- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Reduced funding for mental health services, a prison closure, delayed pay raises for Connecticut state managers and cuts in municipal aid appear on a long list of items Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered Thursday as possible options for balancing the budget.

The Democrat presented the 36-page document during a closed-door meeting with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. It was obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

It is unclear how many of Malloy’s ideas will be welcomed by lawmakers, who hope to reach an agreement on how to close an estimated $350 million to $370 million shortfall in the current $20 billion budget. Both Democrats and Republicans have already balked at cuts Malloy previously proposed to hospitals and social service programs.

Following the meeting, Malloy told reporters there’s a “body of agreement” among the group where spending reductions can be made. He did not elaborate.

“I think there should be a path forward. These numbers aren’t that big folks,” he said. “We’re talking about a $20 billion budget.”

While Malloy downplayed the task facing him and lawmakers, some of his proposals have been offered in past years and proved to be contentious. For example, previous efforts by governors to eliminate legislative commissions on women and minority groups or cut state funding to certain tourist attractions have been vehemently opposed by some lawmakers.

Legislative leaders hope to hold a special legislative session next month to balance the budget midway into the fiscal year. Besides Malloy, Republican leaders offered ideas on how to close the gap and ways to make structural changes for the long term.

Also behind closed doors, the General Assembly’s minority party presented $370 million in budget modifications. While details of the proposal will be publicly released Friday, Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said cuts were not proposed to social services or municipal aid. Changes affecting state employees were suggested.

“This is not just about cuts,” Fasano said. “This is about closing a budget gap, but we must also include long-term strategies. And that’s got to be part of this deal or we’re not going to have a lot of conversations.”

House Democrats previously suggested a 2.5 percent across-the-board budget reduction. A more detailed Democratic plan is expected in the coming days.

Malloy’s list of possible spending cut options also includes:

- Closing two courthouses and a state police troop.

- Eliminating fourth-quarter funding for the fire training schools.

- Reducing funding for job-training programs.

- Reducing charter school seats.

- Scrapping a new program to license tattoo technicians.

- Reducing services to homeless youth.

- Closing a 20-bed detoxification unit at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown.

- Privatizing 10 state-run group homes.

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