Day 89: GOP urges governor to sign state budget - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Day 89: GOP urges governor to sign state budget

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Republican Sen. Len Fasano discusses lawmakers' latest meeting with the governor about the budget. (WFSB) Republican Sen. Len Fasano discusses lawmakers' latest meeting with the governor about the budget. (WFSB)
The Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors seeks to get higher education cuts out of the state budget. (WFSB) The Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors seeks to get higher education cuts out of the state budget. (WFSB)
(WFSB file) (WFSB file)

The pressure continues to mount for Connecticut lawmakers as the state reaches 89 days without a budget.

Though a budget was passed earlier this month, Gov. Dannel Malloy continues to say that he'll veto it because it's unbalanced. It would require two thirds majority in both chambers to overturn the governor's veto. 

"There is some distance between everyone,” Malloy said. “I think things will become clearer when we put out our statements on the budget. They'll sit on their hands and wait to try to overturn that veto. But, I am hopeful we can get there."

While the governor said he remains hopeful, Republicans are renewing calls for the governor to sign the budget that passed by both the House and Senate. 

"The governor intends on vetoing this budget, which would be a critical mistake for the people of Connecticut, but let me say this if he does veto it," Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said. "We have a second shot."

Wednesday's meeting between the governor and legislative leaders lasted almost two hours. That meeting was longer than most of their other meetings.

"We are all here. We are still talking," Majority Leader Bob Duff said. "We are meeting."

A hospital tax once again became a main topic. Both parties agree the tax should be  increased from 6 percent to 8 percent, which would raise the annual tax from $556 million to $900 million. But, the deal is contingent upon hospitals getting more federal reimbursement, which is a deal that needs to be signed off on soon.

"We strongly urge legislators to act quickly to move forward and vote on the hospital agreement to maximize federal funds to benefit patients, hospitals, and the state,” Connecticut Hospital Association said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Lawmakers and the governor were pressed again on when a state budget may be ready that Malloy would sign into law. There was no definitive answer on Wednesday. Lawmakers and the governor only said they would know more in the coming days. 

Republican lawmakers held a news conference in Hamden on Wednesday morning and urged Malloy to sign the budget. State Sen. George Logan said the current proposal gives more funding to his town and will keep programs running.

"It restores funding for vital services," Logan said. "It's a budget that protects services, particularly in low-income neighborhoods that were cut in the other budgets."

"If he does veto we have a second shot and that is to override the veto -- and how do you do that? Everyone has the responsibility to get on the phone, call the legislators and say you need to override the veto," Fasano said. 

Fasano added the legislature is separate from the governor and they have a final say in the budget.

On Wednesday, college students and faculty gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford in an effort to get higher education off of the chopping block.

The Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors reacted and gave the current budget proposal a failing grade. They said proposed cuts to colleges and universities should not be part of the Republican budget that was recently passed by lawmakers.

"We don't believe the Republican budget has met the objectives of the students, the young people the working families and the people of Connecticut,"  Eastern Connecticut State University Professor Elena Tapia said. "We say it's time to revise and resubmit." 

Educators said the system has already taken a reduction of $66 million over the last few years and the proposed budget would cut about $93 million more.

"Each year the cuts become more drastic across the board with state colleges and universities getting the hardest blows," Southern Connecticut State University student Jamie Kelly said. 

GOP leadership said they are willing to compromise on cuts to higher education.

"We have had conversations. We continue to have them today about the concerns with it," Minority Leader Themis Klarides said. "We feel strongly about the policy decisions we made and things that can be changed."

CT State Colleges and Universities President Mark E. Ojakian, who was out-of-state on Wednesday, said a "majority of our students are trying to balance their daily studies with full or part-time jobs, taking care of their families and other real-life obligations" while trying to fund their own education. 

"As I have said repeatedly throughout the year, in recent weeks, and as I have communicated in letters, calls, emails, and meeting with our legislative leaders over the last week: we cannot balance the state budget crisis on the backs of our students. We cannot pass on further financial burden to our graduates who are from Connecticut and want to stay and work here. We know CSCU will play a role in helping to balance our state budget, and that is why we have been proactively pursuing structural changes to remain sustainable in the long term. We are doing our part to be responsible and accountable to the investments made by Connecticut taxpayers, our students, and their families," Ojakian said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Ojakian said he has met with lawmakers and will continue to meet with them to discuss the state budget

"I will continue to be vocal and ask our students and staff to the do the same.  Together we can help them understand how their decisions will impact the future of our students and our state," Ojakian said. 

On Wednesday, the board of directors Connecticut Council of Small Towns called for the governor to sign the "budget recently adopted by the state legislature." 

“Small towns throughout Connecticut are facing tremendous uncertainty about how cuts in state aid may impact their communities," First Selectman of Litchfield and Connecticut Council of Small Towns President Leo Paul said in a statement on Wednesday. "Due to delays in adopting a state budget, towns have already lost out on a significant amount of funding for needed road repair and infrastructure projects." 

Paul added that municipalities are "facing deep cuts in education funding and other municipal aid programs under the Governor’s Resource Allocation Plan."

"Given the magnitude of these cuts, towns are very concerned about the impact on our schools, our children, and on our property taxpayers,” Paul said.

Connecticut Council of Small Towns said they supported the following items in the approved legislature:

  • Teachers’ Pension Costs 
  • Binding Arbitration Changes 
  • Prevailing Wage Reform 
  • Regionalism/Shared Services Provisions 
  • Regional School District Governance

Under the governor's Resource Allocation Plan, Connecticut Council of Small Towns said the funding for the Education Cost Sharing grants from Fiscal Year 2017 would drop 27 percent. They added that "in 28 towns, property taxes are projected to increase by more than $1,000 per year and in 64 towns by more than $750 per year." 

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to cut local education budgets at this point in the fiscal year. As a result, many towns may be forced to issue supplemental tax bills to make up the difference,” Connecticut Council of Small Towns Executive Director Betsy Gara said. “If the Governor’s Resource Allocation Plan remains in effect, property taxes are projected to increase by 20-30% in some of Connecticut’s smaller communities, imposing an untenable hardship on many struggling households.” 

Lawmakers and the governor said they were hoping a deal would be reached before the end of the month; however, that's looking unlikely.

“Signing the budget that was adopted by the state legislature will protect our communities from these devastating cuts which will force steep hikes in property taxes,” Paul said.  

Without a budget in place, the state Medical Examiner's Office is at risk of losing its national accreditation.

Officials said the office has until Wednesday to show the National Association of Medical Examiners that it has addressed a short-term staffing problem or it would completely lose accreditation.

If a deal isn't struck by Oct. 1, Malloy will have to issue another executive order which will include more painful cuts.

Stay with Eyewitness News for continuing coverage of the state's budget crisis.

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