- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly appear poles apart over how to fix the projected $922 million deficit in next fiscal year’s budget before the legislative session’s May 4 deadline to adjourn.

Leaders of the majority party skipped an invitation to a closed-door meeting with the governor on Tuesday, leaving Malloy to meet solo with the minority Republican legislative leaders to discuss the troubled budget of about $20 billion.

The Democrats said it makes no sense to meet with Malloy to discuss tackling the deficit when they are still awaiting final revenue estimates for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The figures are expected to be released by April 30.

“It’s hard to put a budget together unless you know exactly what the numbers are and what the target is,” said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, adding that it’s responsible to avoid cuts that may be unnecessary.

He said once the final estimates are available, the Democrats plan to vote on a revised budget before the session adjourns, possibly with Republican support.

The Democrats’ decision to forgo Tuesday’s meeting was the latest sign of acrimony that’s developed between the governor and legislators this session. Sharkey acknowledged that many rank-and-file lawmakers were offended by the revised budget proposal Malloy offered last week, about two months after unveiling his first budget.

The governor’s new plan would cut about $352 million more to address the worsening deficit, and those reductions target many priorities for legislative Democrats, including funding for hospitals and municipalities.

Sharkey has referred to Malloy’s unusual mid-session budget as both a “public enemies list” and “a personal hit list.”

“There’s a lot of frustration within our caucus over what I think they perceive is a disrespect for the priorities we have, both Democrats and Republicans,” Sharkey said.

Malloy said he wasn’t taking Sharkey’s comments personally, saying he understands the leaders have to accommodate the concerns of their members.

“I’m going to chalk it up to everybody has a bad day,” he said.

Sharkey later countered: “No, I had a very good day.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Malloy’s conciliatory tone had changed. He again criticized the Democrats for not putting forth a budget plan that covers the entire deficit and makes spending cuts difficult and unpopular.

“None of this is a recipe for a good budget,” he said. “It’s a recipe for gimmicks and Band-Aid solutions.”

Municipalities, social service agencies and other groups are anxiously watching the budget turmoil and wondering whether their state funding will ultimately be cut. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities launched a new 30-second television ad Tuesday that urges lawmakers to preserve aid to cities and towns in order to prevent local tax increases and reductions in services.

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