Budget passes House & Senate with veto-proof majorities; Malloy says there’s a problem

Connecticut State representatives at the Capitol (AP Photo / Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — On day 117 without a state budget, state lawmakers in both the House and Senate have given overwhelming final approval to a budget plan and sent it to Governor Malloy.

But the Governor, who was shut out of the budget preparation process for nearly three weeks, says he sees a billion dollar problem with it.

It was almost all green on the electronic voting tally board. The final vote, 126 to 23 came early Thursday afternoon in the House. That’s 25 votes more than are needed to override a potential veto from Governor Malloy. As the House debate started, the Governor attempted to stop the momentum by telling House leaders that there was a flaw in the bill’s language on the Hospital Tax.

A complicated formula that increases the tax from 6 to 8 percent in exchange for a new Medicaid reimbursement formula from the feds that is designed to leave the hospitals in the black. Almost immediately after the vote, the Governor’s office issued a statement saying, “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.”

“If there is a problem we will come in and make sure it’s fixed because the one group in this building that has protected the hospitals year after year, it’s been the legislature,” said Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby), the House Minority Leader.

The House Speaker, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) added, “We’re still in Special Session, we can ‘Emergency Certify’ another piece of legislation and send it up or they  can send it down.”

In the State Senate early Thursday morning, just two Republicans and one Democrat opposed the budget plan in the 36-member upper chamber. The final vote was 33 to 3, also well above the 24 needed to over ride the Governor. One leader attributes reaching bipartisan consensus to mutual respect and friendship.

Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven), the Republican Senate President Pro tem said, “We don’t have the relationship with the Governor on a familiar basis that we have as legislators…so that’s why, I think, negotiations went more smoothly without him, not in spite of him.”

Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) the Democratic Senate President Pro tem added, “To get 33 votes in a budget that had been so contentious up until recently, to come together in this way I think is very gratifying.”

The Governor has several choices. He can veto this budget and lawmakers can come back and vote on it again, he can sign it and line item veto some parts of it, or he can let it become law without his signature. His statement says they are carefully reviewing it.

To read the full budget bill, click here. 

On Thursday afternoon, Kelly Donnelly, Communications Director for Governor Malloy, issued the following statement, in which the Governor calls the hospital tax language an “egregious error.”

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.  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 response, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) and Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) said that if there’s a problem, they’ll fix it.

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