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For the first time in over 100 years, the Connecticut State Senate is comprised of 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans. In the State House of Representatives, Democrats hold only a slim majority at 79-72. As a result of this rare tie and overall narrow margin, major budgetary issues continue to strain legislators on both sides of the aisle.
April 27 marked the deadline for the Appropriations Committee to vote out any of their own bills, including the $41 billion Democratic budget proposal. Meanwhile, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee met and voted on various revenue measures while facing a committee deadline of April 28. Both committees worked this session in an effort to help reduce Connecticut’s estimated $3.6 billion deficit, although little progress was made.
Leaders of the Appropriations Committee gaveled in and immediately recessed to discuss the intricacies of the Democratic budget proposal behind closed doors. Facing income tax collection estimates $450 million lower than anticipated, a controversial budget proposal from Governor Malloy, and pressure from leaders and various groups, this measure was not an easy undertaking. Through hours of tense negotiations and vote counting, legislators discussed and deliberated the rather controversial components of the bill including increases in spending and severe labor concessions. While there were reports throughout the day of the committee having the necessary votes to pass the measure, Democratic chairs of the committee, Rep. Walker and Sen. Osten, cited difficulties gaining crucial votes in the House caucuses as the main reason for stalled progress. During their last meeting before their April 27 deadline, the committee failed to vote on the proposal leaving the Democratic budget proposal dead.
As the dust settled, the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee held a tense public hearing the same day regarding revenue measures for the upcoming budget cycle. Republican Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides heavily criticized the Democratic proposal including the elimination of sales tax exemptions on goods and services for non-profit agencies, while countless others piled into the room to testify on each bill. The hearing lasted into the evening, leaving the public and legislators concerned about the economic future of the state.
The Republicans introduced their budget proposal on April 27, which includes no property tax increases and no shifting of teacher pension costs to municipalities among other measures. However, like the Democratic proposal, this proposal is also hurt by the low income tax collection estimates. Though the public, press, and interest groups expected the Republican proposal earlier, the tight margin in the House and Senate forced the Republicans to hold off until after the last Appropriations Committee meeting. No action was taken on this proposal.
Immediately following the Republican budget press conference, the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee met to vote on certain measures. Items that passed out of the committee include the Governors tax package and state bonding for municipal development projects, but with no budget passed out of the Appropriations Committee, the future is uncertain.
Moving forward, the General Assembly will attempt to work together on a budget and revenue package that will benefit Conn. without negatively impacting businesses and residents. The timeline for that agreement is still unknown, but as session begins to speed up, the clock is ticking