Democratic lawmakers, governor discuss possible late changes to Connecticut's budget

Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday discussed possible 11th-hour changes to the state budget, including "alternative revenues."

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The private meeting came a week after the Democratic governor announced his own plan to roll back nearly $224 million of the $1.5 billion tax increases in the two-year, $40.3 billion Democratic budget that narrowly passed the General Assembly on June 3. Malloy's proposal targeted mostly the business tax increases, which have been strongly criticized by some major employers, two of whom threatened to move out of the state.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said Malloy's proposal won't be the "final word" on what rank-and-file lawmakers consider when they return to the state Capitol for a special session, likely at the end of this month, to vote on the last-minute budget changes and other unfinished bills.

"We didn't come to any conclusion, but we did agree that we're going to work together to get this done," Sharkey said of Friday's meeting with Malloy.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said lawmakers need to consider the ramifications of rolling back some of the tax increases included in the budget. Various human-services advocates have voiced concern about Malloy seeking additional budget-cutting authority to make up the revenue loss. They argue the budget is already bare bones for programs serving the needy and people with mental illnesses and disabilities.

"We need to look at this whole issue from both ends," Looney said. "The governor has identified some problems on the revenue side, and I think we're going to look at both some spending cuts and perhaps some alternative revenues to try to close the gap."

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Looney did not elaborate on whether "alternate revenues" could mean other tax increases or an untapped pool of money.

When asked about the meeting, Malloy told reporters the discussions were "fruitful" but would not elaborate.

The legislature's minority Republicans were not included in the closed-door talks on Friday. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said it was infuriating that alternative revenue sources were discussed during a meeting among only a handful of people.

"This is really the process our state is complicit with? A back-room discussion where a potential new revenue source is offered and legislative leaders will not even share the idea," Fasano said. "When will they tell the public and when will they tell Republicans?"

House Democrats are scheduled to meet privately on Tuesday to discuss the budget situation. Sharkey said he expects his members will present their own ideas for any late budget changes at that meeting. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Meanwhile, more corporate criticism of the budget came to light on Friday. A June 9 letter to Malloy from the CEO of New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker Inc. warned how the state appears to be "determined to become inhospitable for corporate operations." Sharkey said the governor told the lawmakers on Friday that he's been in touch with the company and discussed how some tax changes will likely be made.