Malloy: Connecticut lawmakers must be realistic about tough budget, there's no easy way out



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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday that legislators need to stop "bemoaning" cuts in his budget proposal and realize they have limited alternatives given the state's constitutional limits on spending.

Malloy called a small group of reporters to his office, saying he wanted to send a message to the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. The blunt-speaking governor said lawmakers can talk about raising taxes to replenish some of his reductions or crafting a brand-new budget plan, but the spending cap foils those plans.

"Let's get a budget. Let's get it going. Let's do our jobs. Let's stop bemoaning the situations we're in and turn ourselves to the hard work of finalizing a budget," said Malloy, adding that there's "no easy way out" and his budget — while unpopular — is the framework for a final deal.

"We have a spending cap. There's no more room. Get used to it," he said. "This is about what we can do collectively, how can we spend the dollars we have the best way we can."

Malloy's comments come as he receives a steady stream of complaints from human service advocates and others about the cuts in his second two-year budget, which were needed to help cover an approximately $1 billion projected deficit in each fiscal year. Malloy has also come under criticism for offering a package that was originally miscalculated and exceeds the spending cap by about $55 million in the first year, which begins July 1. In the second year, it's below the cap by $80 million.

"What the governor has proposed is not balanced, relies on millions in new revenues and violates the state constitutional spending cap," said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. "Calling it a budget is being charitable."

Lawmakers still have about a month before they must vote on tax and spending plans that are typically the basis for closed-door negotiations with the administration.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it's still fairly early in the process and he believes "everything is on the table," including possibly swapping a tax increase for one of Malloy's revenue proposals. The governor called for changes to state tax credit programs and business taxes to help balance his budget.

Looney said lawmakers might also consider making changes to the spending cap rules, especially if the governor's bottom line turns out to be the final bottom line and there's no room to replenish cuts to key programs.

"In the whole range of things that have to be on the table, that's one of them," Looney said.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said lawmakers still intend to push ahead with changes to Malloy's proposal.

"The governor acknowledged that the budget is in the legislature's hands now, and we are committed to building a budget that represents our core Democratic principles — protecting our most vulnerable residents, investing in education and job creation, reflecting a long-term vision that encourages economic growth and is under the spending cap," he said.

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