With half an hour to go before the General Assembly was scheduled to adjourn, the Connecticut Senate voted in favor of a two-year, $40.3 billion Democratic budget that drew sharp criticism from several of the state's major employers for raising taxes.
The fiscal package cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate on a bipartisan vote of 19-17.
It narrowly cleared the House of Representatives on a 70-73 vote earlier in the day.
The vote came around 11:30 p.m. and it appeared uncertain whether there would be enough time to pass the legislation.
The General Assembly's minority Republicans were still debating the bill, prompting Senate President Martin Looney to consider a controversial parliamentary procedure to stop the discussion.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano agreed to stop debate, but said the GOP was frustrated by not being involved in the budget.
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, who spent time away from the Senate as he recovered from serious injuries in a fall, cast the last "yes" vote to make the 19-17 tally. Now it passes on to the governor.
The budget, which passed in the House after a 22-hour session, had been heavily criticized by major businesses for raising taxes.
Debate on the two-year, roughly $40 billion fiscal package, began at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday and was passed around 10:30 a.m. in the House.
Two budget items that would affect residents are a higher cigarette tax and a lower car tax, capped at 29.36 mills. Half a percent of sales tax revenue will be put toward transportation in Connecticut.
Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said in a statement that the budget is balanced, under the spending cap, protects vital services families depend on and helps Connecticut's middle class by providing property tax relief.
“It invests in Connecticut's transportation infrastructure which is critical to our future economy, asks the wealthy to pay a little more, and sets our state on a more stable, equitable path going forward," Sharkey said. “As we have done throughout the session, we have listened to ideas and concerns of all interested parties and addressed those issues whenever possible. This budget is no different.”
Democratic legislators and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration reached the budget agreement reached on Sunday and the House originally planned to vote on it on Monday, but those plans were scuttled after General Electric Co., Aetna Inc. and the Travelers Companies Inc. each released rare public statements taking issue with approximately $700 million in business tax increases.
“We appreciate that legislators worked hard to restore funding to vital social services but are disappointed the necessary increase in funding to help caregivers of the intellectually disabled earn a living wage was not included in this year’s budget,” SEIU spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said in a news release. “Caregivers who spend all day caring for our most vulnerable don’t deserve to live in poverty and their everyday struggle continues after the last vote is cast this legislative session. We remain committed to this long fight for a fair, living wage for caregivers and believe that a stronger Connecticut starts with addressing the wages earned by the people caring for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Republican said the budget comes with too many taxes.
“The draconian method that the Democrats used to force this budget bill, universally agreed to be a bad budget, through the legislature is completely unacceptable. This disastrous budget is only overshadowed by an even worse process," Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, said in a statement. "The budget began with special interest deals behind closed doors. It is now ending with a vote negotiated behind closed doors, in the hallway and on the floor - shaped by deals made in exchange for votes. The budget, the implementer and future bonding agendas will disclose the real truth.”
Policymakers said they spent the overnight hours trying to strike a balance between spending money on social services and trying to make large employers happy.