State Senate, House Pass Bi-Partisan Budget

The state House of Representatives and the state Senate have passed a budget.

The State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bi-partisan budget just before 2 a.m. Thursday with a vote of 33-3. Then, members of the House passed the budget around 12:45 p.m., with a vote of 126 to 23.

Kelly Donnelly, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s director of communications, released a statement saying the governor’s staff is analyzing the bill and already “uncovered egregious problems relating to the hospital tax.”

“Since January, Governor Malloy has been calling on the legislature to take action to adopt a balanced and responsible budget. We recognize that they believe that they have achieved this end and are now sending a budget to him for his consideration and we appreciate their work. At the same time, it is incumbent on the Governor and his administration to carefully review this budget – a complete document of nearly 900 pages that was made available only a few minutes before it was called on the floor,” Donnelly said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our review has already uncovered egregious problems relating to the hospital tax that could put the state budget out of balance by over a billion dollars. Staff will continue to analyze the bill, weighing its merits and faults, so that the Governor can arrive at an informed and carefully considered decision regarding his support.”

In the two year, $41 billion plan, Hartford would be saved from bankruptcy.

It also includes at least $130 million in cuts to the University of Connecticut.

"With respect to funding for UConn, this budget is without question an improvement over what was approved in September, which contained a $309 million reduction that would have been catastrophic for the university," UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in a statement.

"We are very relieved that kind of cut has been avoided. That said, $143 million is still a very significant cut and it will have an impact. We are currently reviewing the document to determine if language contained elsewhere in the budget could result in even deeper cuts to the university than the appropriation number shows," Reitz said.

The budget plan also increases the cigarette tax and sets a limit as to who can claim the $200 property tax credit.

In addition, legislators voted to raise the cap on the car tax up to 39 mills in the first year and 45 mills the following year.

At Wednesday afternoon's General Assembly Finance Committee meeting, a majority of lawmakers voted in favor of adopting the revenue side of the budget deal.

"We’re hopeful that it’s a strong signal to the governor that this is the direction the legislature wants to move in," State Rep. Christopher Davis (R) said.

Since the start of the month, legislative leaders from both parties held closed-door negotiations without Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) in the room.

"Difficult times, but the leadership of all four caucuses stepped up, everybody compromised," Democratic State Senator John Fonfara said.

At the Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Len Suzio was one of only two Republican senators who voted against approving the revenue side of the budget.

"What they’re seeing is the destruction of their cities and towns by the governor’s executive order and they feel this is their only choice," he said, "I don’t think this is the only choice."

Suzio raised concerns with 17 tax and fee increases and told NBC Connecticut he preferred the GOP budget that passed with a few Democratic votes before the governor vetoed it.

"This is just more of the same medicine that is destroying our state," he said.

Legislative leaders left out some of the taxes proposed during the long budget impasse.

"A lot of those taxes that were included in the governor’s proposal earlier -- like a restaurant tax, increasing the hotel tax, second home tax, cell phone taxes -- those are not included in this and that’s important for the public to know," Rep. Davis said.

NBC Connecticut has learned there is less money in this budget plan for homeowners with crumbling foundations.

Sources said the previously agreed to budget by Democrats and the governor would have created a $110 million pool of money to help fix foundations – the current bi-partisan budget takes that number down to $40 million.

Saying he still needs time to review the budget documents, Malloy has not yet publically indicated whether he would sign or veto this version of the budget.

"Whether I sign this budget or not, I certainly will have had a lot of impact on it," Malloy said Wednesday morning. "Perhaps not as much as might have been optimal but find out where all that pension language Republicans were looking for."

Republican House Leader Themis Klarides said Tuesday she hopes this budget will have enough support to override a potential veto by the governor.

Members of the House are scheduled to meet for their budget debate and vote at 10 a.m.

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