Republicans disagree with optimistic Speaker on budget battle progress

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– All three sides– the Governor, Democratic legislative leaders and Republican legislative leaders finally had their budget crisis solution plans on the same table on Wednesday afternoon.

This is the first of what’s expected to be a series of work sessions to try to find common ground in cutting $5 billion out of the budget over the next two years.

The Governor rushed back to the Capitol from the Coast Guard Academy graduation and was joined by the top leaders from both political parties to discuss their plans.

All three sides agree, at this point that there should be no increases in either the Sales or Income Tax.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans have also proposed that Social Security income should be exempt from the State Income Tax, although both would do it in different ways.

All sides agree there must be at least $700 million in union concessions the first year and over $800 million in give backs in the second year.

But there are some big ticket big disagreements.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans disagree with the Governor and don’t want to force cities and towns to make a $400 million a year contribution to the teacher pension fund.  The State has always bankrolled that fund.

Democrats have included tolls, legal marijuana, and a third casino in their plan. All three of those ideas remain quite controversial. And Democrats and Republicans do not have the stomach for the municipal aid cuts in the Governor’s plan.

House Speaker Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) says he’s optimistic they can come together before the end of the General Assembly Session on June 7.

“The budget is 90 percent there, 85 percent there for all of us, and  there’s 15 percent that we really do not like; all the caucuses, the Executive Branch,” Aresimowicz said. “But we’re willing to swallow and say we’re all elected by the residents of the state of Connecticut, and we’re going to do the best we can.”

But House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) disagrees, saying,  “The next 15 percent is about $2.7 billion. I don’t think that’s chump change. The 15 percent is the tough stuff that’s what we need to work on.”

The Republican Senate President Pro term, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) added,  “And I don’t think we’re at 85 percent, let’s be clear.”

“The next thing, meaningful thing is to figure out whether there’s any labor agreement to be had,” Gov. Malloy said.

The Governor said earlier in the week that needs to happen in days, not weeks.

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