No Deal But ‘Substantial Progress' in Budget Talks: Malloy

With no budget deal in hand Tuesday night, eve of the General Assembly's adjournment deadline, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said there's been "substantial progress" in crafting a possible compromise with legislative Democrats to cover next fiscal year's $960 million deficit.

Malloy met with leaders of the General Assembly's majority party for about two hours on Tuesday. They've been at odds for weeks over how to fix the new state budget that takes effect on July 1. Malloy said there have been "tons of sticking points" between the sides.

"I think people are coming together. I think people are understanding where I'm coming from, and I think we've made substantial progress," said Malloy, after emerging from the closed-door talks, acknowledging he was surprised by the amount of progress.

Talks between legislative Democrats and Malloy's budget staff were expected to continue late into the night. Malloy said it's up to the lawmakers to decide whether there will be enough time to pass a budget before Wednesday's midnight adjournment.

"The sooner it gets done, the better it would be for everybody, would be my honest belief," Malloy said.

Earlier in the day, Democratic leaders said they still hoped to schedule a vote on the budget before adjournment. However, that possibility was appearing less likely as more time passed. If there's no budget vote, a special session will be called.

Republican leaders, who represent the minority party in the legislature and have not been part of the Democratic talks, questioned the feasibility of a budget vote on Wednesday. They said it would be unfair to ask legislators to vote on a massive budget bill with only hours to review it.

"It will be totally irresponsible," said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the uncertainty over a budget vote is reminiscent of last year, when members of the House of Representatives were kept waiting more than 24 hours before there were enough votes to pass the two-year, $40.3 billion plan. Three months later, that budget was already in deficit, given the state's continued revenue shortfalls.

Klarides criticized the state's Democratic leaders.

"They're clearly not able to lead this state in a direction the state needs to be," Klarides said.

As budget talks continued at the state Capitol, Malloy's administration announced another round of state employee layoffs on Tuesday. A total of 650 executive branch employees have received pink slips as part of an effort to address the deficit problem.

The state's judicial branch has issued 126 layoffs. Chief Court Administrator Patrick L. Carroll III sent a letter to Malloy and legislative leaders on Monday, warning that "no fewer than an additional 600 layoffs will be required" if Malloy's latest proposed budget fix becomes law. He said "every function which we perform" will be compromised.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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