Democratic legislative leaders emerged from closed-door negotiations with Gov. Ned Lamont Friday afternoon with a tentative understanding for a two-year state budget which raises no taxes and scraps plans to join a regional compact on gas prices.
Both sides separately addressed reporters on the plan – which no one was quite willing to call an agreement – for a two-year, $46 billion budget after weeks of negotiations and public positioning.
Following the meeting, House Speaker Matt Ritter backed away from plans to run a budget vote over the weekend without Lamont’s approval. There appeared to be renewed confidence that the legislature could pass an agreed-upon deal at some point next week before the session expires at midnight Wednesday.
“Alright, I think we’re getting to a budget,” Lamont told reporters during a late afternoon press conference in his office. “You know God is in the details, so we’re going to find out over the course of the next 48 hours.”
A notable casualty after the Friday talks was Lamont’s proposal to have Connecticut join the Transportation Climate Initiative, a cap-and-invest program that would raise gas prices. During the meeting, lawmakers told the governor they did not have adequate support for it.
“The sticking point is, it would cause [an] increase in the gasoline tax to low-income people,” Senate President Martin Looney said.
The governor signed onto the multi-state agreement late last year, but it required approval by the legislature. Lamont walked away from the concept just hours after appearing at a rally outside the state Capitol building pushing for adoption of the initiative.
“It’s always a struggle trying to figure out how to get Connecticut to pay for transportation,” Lamont said. “Everyone stands next to me at the bridge but doesn’t always want to pay for that.”
Ritter said TCI may find more support among lawmakers in the future if more states sign onto the agreement. The governor said he had assurances from legislative leaders that they would run another proposal to enact a highway user fee on tractor-trailer trucks as part of a different bill.
House Speaker Matt Ritter and Senate President Martin Looney. Photo credit: Hugh McQuaid (courtesy of CTNewsJunkie.com)
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