House To Debate Budget Veto Override Tuesday

With the state budget crisis spilling into the fourth month of the new fiscal year, the state House of Representatives will convene Tuesday to vote on whether to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto last week of the Republican-written budget.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz predicted Monday night that the override would fail after saying his Democratic caucus has enough votes to block it.

Lawmakers believe that an override is highly unlikely because it would take two-thirds majorities in both chambers, meaning 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate. The budget passed on a bipartisan basis last month after 78 House members voted for the crucial Republican amendment and 21 voted in the Senate — well below the levels needed for an override.

Republicans had been hoping to postpone the vote for another week so that they could gain momentum to override the veto after Columbus Day. But that will not happen.

As a result, Aresimowicz and House Republican leader Themis Klarides of Derby got into a war of words Monday night after they completed bipartisan talks with Malloy on the possibility of crafting a new, two-year budget.

“Is it cutting short a week of political silliness?’’ Aresimowicz said. “Absolutely.’’

Klarides then immediately stepped to the microphone within a few feet of Aresimowicz.

“Use of the word ‘silliness’ is offensive to the people of this state,’’ Klarides said. “Because you don’t like it doesn’t make it silly.’’

But Aresimowicz then ripped into provisions written into the Republican budget regarding cuts to the University of Connecticut and other programs.

“Taking $300 million out of higher education … is silly,’’ Aresimowicz said. “Taking car taxes out of the cities and taxing the most poorest people in the state of Connecticut is silly.’’

Meanwhile, Malloy said the legislature is now trying to reach a compromise budget deal by Oct. 13 because lawmakers will be missing soon after due to a wedding, honeymoon, and travel plans. As such, if a deal is not reached by Oct. 13, the budget stalemate could last into November, Malloy said.

State Sen. Art Linares, a Republican, is scheduled to marry state Rep. Caroline Simmons, a Democrat, on Oct. 14. That normally would not be an issue, but the state Senate is tied at 18-18 for the first time in more than 100 years. As such, one vote could tip the balance on the longest-lasting budget impasse in Connecticut history.

In addition, no state budget means that not enough money will be flowing into the city of Hartford as it seeks to avoid bankruptcy. Several lawmakers said the solution for Hartford should be part of the overall two-year, $40.7 billion budget — instead of a separate, standalone bill designed only for Hartford that would be passed if lawmakers cannot agree on the broader fiscal issues.

“We really cannot let the capital city go under,’’ said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat. “It will send a terrible message to other cities like New Haven and like Bridgeport and others throughout the state, and also outside the state in terms of how Connecticut is perceived.’’

In the short term, the House will be debating the veto override Tuesday.

“It’s clear that the Speaker of the House is afraid of the growing public support to override the governor’s veto of the state budget,’’ said Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, of North Haven. “Every day pressure increases to adopt a budget that paves a path out of chaos for our state. But the speaker is trying to take the only viable option off the table as quickly as possible.’’

Malloy and legislative leaders met Monday, hoping to avert deep cuts and property tax increases for more than 90 towns.

New budget cuts are being made as part of Malloy’s executive order because the legislature has not passed a two-year budget. Both Malloy and lawmakers had warned that deeper cuts would begin to take effect if no budget was passed by Oct. 1.

While many towns are being cut, the neediest districts, including Hartford and Bridgeport, are scheduled to receive state funds this week under the first round of the all-important, education cost-sharing grants.

The pool of money — the main way that Connecticut funds local schools — is traditionally released at the end of October, but Malloy announced that he was moving up the date to help municipalities, many of which have lost other state grants in other categories due to the budget crisis.

But not every school district will receive the money, which represents about 25 percent of a district’s annual education cost sharing aid.

As part of the plan, Malloy is also completely eliminating ECS funding for 85 districts, including West Hartford, Simsbury, and Southington. Another 54 communities will receive reductions.

The cutbacks will lead to property tax increases, officials said.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to cut local education budgets at this point in the fiscal year,’’ said Betsy Gara, the executive director of the Council of Small Towns. “As a result, many towns may be forced to issue supplemental tax bills to make up the difference.’’

COST estimates that property taxes could potentially increase in more than 90 towns — with 64 towns up by more than $750 per year and another 28 towns by more than $1,000 per year.

“Connecticut needs a budget now — a budget that does not devastate our schools and our communities by slashing municipal aid or shifting teachers’ pension costs onto already overburdened property taxpayers,’’ said Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul, who serves as president of the small towns council.

State comptroller Kevin Lembo announced Monday that the state’s deficit at the end of the current fiscal year would be about $94 million — if all of the cuts under Malloy’s executive order continue.

The budget standoff has also left communities unable to tap into other key sources of state aid, such as payments in lieu of taxes for communities that are home to property owned by hospitals, universities and the state, including office buildings and courthouses.

Another key piece of the budget puzzle — agreement over how to tax the state’s acute care hospitals — also remained in limbo Monday.

At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal reimbursements. The Malloy administration has proposed a complicated plan that would allow the state to raise taxes on hospitals while generating more federal money that would be funneled back to the hospitals.

But top lawmakers said they don’t expect a vote on the hospital deal Tuesday. A deal, however, could be voted on later this week or next week.


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