Fasano: Republicans will work toward keeping budget under spending cap [CT Post]

April 6, 2015

Article as it appeared in the CT Post

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday warned lawmakers he won’t support a budget that creates new taxes or exceeds the state’s constitutional cap on spending increases.

In response, minority Republicans attacked him for leaving them out of the budget process, while majority Democrats ever-so-politely suggested that Malloy mind his own business.

Speaking with Capitol print and radio reporters in his office, Malloy said he wanted to send a message to lawmakers who have been critical of his two-year, $40 billion spending proposal, which itself was $60 million over the spending cap, the result of an error in calculation.

Malloy said his budget, including $560 million in first-year spending reductions, is being met with resistance by Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

But the constitutional spending limit essentially precludes higher spending and even additional revenue schemes.

“We have a spending cap,” Malloy said during a half-hour question-and-answer session. “There’s no room. Get used to it.”

Thirteen weeks into the 22-week budget-setting session of the General Assembly, Malloy said legislative leaders have had time to explore his budget plan and should be close to a final plan.

“The reality is, this is the framework,” Malloy said. That includes the start of a 30-year, $100 billion investment in transportation infrastructure, along with reductions in programming for adult health care in the Husky program and for the developmentally disabled.

In recent weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized some of Malloy’s proposed cuts. During a closed-door Democratic House caucus this week, members of the majority feared that many social services are in danger from massive reductions in state aid, and alternatives including higher taxes and exceeding the spending cap were discussed.

Stressing that the meeting with reporters was to send a message to the Legislature, Malloy said in the days after his November re-election and leading up to his February budget address, he considered many drafts of a new biennial budget, including one that cut spending by $1.2 billion.

Malloy said most of the budget spending is contractual or otherwise mandatory, and that it’s crucial to continue levels of state aid to municipalities and local schools.

The Appropriations Committee has until April 30 to approve a budget package, while the tax-writing Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee has until May 1. The legislative adjournment is midnight, June 3.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the executive and legislative branches have their own roles.

“The governor gave us his budget in February and we’re still going through our process,” Looney said, adding that this week, subcommittee co-chairmen gave their reports to the budget committee.

“The governor acknowledged that the budget is in the Legislature’s hands now, and we are committed to building a budget that represents our core Democratic principles — protecting our most vulnerable residents, investing in education and job creation, reflecting a long-term vision that encourages economic growth, and is under the spending cap,” said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, promised that Republicans will work toward preventing the next budget from exceeding the spending cap.

“Republicans have already pledged to respect our constitutional spending cap and adhere to the wishes of Connecticut’s citizens. We stand by that,” said Fasano, in a joint statement with Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. “Republicans control this issue. Without Republican support, there simply isn’t a strong enough majority to exceed the cap.”

State law requires a 60 percent approval in both the House and Senate to exceed the spending cap, and Democrats do not have those majorities.

“We are now confronting extremely difficult financial challenges that are more than four years in the making, the result of choices and policy decisions made by the governor and Democratic majorities,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said in a statement. “They consistently rejected Republican proposals. What the governor has proposed is not balanced, relies on millions in new revenues and violates the state constitutional spending cap. Calling it a budget is being charitable.”

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