach an agreement for months on a state budget, leaving municipalities, state agencies and nonprofit groups hanging.

All-important education cost sharing funds for cities and towns have typically been paid toward the end of October, which means legislators have breathing room to reach a compromise in Hartford. This year, however, many towns have not received money that they have traditionally received in August and September, and so they are hoping for the money as early in October as possible, officials said.

“I think it’s an important date, which we are highly unlikely to hit,’’ Malloy said of Oct. 1. “Every day that goes by that we don’t have a workable budget, I think is a failure.”

Also Wednesday, Senate Republican leader Len Fasano told The Hartford Courant’s editorial board that UConn’s potential cuts have been exaggerated through statements that the school’s health center or other departments could be shut down due to budget cuts approved by the state legislature.

“First of all, I don’t believe that’s going to happen,’’ Fasano said. “I’m being honest. … I think it’s sort of a scare tactic. It’s like when you cut a school board, the first thing they say is they’re going to lay off teachers and you’re not going to have basketball any more. That starts to fuel the fire.’’

Fasano said that UConn has the resources — from alumni, its foundation or federal funds — that could be used to avert potential cutbacks that have been outlined by UConn President Susan Herbst.

He told reporters that Herbst has to make some tough decisions at UConn.

"She has to stop bellyaching about this thing,'' Fasano said. "This is a great institution. … It is something we all should be proud of, but we just can't afford it when they have other avenues" for funding.

The cuts in the Republican-written budget, which was passed by the General Assembly last week, will not happen in the short-run because Malloy has vowed to veto the 1,098-page bill.

Malloy continued to blast the bill Wednesday — both for education cuts and for failing to set aside enough money for the state’s underfunded pension system.

"This is clearly a budget that kicks the can down the road and then doesn't fund the pensions,’’ Malloy told reporters.

Fasano also said Wednesday that the major expansion of UConn Health Center, with a new patient tower on the Farmington campus, should never have been approved by Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature in recent years.

“UConn Health Center should have never been built,’’ Fasano said of the recent addition. “In 2010 and 2011, when those votes were going forward, we stood up, and said, ‘Don’t do it. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not an economic improvement. You’re doing it in the wrong location. We don’t need it. There’s other ways of doing it. Partner with a hospital if you want to do it.’”

Fasano added, “They went ahead and did it, and that’s part of what we’re subsidizing, and that really doesn’t make a lot of sense.’’

When it was announced by Malloy in 2011, the vision called for adding 100 students to the medical school, 48 students to the dental school and creating 3,000 construction jobs in Farmington. The $864 million plan included the construction of the new, $325.8 million tower to treat patients, along with a parking garage. The previous John Dempsey Hospital tower was then renovated in order to be used for research as part of a broader package at the Farmington campus.

The $864 million proposal was approved by the House, 97 to 45, at about 2:10 a.m. on the final morning of the legislative session in 2011. The new tower is now open and operational.

Chris Hyers, the chief spokesman at UConn Health, said that the approved budget calls for $184 million in cuts to the health center over two years.

“This level of cuts will likely force closure of UConn Health with the loss of all the value and economic development that has been created over many decades, and is anticipated in the decades to come,’’ he said.

With Malloy’s veto looming, Fasano said that he and House Republican leader Themis Klarides are scheduled to meet with the governor Friday morning. The legislature will be scrambling to write a new budget in order to avoid the planned deep cuts that will take place in October if the governor and General Assembly cannot agree on a spending plan.

Courant staff writers Daniela Altimari, Kathleen Megan, and Christine Schmidt contributed to this story.

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