- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The legislature’s budget-writing committee suddenly halted plans to vote Tuesday on an alternative to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal, prompting Democratic and Republican leaders to blame each other for the breakdown.

Democratic leaders of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee made a surprise announcement they were adjourning without taking the scheduled vote, expressing disappointment there wasn’t bipartisan support for the two-year, $40.3 billion proposal. They also were upset to learn Republicans were planning to propose their own budget.

“I cannot ask House members of the Appropriations Committee to vote on a compromise bill when we do not have everybody that participated in developing it supporting the bill,” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, the committee’s House Democratic chairman.

While Democrats hold a slim majority on the committee, they claimed they had enough party support to pass the bill but wanted bipartisan support for a grim budget that must cover a projected $1.7 billion deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The state’s main spending account is typically about $18 billion.

Walker’s announcement sparked an exchange of blame between party leaders.

While Democrats contend they didn’t know about the planned GOP budget until recently, Republicans said they’ve been upfront for weeks about their planned alternative tax-and-spending plan and accused Democrats of using them as a scapegoat.

Republicans expect to release their plan Thursday or Friday.

“The whole characterization of blaming it on us when they’re totally inept just makes me angry,” said Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven, the Senate Republican leader.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, took issue with the Democrats’ claims there have been bipartisan budget talks, saying there’s no way Republicans will support a $500 million tax increase. That’s roughly the amount of revenue that would be needed to balance the proposed spending bill.

It’s unclear whether a revised spending bill can be passed before the Appropriations Committee’s Thursday deadline or whether the legislature’s Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee will vote on a separate tax bill.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, invited Republicans back to the negotiating table for a “restart,” estimating the spending proposal is about 85 percent complete. He said there was bipartisan agreement on scrapping several of the more contentious proposals offered by Malloy, a Democrat.

Aresimowicz said both parties oppose Malloy’s ideas to have cities and towns cover one-third of the cost of teacher pensions and allow municipalities to tax local hospitals.

There’s also mutual discontent about Malloy’s proposal to revamp the state’s main education grant by shifting funds from wealthier communities to poorer ones, Aresimowicz said.

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