A seismic shift? Frey, Boucher back budget and wait for Malloy to sign

A roughly $18 billion-a-year state budget — put together by Republicans in the legislature, and passed with help from moderate Democrats — has the committed backing of Ridgefield’s State Rep. John Frey and State Sen. Toni Boucher. It awaits action by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy — a veto, or possibly compromise talks with Republicans.

“Connecticut just turned a page — it really cannot be overstated how unprecedented last week’s budget votes in the legislature were, or the significance this will have on the future of our state,” said Rep. Frey (R-111).

The GOP’s two-year budget passed 78-72 Friday, Sept. 15, with five Democrats joining all Republicans in the House, where Democrats hold a five-vote numerical advantage.

In the Senate, with an even 18-18 split between the parties, three Democrats had earlier joined 18 Republicans to pass the GOP budget 21-15.

“This was a much-needed victory for our state and its taxpayers,” said Sen. Boucher (R-26). “Personally, seeing this shift started by three Democrats in the Senate was incredibly gratifying.”

While there was widespread talk of Gov. Malloy vetoing the GOP budget, by late Tuesday he had not done so. On Monday, the governor said there were numerous flaws in the Republicans’ work, but also spoke of seeking agreement.

“Collectively, we need to muster the fortitude to take bold action, to demonstrate a willingness to make hard choices, and to have the courage to compromise,” Malloy said.

Both Malloy and legislators voiced optimism about finding agreement on Connecticut’s two-year, $3.5 billion deficit crisis before Oct. 1, when — without a deal — Malloy’s executive order dramatically cutting state spending and aid to municipalities would take effect.

Closer to home

At Ridgefield’s Board of Finance meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 19, members wondered what would happen to the Republican budget, which largely restored money Ridgefield stood to lose in earlier drafts, and also avoided a $4-million town payment toward teacher pension costs previously borne by the state.

“From our budget perspective, we do pretty well,” Finance board Chairman Dave Ulmer said.

“It’s on the governor’s desk,” said Sean Connelly. “If he doesn’t sign it…”

“He can veto it,” Ulmer said. But if the governor took no action at all, after a certain number of days — by the end of the week, maybe — the budget would become law without his signature.

“It’s not a pocket veto, it’s a pocket approval,” Ulmer said.

Frey reacts

Frey, House Republicans’ minority whip, was heartened by passage of the GOP budget with Democrats’ help.

“For years now, I have insisted that our state cannot continue to raise taxes and increase spending and also expect to stop the persistent deficit cycle, grow the economy, and fully fund core government services,” Frey said. “Last week made it clear that now a majority of legislators representing both sides of the aisle came around and begun to realize that this state needs new fiscal policies that force Connecticut to live within its means in order to turn the economy around.

“I think families and businesses across the state can take heart in witnessing this seismic shift in Connecticut’s political landscape which should inspire hope that prosperity could be more achievable than many of us thought.”

Rep. Frey said the legislature’s budget avoided transferring teacher pension costs onto towns, and also restored Ridgefield’s education funding back to current levels.

“If this budget were to become law, towns would not have to raise property taxes on homeowners in order to cover costs imposed by the state, which would be a huge relief for our already-overtaxed residents,” Frey said.

Two weeks left

Acknowledging the looming deadline, Sen. Boucher hoped the bipartisan effort was a step toward further change.

“Connecticut has two weeks to pass a budget before the governor’s latest executive order decimates state funding for education and municipalities,” Boucher said. “The governor and Democrats truly have no choice but to honestly and respectfully negotiate with Republicans on a new budget, a budget that represents real change for our state.

“Both the Republican budget passed last week, and any responsible budget negotiated in the coming weeks will include some painful cuts. I am not in favor of many of these cuts,” Boucher said. “However, the reality of Connecticut’s dire financial situation requires many difficult decisions so that municipalities, education, and taxpayers can be protected. If we stay the present course, our state faces billion-dollar budget deficits far into the future.”