Democrats and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday evening that they had reached agreement on a "fair, responsible" budget for the state of Connecticut for the next two fiscal years. The state officials hailed the deal as a historic agreement that would be the earliest budget ever adopted by the state.
The announcement, which came at a press conference at the state Capitol building in Hartford around 5 p.m., is significant because Democrats control a majority in both the Connecticut House of Representatives and the Senate, providing the votes needed to pass any agreement should rank and file members of the caucus vote in support of the proposal.
Malloy, House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, and a number of Democratic legislators attended the press conference.
“This budget builds upon Governor Malloy’s framework and is a balanced solution to the deficit – spending reductions, government efficiencies, taxes and concessions,” Donovan said in a YouTube video of the press conference. “…The budget is a result of many people willing to work hard, willing to work together, and willing to listen to reasonable ideas for the best solution for Connecticut.”
Although the exact specifics of the proposal were not available Wednesday evening, Democrats highlighted several areas where the agreement differed from the budget Malloy proposed in mid-February, chief among them that the income tax rate on the state’s highest earners would rise under the proposal.
Other aspects of the proposal that Democrats highlighted were its preservation of a proposed for the state’s working poor, and the restoration of several tax exemptions that had been eliminated under Malloy’s initial proposal, including one that eliminated the state’s auto trade-in exemption, and others that taxed previously untaxed items such as hair cuts, beauty services, car washes and boat repairs. Malloy announced last week that he planned to that his initial proposal excised.
“It asks more of our wealthier residents, who can afford it,” Donovan said of the agreement. “It softens the tax burden on the middle class, while maintaining funding for schools, cities and towns, and protects our most vulnerable citizens.”
The announcement came a day after Republicans announced their own “no-tax increase” alternative to Malloy’s proposal, which included more than $1.5 billion in additional spending cuts, the elimination of longevity payments for state employees, a reduction of five percent of the state of Connecticut's workforce, and the preservation of current levels of municipal aid for towns and schools.
"Our budget does not create any new taxes in any way shape or form," House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, said in a YouTube video after the Republicans unveiled their budget proposal in Hartford Tuesday. "Because the people who are paying for the cost of government cannot afford it any longer."
plugged an estimated $3.5 billion budget deficit facing the state in the coming fiscal year, restored $270 million over each of the next two years to the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state’s largest means of support to local schools, to compensate for the anticipated loss of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and sought $1 billion in concessions each year from contracted unionized state employees.
All those aspects remain in the agreement reached Wednesday, Democrats said, although Malloy and state unions have yet to agree on any concessions.
“It’s basically an agreement on the budget, because these are the three entities that control state government,” State Rep. Geoff Luxenberg, D-Manchester, said of the agreement reached Wednesday between Malloy and House and Senate Democrats. “I think it’s great to see the legislature and the governor come together and listen to peoples concerns to come up with a budget in a timely fashion. I think this is what the people want, they elected us to fix the deficit and get results.”
The General Assembly must vote on the proposal before it goes into effect.
Correction: An earlier version of this story made reference to congregational Democrats. There are no congregational Democrats (well, there probably are somewhere). Sorry.