- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A frustrated Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday he’s dumbfounded that Connecticut lawmakers are not voting on a temporary budget that could avoid needless pain for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, whose services will now be slashed because there’s no plan in place.

The Democrat focused his ire on the House of Representatives, saying the chamber “failed” by not passing his stop-gap plan, which would have given lawmakers more time to come up with a final, two-year budget agreement that will cover a projected $5 billion deficit. Instead, House Democrats, who hold a narrow seven-vote majority, released an 11th hour, $40 billion two-year proposal they said could become the basis for a final, bipartisan budget agreement that could be ready for a vote July 18.

“We think this is a great starting point,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

Malloy was unimpressed, saying the Democrats’ plan, which increases the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax to 6.99 percent to help maintain municipal funding, is “not a budget,” is “designed to preserve the status quo” and “leads with revenue, underfunds debt service, guts transportation.” The plan also would increase the 15 percent hotel occupancy tax by one percent and allow municipalities to impose a one percent tax on restaurant meals.

“I’ve had enough,” Malloy told reporters, urging residents to call their representatives and ask them why they haven’t acted on a budget and whether they were even in the state Capitol building on Thursday. “This is a failure of the legislature.”

Lawmakers had some slim hopes that they might be able to pass a two-year budget, or more likely a temporary budget, before the fiscal year ends on Friday. Democratic and Republican Senate leaders were unified in wanting to pass Malloy’s so-called mini budget. But Aresimowicz said passing the temporary budget only “kicks the can down the road” and doesn’t solve the state’s overall budget problems.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Malloy’s proposal, which increased revenues, was problematic. Her caucus released its own mini budget on Thursday, but it became lost in the political chaos at the state Capitol.

Without a two-year budget or a temporary budget in place by midnight Friday, Malloy will be required to sign an executive order that allows him to maintain essential state services and satisfy obligations considered crucial to the state. He will only be allowed to allocate funds under his executive authority and will not be able to increase revenues.

Deep spending cuts are expected because the amount of state revenue projected for the new fiscal year falls far short of the current fiscal year’s expenditures. Also, there are increases in pension contributions for retired teachers and debt service, as well as caseload growth at the state’s health and human service agencies.

Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, warned that community providers that help people dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, re-entry into the community from prison and domestic violence will be forced to close programs and lay off workers in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Malloy said he’ll be unable to stop or delay a scheduled 3 percent pay increase for 62 Superior Court judges. Malloy and state lawmakers had intended to defer the raises because of the state’s budget woes. Malloy said he worries how that could affect votes on labor savings agreements currently being considered by other state employees to help Connecticut save $1.5 billion over two years. Those savings, which still need union ratification, are considered crucial to balancing a new state budget.

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