Republican leaders call on lawmakers to override Malloy's veto of budget

Groton — Six state lawmakers on Thursday urged their colleagues to immediately override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of the Republican budget that passed the General Assembly earlier this month.

“This is a governor, quite frankly, who’s out of ideas. He’s out of talent, he’s out of resources and he’s quickly running out of allies,” said Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, during a news conference outside Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Groton, which closed earlier this year due to budget cuts.

The General Assembly would need a two-thirds vote, or 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate, to override the governor’s veto. A session to discuss the veto and a potential override is scheduled for Oct. 10, Somers said.

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and state Reps. Mike France, R-Ledyard, Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, Kevin Skulczyck, R-Griswold, and Anne Dauphanias, R-Plainfield, also attended the news conference, along with Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and other town leaders.

Without a state budget, Malloy's Aug. 18 executive order could take effect. The order would eliminate state Education Cost Sharing aid to four local municipalities and zero out Mohegan-Pequot Fund grants and payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned property, hospitals and colleges for all 169 cities and towns across the state.

The legislature's approved budget was a Republican plan that gained the support of some Democrats and would have increased education funding and municipal aid to cities and towns.

Malloy vetoed the budget Thursday morning, saying it would damage public colleges and universities, underfund the state's pension obligations and fail to protect Hartford from bankruptcy.

But Somers rejected the notion that cutting the university budget would force closure of regional campuses like the University of Connecticut at Avery Point.

“For Governor Malloy and (UConn President Susan Herbst) to threaten to close campuses like Avery Point that are bursting at the seams, while not even taking a look at the administrative costs of UConn, which are ranked No. 1 in the nation, is shameful and morally negligent,” Somers said.

Herbst won’t be able to close UConn-Avery Point, Simmons said.

“Let her try. My guess is the legislature will override it. And she’ll be out of luck, out of town, out of a job,” he said.

Simmons said the problem isn't Avery Point, but how state budgeting has hurt municipalities by forcing the closure of schools like Pleasant Valley. In Stonington, Malloy's budget plan zeroed out the town's Education Cost Sharing grant, aid for roads and local capital improvement projects, then added a $2 million retirement bill to pay for teachers' retirement, Simmons said.

"And, by the way, it's a teacher's retirement plan that's not negotiated by the towns. It's negotiated by the state," Simmons said.

Simmons accused Malloy of acting as a "solo budget dictator" by asking the legislature for months for a state budget, then vetoing what the General Assembly passed.

The governor’s veto would mean a potential loss of $17.5 million in Education Cost Sharing grant money to Groton, said Groton Town Councilor Dean Antipas, who spoke for Mayor Bruce Flax and the Town Council.

“It’s apocalyptic. It really is apocalyptic,” he said. “I have no idea where we’re going to come up with this money. You tell us to adjust 1 or 2 million, OK. This is, this is beyond a couple of notches in the belt. We can’t handle this.”

But state Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, said in a prepared statement after the news conference that Republicans and Democrats should meet halfway to craft a new budget, instead of pushing for a budget the governor already vetoed.

She said she wouldn't support the Republican budget because it cut higher education and job training programs, and increases taxes on working families by cutting the earned income tax credit and another tax credit.

"Many students in Groton and Ledyard attend UConn-Avery Point because of its close location and affordable education," she said. "Any reductions in funding would mean the closure of regional campuses and multiple academic departments. Additionally, students would see an increase in tuition and class sizes, as well as major cuts to financial aid."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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