For the first time since the General Assembly approved a GOP drafted spending plan for the next two years, Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke publicly about the next steps.
The governor said he, “owed Republicans a full vetting,” of their budget, but maintained that he intended to veto the plan.
Sen. Len Fasano, the top GOP member in the Senate renewed his call for the governor to sign the bipartisan-passed budget into law, but did say he was open to further talks to come to a negotiated solution.
“I think he should sign it,” Fasano said during an interview. “Absent that, he should at least call people into a room. We’re always willing to have discussions and talk to people about the budget ideas and now we go from there.”
Malloy’s biggest issues with the budget revolve around the GOP plan when it comes to pension fund spending.
The budget, which is expected to reach the governor’s desk by the end of the week, spends less money annually on retirement benefits for state employees while mandating that they pay more for their plans starting in 2027.
The Republican budget puts those savings into action for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 fiscal year. The governor said that kind of budgeting is exactly what’s led to Connecticut having one of the most underfunded pension systems in the country. He even accused Republicans of taking part in “Rowland-era,” budgeting.
“If you begin the practice again of the Rowland administration, of taking money off the table, calling it savings, when it actuality what that is, is not paying the pension obligation then what we’re seeing the reintroduction of Rowland economics and that’s not something that I’m likely to agree to,” Malloy said.
Fasano said such characterizations aren’t accurate, and that, “our budget is balanced.”
Malloy also took aim at the GOP cuts to higher education, both to the State College and University System and UConn, though it appears UConn was the true target.
According to a UConn spokesman, the system faces $308 million in funding cuts from the state over the two-year budget period. As a percentage of UConn’s budget, that amounts to 20 percent in the first year and 29 percent in the second year.
UConn’s president Susan Herbst warned such reductions could lead to higher class sizes, closed colleges, higher tuition and possibly the elimination of Division 1 Athletics.
Fasano said Herbst is looking for headlines and isn’t being truthful.
“That’s a typical scare tactic to try to get people up in arms in the state of Connecticut,” Fasano said. “She knows and I know she’s never going to do any of that stuff.”
Malloy framed the cut to UConn as a blow to economic development.
As for what happens next, all sides of the budget debate are calling for renewed bipartisan negotiations.
When asked if he thought the GOP could vote for a budget that is a true give and take among all parties, the governor said, “I’m an optimist. They’ve done it once, maybe they can do it again.”