Nearly a full quarter into the new fiscal year, Connecticut is the only state in the country without a budget.
Governor Dannel Malloy on Thursday delivered on a promise to veto a Republican-backed state budget that passed in both chambers of the state’s General Assembly. In a statement released after the veto, Malloy criticized the Republican budget’s changes to pension plans and cuts in funding for education and cities. State Rep. Dave Yaccarino, R-North Haven, said top Republicans like Senate President Pro Tempore Len Fasano ’81 were engaged in talks with Malloy and had hoped to reach a compromise using the budget that passed in the legislature as a starting point.
Like the governor, state Democrats expressed disapproval of the vetoed budget.
“The math stinks,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, told the News prior to the veto. “It is out of balance. It has pension payment deferrals of millions of dollars, terrible cuts to higher education and a secret teacher tax.”
Throughout budget negotiations, but especially in recent weeks, funding for higher education has proven a major source of partisan conflict. In the face of harsh Democratic censure, Yaccarino defended Republicans’ decision to slash $309 million in funding from the University of Connecticut.
He said the university’s administrative costs have skyrocketed to the highest of any major state university.
“Despite all the funding they get, UConn just doesn’t put much out,” Yaccarino said. “They’re still getting millions of dollars from federal money.”
Local K-12 education has also been a focus for both sides. Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to address the increasing economic divide between urban and suburban communities. The now-dead Republican budget involved a new Education Cost Sharing formula put together using advice from a task force that included both educators and noneducators.
The state is currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, which claims that the state has not properly used its Education Cost Sharing grant.
But Malloy said in his statement that the Republican budget would exacerbate current inequities within the education system by cutting “targeted aid for teacher training, student literacy and programs for struggling districts.” Malloy said the proposed budget uses cuts to the neediest towns to pay for town aid increases to the state’s wealthiest communities.
In an interview with the News earlier in the week, State Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, who serves as vice chair of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, expressed optimism that he and his colleagues can reach an agreement soon.
“It’s just that last 15 to 20 percent that we’re disagreeing on,” he said, in reference to the UConn cuts and pension deferrals. “We know that we’re close. Nobody wants the state to be run by executive order. The issue is not desire. The issue is getting the whole assembly together and communicating.”
For Yaccarino, the solution is not so simple. The problem is that the state simply does not have enough money.
“When you’re broke, you’re broke,” he said. “And this state is really broke.”
With state lawmakers still unable to pass a budget palatable to Malloy, cities are relying on reserve funds to meet basic cash obligations like payroll, said City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer. Larger cities like New Haven and Hartford, which rely heavily on state funding, must contend with an “air of uncertainty,” he said.
Grotheer declined to estimate how much longer New Haven could continue to operate with this uncertainty. Given the many voices that go into spending decisions, he added, providing a simple timeline is impossible.
Tommy Martin | firstname.lastname@example.org