Lawmakers catch breath, summarize session
After a fast-paced, 13-week budget-adjustment session of the General Assembly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started to catch up on sleep Thursday and assess a cascade of late-breaking legislation that kept them wrangling right up to their 12:01 a.m. deadline.
Majority Democrats and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy say they've succeeded in promoting job growth, increasing loans and incentives for small business, and securing a $4.5 billion commitment from United Technologies to keep the aerospace giant's jobs and infrastructure in Connecticut.
They say raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and creating more than 1,000 new pre-kindergarten seats will mean a stronger state.
Malloy, speaking to reporters Thursday, emphasized that the new budget set to take effect on July 1 is balanced, under the constitutional spending cap and comes with no new taxes. He said it sets the stage for another balanced budget next year.
Malloy also fired one of the first shots of the 2014 gubernatorial race, promising that there will be no tax increases next year if he remains in office, which would be four years after he presided over the largest tax hike in state history.
"Hey, last night we wrapped up what I would call a very productive legislative session," Malloy said. "I'm very proud of it. We have a state that defends the middle class and makes it easier for those striving to be in the middle class. When our middle class in Connecticut succeeds and when we make it just a little bit easier for people to enter the middle class, our state as a whole moves forward."
But Republicans charged Democratics used gimmicks, including a projected $75 million in new revenue from delinquent taxpayers a year after a successful amnesty program. Those set up the new budget for a $300 million shortfall and multibillion-dollar deficits in subsequent years, the GOP said.
"The real question has to be, `Is Connecticut a better place than it was four years ago?' " Cafero said. "The resounding answer is `no.' In reality, the budget isn't balanced. This is the governor who said `no more gimmicks,' and boy, did he double-down big-time."
McKinney, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Malloy in the fall, said "one-party rule" over the last four years has been bad for the state and stifled the voice of state residents. "At the end of the day, this session, like the last three, has moved Connecticut in the wrong direction," McKinney said.
"Clearly (Malloy is) very proud of the record he's created over the last four years and he's going to run on that," McKinney said. "I think the election is going to come down to our party presenting a candidate who can present a better vision for the state of Connecticut than the one we've seen over the last four years."
Republicans are at a 96-54 disadvantage in the House and 22-14 in the Senate.
While tensions between Republicans and Democrats were most obvious during the final days of the Legislature, when the GOP threatened to block action until members reviewed budget-related legislation, friction among Democratic House and Senate leaders might have created more intrigue.
A bill promoted by Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, that would have banned genetically modified grass seed from the state, failed miserably in the House last month, the day after its Senate passage.
Coincidentally, a pet bill of Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, that was aimed at helping towns and cities collect taxes from now-tax-exempt hospitals and universities, died in the Senate without a vote late Wednesday.
Williams, who is retiring from the Legislature, denied that the issues created tension between chambers.
"For those who have been involved in the inside-baseball game of seeing what passes and what doesn't pass in a short session, there is a tremendous amount of legislation that does not wind up being passed because of our timetable," Williams said. "Folks raise a tremendous amount of additional legislation, despite the fact that we have a much-abbreviated timetable."
Williams said Sharkey's tax-related legislation, called a reverse PILOT, was opposed because it would create new taxes on traditionally exempt entities for which towns and cities receive annual so-called payments in lieu of taxes.
Sharkey, appearing with House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, told reporters that the GMO-grass seed bill was voted down promptly in the House because if it had lingered on the calendar, lawmakers would be distracted by a bill that was destined to fail.
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