PLYMOUTH - State and local Republicans gathered at Town Hall Thursday morning to urge Gov. Dannel Malloy not to veto their party’s state budget. However, shortly after their press conference the governor went ahead and vetoed it.
Malloy, a Democrat, had promised the veto since the $40.7 billion two-year package was narrowly passed Sept. 16 with the help of several defections by legislative Democrats. He called the budget unbalanced, unsustainable and unwise.
Connecticut is the last state in the nation without a budget in place for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Malloy has been running state government with his limited spending authority. And under an executive order, without a new budget law by Sunday, Oct. 1, major spending cuts to cities and towns would automatically go into effect. Those include cuts to state education grants to local public schools. Eighty-five school districts would see their share of those grants cut to zero. Fifty-four others would see significant cuts.
Connecticut faces a projected $3.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years.
Republicans, who do not control either chamber in the legislature, have defended the budget, saying it doesn’t raise taxes and more fairly distributes education aid.
Present at Thursday’s press conference were state Senators Henry Martin, R-Bristol, and Joe Markley, R-Southington, both Assistant Senate Republican Majority Leaders; state Rep. John Piscopo, R-Burlington; state Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol; state Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, R-Bristol; state Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville; state Sen. Craig Miner, Deputy Senate Republican Majority Leader; Plymouth Mayor David Merchant; Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne; Plainville Town Council Chair Kathy Pugliese; and Harwinton First Selectman Michael Criss.
Martin said the event was put together at short notice due to the difficulty of getting everyone together at the same time.
He said he chose Plymouth for the location because under Malloy’s executive order Plymouth stands to lose $9.7 million in Educational Cost Sharing state funds. Cuts like that impact smaller communities more, he said.
Betts said it’s time for the state to move forward.
“Let us have some certainty because right now we’re in limbo and we don’t know what to do,” he said. “I want to apologize to everybody for that because we really should have had this done back on June 6, that’s what our statutory deadline was.”
Pavalock-D’Amato said the Republican budget would have made the difficult decisions to reduce state expenses while sparing residents tax increases proposed in other versions of the budget, such as taxes on cell phones, non-prescription drugs, and secondary homes.
Petit said his party’s budget would have helped New Britain with an increase of $11 million in education funding over two years and an increase in municipal aid of $7 million, while maintaining social services for children, the elderly, and those with disabilities.
Markley said it would have “finally put in place a fully funded Education Cost Sharing program, something that has been missing from the state for many, many years.”
The governor’s executive orders means a cut of $5.5 million in ECS funding for Southington for the current year, Markley said. “I don’t know he expects that we can absorb something like that.”
“Perhaps if the governor were sitting here I could look him in the eye and tell him what we’re up against here,” Merchant said. “We’re a small community. We don’t have a big fund balance. We’ve gone through some financial woes over the past couple of years, and we don’t have that extra money to make up in the middle of the year.”
Pugliese noted that Plainville is looking at a reduction of almost $2 million in state aid.
“We have gotten no direction,” she said. “Do we deplete our fund balance which we have carefully guarded over many, many years of wise financial planning? Do we start to lay off the people that are so important to our community, our teachers, our police, our folks that take care of our parks and our roadways? How do we do this?”
Cockayne said “We don’t have the luxury of not having a budget, we have to have a budget.”
“In Bristol we spoke with our representatives and we took our best guess of where our budget is going to be, and the Republican budget is right about where they said it would be. The governor is cutting over $4 million out of our budget, that’s over 1 mill. We cannot sustain that,” he added.
Malloy said Thursday in a letter to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill that the Republican plan relies on changes to the state pension system that wouldn’t go into effect for a decade and are “both financially and legally unsound.”
He later clarified that $5.5 million is the difference between the Republican-backed budget which passed and the Democrats' proposed cuts.
Associated Press contributed to this story.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.