- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Ideas ranging from legalized retail marijuana to additional state employee givebacks are being proposed on the eve of budget talks between Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut legislative leaders.

The concepts were included Tuesday in partisan budget proposals that were revised to cover a growing budget deficit in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. Once projected to be $1.7 billion, it’s now on tap to be $2.3 billion. The state’s budget is roughly $19 billion to $20 billion a year.

Malloy released a new version of his two-year budget on Monday that included deeper cuts in aid to cities and towns. The competing budget proposals will be the basis for negotiations that begin Wednesday on a final, two-year tax-and-spending plan that lawmakers and Malloy hope to pass before the General Assembly adjourns June 7.

“This is probably the most challenging budget to put together because revenue projections collapsed in recent weeks,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. She said the goal of the House Republicans was to present a revised budget that mitigated Malloy’s cuts to cities and towns while ensuring no tax increases - a common theme among the leaders of both parties.

Like the Senate Republicans’ proposal, the House GOP has called for additional labor concessions beyond the $700 million Malloy is currently trying to secure with state employee unions. Each proposed roughly $260 million more in total savings in the first year of the budget.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate Democrats released a combined proposal on Tuesday that recommends legalizing the retail sale of marijuana in Connecticut, a move lawmakers predict could generate $60 million in fiscal year 2018 and $180 million in fiscal year 2019. Their plan would also allow at least one new casino at an unnamed location and “pave the way for (highway) tolls in Connecticut.”

The Democratic plan keeps the same amount of labor savings that Malloy is pursuing in labor negotiations, but calls for three furlough days for non-union state employees. It does not raise the state’s sales, personal income or corporate, taxes, but instead increases Department of Motor Vehicle licenses, fees and permits to reflect inflation.

The Democratic proposal rejects Malloy’s idea to require cities and towns to pick up a share of teacher pension costs. It also closes the Southbury Training School for people with developmental disabilities, shutters a prison, sells off surplus state property and consolidates various state agencies such as the Department of Higher Education into the Department of Education.

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