Republican Lawmakers Still Trying to Get a Seat at the Table [CT News Junkie]

May 26, 2015

CT News Junkie

State budget negotiators worked through the weekend to try to come up with a package both sides could agree upon, while Republican lawmakers tried one last time to get a seat at the table.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said Friday that they remained optimistic a deal could be brokered before the end of the legislative session June 3.

“Things are going back and forth and progressing,” Bye said. “They’re just slow.”

She said there are tough decisions being made and “you want to take your time.”

Walker echoed her statements saying, “we’re going to have this down.”

“I think it’s important for everybody and I think we’re going to make it,” Walker said. “Right now, marrying the finance and the appropriations is the key number one factor we’ve got to get to now.”

But lawmakers are running out of time. The session is entering its final seven days and in the last few days of session, the power shifts from the Democratic majority to the Republican minority, who can use the clock to their advantage.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are still trying to get a seat at the table.

On Friday, they made a last-ditch effort to get Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to include them in the discussion.

“Republicans have asked repeatedly to participate in state budget negotiations,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano wrote Friday in a letter to Malloy. “While you and I have both expressed our opposition to tax hikes proposed by Democrat legislators, you have still chosen to exclude us thus far. I am writing today to remind you that not including Republicans in budget discussions only further jeopardizes your ability to negotiate a no-new-taxes budget.”

Fasano pointed out that if the governor signs a bill with a tax increase he will be violating the no new taxes pledge he made on the campaign trail last year.

“If Democrat legislators pass a budget that includes burdensome tax hikes, the only way to uphold your repeated campaign promise is to veto such legislation,” Fasano said. “Simply not signing a bill does not relieve you of responsibility in this situation, and is equivalent to breaching your promise directly. Republicans have made it clear that we would support your veto of the Democrats’ proposed tax hikes, and we stand by that commitment.”

Last week, Malloy said he’d like to see a budget come together but “I have some real differences with the legislature on how much they want to spend and how much they want to raise.” Malloy said he’s made those differences known and he believes lawmakers are contemplating what he’s saying, “but we don’t have a deal or budget put together that I would sign off on.”

He acknowledged that the legislature can pass its own budget and doesn’t have to negotiate with his office, but “I’m hopeful people will eventually come around and we’ll get to a point where we recognize that there’s a limit to how much we can spend and how much we can tax.”

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Malloy, said the governor has made it clear that he believes “in supporting — not burdening — middle class families. We have neither proposed higher taxes on everyday households, nor do we support them.”

He said there are tough choices to make, but “we must deliver a budget that makes Connecticut’s future brighter. That means we need to keep funding important programs, support our classrooms, and prevent local property taxes from rising — as we have proposed — while making tough decisions for our state’s long-term future.”