If Governor Dannel Malloy fails to obtain $2 billion in union concessions to balance his proposed budget, the Democrat has pledged to plug that hole through layoffs and additional cuts.
“We’re not going to raise taxes more than we’ve previously agreed,” he reiterated to reporters during a press conference this morning at the capitol.
Significant questions remain over the General Assembly’s role should Malloy’s labor talks fail in deciding where else to find that $2 billion in savings.
The budget deal struck last week between Malloy and Democratic leaders gives the administration extraordinary power to balance the budget without the legislature – something that greatly troubled Republicans but has also been questioned by Democrats.
Malloy subsequently pledged to work it out with the General Assembly, and today said those negotiations continue. But, as he has often stated, added he is happy to take full responsibility (and/or blame) if necessary.
According to Republican leaders, the plan being floated as of this afternoon would grant the legislature 30 days to reject Malloy’s back-up budget. If no action were taken, it would automatically pass without comment or debate, mirroring the process used for years by legislatures to approve labor contracts negotiated by governors.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero balked at the 30 day proposal, arguing the Democrats were not initially concerned about giving up authority to Malloy and it is too easy for the majority leaders to simply decide to do nothing going forward.
“The Democrats didn’t know they had a problem until we told them,” Cafero said.
He and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield want an up or down vote on any additional cuts.
McKinney noted Malloy should embrace that proposal because earlier this year the governor proposed a similar change to the process for approving union contracts.
I asked Malloy spokesman Roy Occhiogrosso to respond to the Republicans and reconcile Malloy’s seemingly contradictory positions, but Occhiogrosso would not even confirm a 30 day plan is on the table.
“The governor understands and appreciates legislators wanting to maintain their role in the budgetary process,” Occhiogrosso responded in an e-mail.
Doug Whiting, spokesman for House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said Donovan did not want to get into specifics but believes the General Assembly has a role in approving future changes to the budget.
“There are conversations still taking place over the language,” Whiting said. “The legislature is responsible for the budget and, going forward, if there are going to be changes the legislature needs to have the opportunity to vote and wants the responsibility to vote on those.”
I also approached Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, who was part of a curious effort earlier this year to grant Malloy greater powers to balance the budget.
Duff, a fiscal conservative, said he wants the legislature to have a role in the final product. But he acknowledged the cynic in him is worried the General Assembly will drag out the process and muck around with Malloy’s additional cuts to the detriment of taxpayers.