- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

BOSTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) — The impasse in filling a deficit in the current fiscal year's budget in Connecticut is hardening.

With all sides dug in after five days of intense budget debate, some lawmakers are calling for a cooling-off period.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives have failed to come up with enough votes to pass a tax- and program-cutting package. They reportedly are three votes short.

State employee union leaders fiercely oppose the plan unless more than 3,000 laid-off workers are reinstated.

Republicans and some Democrats oppose a tax-increase that would hit individual middle class wage earners making as little as $53,125 a year.

As a result, House Democrats decided over the weekend to abandon their plan for now, according to the Hartford Courant.

Republican Gov. John G. Rowland and lawmakers had hoped to erase the $650-million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Unless the stalemate is broken, it is possible that might not happen before they have to address an estimated $1.5-billion deficit in fiscal 2004.

Rowland has already warned against borrowing to cover the current shortfall.

A "cooling-off period" in the debate would allow Rowland to negotiate concessions with the unions, but that was unlikely unless the unions dropped a federal civil rights lawsuit against the governor, the Courant reported.

Rowland's aides have called the cooling-off period a "waste of time."

No votes on the Democratic plan are expected before Rowland delivers his annual budget address on Feb. 19.

In Maine, Gov. John Baldacci has proposed layoffs, optional unpaid time off for state workers and a continued hiring freeze to eliminate a $1.1 billion shortfall in the state budget, according to the Kennebec Journal.

About two-thirds of the deficit would be made up by funding nearly all state agencies at current levels, administration officials said.

While some 182 positions are scheduled for layoffs, officials hope some will fill other vacant state jobs, leaving only 80 actually unemployed.

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