The Democratic leadership of the Connecticut General Assembly has called for direct talks with Gov. M. Jodi Rell over the $500 million fiscal 2010 budget deficit.
“We’re calling for a bipartisan leadership meeting immediately to be able to talk to the governor about it and move it forward,” said Derek Slap, spokesman for the Senate Democratic majority. “As soon as we finish this then we have the next fiscal year that we need to do budget adjustments for and the session ends the first week of May. We’re running out of time.”
A spokesman for Rell did not confirm by press time whether the governor would agree to the meeting. Late Friday evening, the Republican governor said in a press release that she would veto a deficit mitigation measure agreed upon by legislative leaders and passed a few hours later by the Senate. Rell was in Colorado at the time and was expected to return to the state yesterday or today. The House had planned to take up the measure last Saturday but decided against it after the Senate failed to garner enough votes to override a veto.
Rell and Democrats in the General Assembly blame each other for the impasses and all parties say that long-term structural problems in the budget need to be addressed.
“The clock is running on the current fiscal year and we need decisive action,” Rell said in press release Monday. “We do not have time for partisanship or bickering.”
A major sticking point has been a Democratic proposal to delay the implementation of a cut to the estate tax. The cut would raise to $3 million the bottom level at which the estate tax kicks in from the current level of $2 million.
“She has insisted on protecting the wealthiest folks in the state,” said Doug Whiting, spokesman for the House Democratic majority. “Given the growing deficit, we simply can’t afford to give that tax break right now to people who can afford to pay it.”
Whiting said Democratic lawmakers accept they will have to make some cuts to social services. Rell also opposed a proposed increase in hospital user fees that the state leverages to obtain federal funds.
Rell said she would use recissions to cut the deficit by $156.8 million. The largest item included in the recissions is a delay of $100 million of payments to the state pension fund that she included in a deficit mitigation proposal earlier this month. Rell vetoed an earlier Democratic deficit mitigation plan in December after offering her own proposal in November. The governor allowed the Democrat’s $37.57 billion budget to become law in September without her signature.
The fiscal 2011 deficit is projected at $700 million.