HARTFORD - The Connecticut House of Representatives chose not to vote Tuesday after convening to consider an override of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget veto.
Republicans acknowledged they did not have the 101 votes in the lower chamber that would have been necessary to force through their $40.7 billion two-year budget plan. That budget passed last month with 78 votes in the House (including five from Democrats) and 21 Senate votes (three from Democrats), but was rejected by the state’s Democratic governor.
Under House rules, anyone who voted for the budget could have sought to consider an override. No one did.
“They don’t want to stand up on the House floor and defend their budget,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, who said this would be the only day he would allow an override vote. “Can we please all get to the table and come up with a budget that works?”
In vetoing the budget, Malloy cited in part what he said were unworkable changes to the state pension system and cuts to higher education.
Connecticut is the last state in the nation without a budget in place for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Republicans said they did not move for an override vote, because they need at least another week to convince some Democrats that their budget is better than the alternative of running the state under an executive order from the governor.
“When they understand more of what’s in it, rather than the rhetoric from their leadership, then there is hope,” said Themis Klarides, R-Seymour, the House Minority Leader.
She and other Republican leaders have suggested the budget become law, and Democrats then try to pass amendments to change any parts they don’t like.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, suggested another tack on Tuesday. He wants lawmakers to pass the revenue side of the budget now and come back later to debate the more contentious spending plan.
“The Republican budget that passed and the Democratic budget that did not pass, literally, side by side, had $850 million in agreement in revenue,” he said. “One need not read further. One need not study it. They are identical.”
He said that would avoid about $900 million in cuts cities and towns scheduled to go into effect this month under the governor’s executive order. By law, the governor’s order can only provide funding based on the state’s current revenue projections.
But Republicans on Tuesday questioned whether those cuts, which include cutting education grants to 85 districts, are constitutional.
State Attorney General George Jepsen issued an opinion saying he was uncertain how a court would rule on that question, noting the only precedent he could find dated to the late 19th century.
“The precise constitutional limits of the governor’s authority are difficult both to delineate and apply,” he wrote.
Leaders from both chambers met with Malloy on Tuesday. Malloy said he’s confident there will be a bipartisan plan on his desk by Oct. 13.
“I think that reality is setting in at the Capitol,” he said. “And I’m hopeful that, that reality having set in, will be sufficient to get a budget done.”
Connecticut faces a projected $3.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years.
The Oct. 13 date is important because Republican Sen. Art Linares of Westbrook and Democratic Rep. Caroline Simmons of Stamford plan to marry on the 14th and are scheduled to spend the rest of the month on their honeymoon. The state Senate currently has an 18-18 split between Republicans and Democrats.