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Lawmakers fail to approve new budget, impasse continues

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut lawmakers went home early Friday without approving a two-year, $41 billion budget that would have created new taxes and fees but wouldn't have included increases in the sales or income taxes.


Republicans, who pulled the plug on the deliberations following an all-day session Thursday, blamed Democrats for failing to pull together enough votes to pass the budget, The Hartford Courant reported.


House Republican leader Themis Klarides told reporters Thursday night the GOP presented budgets that were "ready to go," but Democrats rejected them.


Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin, said the budget's detailed legal language, which had been delayed on Thursday, wouldn't be ready until at least 6 a.m. Friday.


Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Martin Looney, of New Haven, announced the Senate would convene at noon Friday to vote on the proposed tax and spending plan. "We didn't have a hold-up in the Senate. We were ready to go forward," he said.


The plan before the legislature Thursday included a new tax on cellphones, reduced credits on the state income tax and higher tobacco taxes, officials said.


Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the plan also would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending and restore hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to cities and towns, but would not increase the sales or income taxes.


The Democratic governor and the legislature have yet to approve a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, as well as the following fiscal year. Malloy has been running the government with his limited spending authority.


The state's annual budget is about $20 billion a year, and lawmakers have been grappling with how to close an estimated $3.5 billion budget deficit over the next two years.


If officials can't agree on a budget by the end of the month, Malloy said he intends to implement a plan that could include large cuts to state aid to cities and towns, including education funding.


Officials said the new budget plan includes a 49-cent monthly tax on the estimated 3 million cellphones in Connecticut, a cigarette tax increase of 45 cents a pack and a decrease in the personal property tax exemption on state income tax forms, from $200 to $100.


The proposal also would increase the hospital provider tax to 8 percent, from 6 percent. But that hike would be eased by other funding provided to hospitals, officials said.


The tax increases and other revenue changes would give the state an extra $3.6 billion over the next two years, according to officials.


"The budget framework now being finalized by the General Assembly appears to be a balanced and responsible compromise," Malloy said in a statement.


The budget agreement was reached by Malloy and fellow Democrats in the legislature. Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and are tied with Republicans in the Senate, but Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman would break any tie vote.


Republican lawmakers have criticized the revenue increases in the Democrats' budget plan and have proposed their own plan with no tax increases.

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Rich Valdes

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