Debate looms on compromise Connecticut budget
PHILADELPHIA -- Connecticut's Senate on Wednesday could begin debate on a roughly $41 billion compromise budget for fiscal 2018.
Both Democrats and Republicans met in their respective caucuses Tuesday night to hash out final details as the budget impasse winds through its fifth month. Smooth caucusing could put the spending plan to a Senate and House vote Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, depending upon the lawyering necessary to craft budget documents.
Lawmakers have been meeting over the past week separately from Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Some details trickled out Tuesday. Municipal aid would remain essentially intact, with teetering Hartford expected to get an additional $40 million. The University of Connecticut would receive a $65 million cut instead of the $120 million Republicans had sought.
Three clean energy funds -- for the Connecticut Green Bank, the Clean Energy Fund, and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund -- may be spared a budget sweep.
“Tonight's comments from legislative leaders that the debilitating sweeps of these funds are under reconsideration is welcome news,” Malloy said Tuesday night. “While we await details of the final numbers, we strongly hope that much of the damage these cuts would have caused will be avoided.”
The latest budgetary crunch time comes amid heightened tensions at the state capitol in Hartford between the legislature and Malloy, the latter often perceived as prickly.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, called Malloy "nothing but an impediment."
Lawmakers from both parties have frozen out the Democratic governor since regrouping after Malloy in mid-September vetoed a GOP-crafted $40.7 billion spending plan.
Tuesday's earlier proceedings even evolved into some schoolyard name-calling.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, called the governor "a bully and a baby." Malloy, in turn, labeled Klarides' rant a "tantrum." He said in a statement: "“Rep. Klarides’ political posturing and bluster over the past few days is nothing short of revolting."
Hartford's additional $40 million would be the first in three steps Mayor Luke Bronin called necessary to avoid a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing.
Bondholders and labor groups -- concessions from which Bronin also said is essential -- are in turn awaiting the state's lead.
Malloy has run the state by executive order since July 1. The Senate is split 18-18 between Democrats and Republicans while the Democrats hold a narrow 79-72 advantage in the House of Representatives.
Rating agencies have hit Connecticut with several downgrades and negative warnings over the past year.
S&P Global Ratings on Oct. 13 lowered its outlook on the state's general obligatio bonds to negative from stable while affirming its A-plus rating. Fitch Ratings also rates Connecticut GOs A-plus. Moody’s Investors Service and Kroll Bond Rating Agency assign A1 and AA-minus ratings, respectively.