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Legislature Passes Republican Budget, Governor Promises Veto

Sep 16, 2017

The Connecticut legislature approved a Republican-backed budget early Saturday, sending it to the desk of a governor who promises to veto it and prolonging the state's fiscal uncertainty.

“This is the first step toward getting the state back on sane fiscal footing and putting Connecticut back on the road to solvency,’’ Republican House Leader Themis Klarides said after her chamber passed the bill Saturday morning. “We owe it to the state of Connecticut to act, and have the Governor sign this bipartisan legislation."

That, though, is unlikely.

In a statement issued earlier in the day, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy promised he would kill the bill before it becomes law.

“I believe the amended budget that passed in the Senate today is unbalanced, and if it were to reach my desk I would veto it," Malloy said. "It relies on too many unrealistic savings, it contains immense cuts to higher education, and it would violate existing state contracts with our employees, resulting in costly legal battles for years to come."

The state hasn't had a budget in place for over two months, and this was the latest effort to fix that problem.

But Democratic hopes for a resolution were crushed when three moderate Senate Democrats broke ranks Friday, voting in favor of a Republican budget amendment, and destroying their own party's immediate chances of passing a budget.

Democratic Senators Gayle Slossberg, Joan Hartley, and Paul Doyle voted for the amendment. Speaking on the Senate floor, Doyle said he had to do what he thought was right.

"Yes, I may be risking my political career," he said. "My party may not be happy with me. But to be honest, frankly, I don't care."

Martin Looney, the leading senate Democrat, pleaded with his colleagues to vote against the amendment, saying that it would face an uncertain future in the state house and on the governor's desk. 

Looney said that a vote for the Republican budget was a vote in favor of a continuing stalemate that could last into the fall.

Watch Democratic leaders speak with reporters after the vote:

The Republican budget got early praise from state business leaders at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

“The budget approved by the Senate today includes much-needed long-term structural reforms and addresses the increasing costs of state government,” CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan said in a statement. “While this budget package is not perfect, it does represent the best opportunity to close the deficit and put Connecticut on a more sustainable fiscal path.”

It also got an early panning from UConn President Susan Herbst, who said the Republican budget would cut UConn spending by over $300 million over two years.

She called the budget "appalling," and said it could result in the closure of some campuses and much of UConn Health, the elimination of some majors, the end of some athletic programs, and more.

"It is difficult to describe how destructive the approved budget would be to UConn and higher education in Connecticut," she said. "We thank the governor for his promised veto of this measure, and we thank all of those who believe in higher education for Connecticut and its residents."

With Malloy's pledged veto, many of those scenarios would seem unlikely.  But given the political stalemate at the state capitol, a speedy resolution seems equally so.

Tucker Ives contributed to this report.