The only question that was supposed to remain as the General Assembly winds down to its constitutionally mandated closing date of Wednesday at midnight was whether the state employee labor unions would ratify the deal their leadership and negotiators reached with Malloy administration. Now, it seems there are questions piling up.
The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA)—the legislature’s budget office—is telling lawmakers it can’t verify the $1.6 billion in savings the deal is designed to reach. That’s a huge problem. Add that to the fact that Democratic legislative leaders were trying to figure out a way to essentially pre-approve the deal so they wouldn’t have to come back into session to approve it and you have a very bad Monday for Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly.
“We do not have sufficient data to feel comfortable verifying most of those” savings targets announced by the administration on May 13, OFA Director Alan Calandro told CTMirror.org’s Keith Phaneuf—a reporter known for his budget acumen.
Republicans jumped all over the news from OFA saying the budget analysts didn’t get enough information on the concessions deal. State Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen) indicated to Phaneuf that the whole process was breaking down. “This is a very disturbing phenomenon, that our fiscal office is still unable to evaluate thoroughly a $1.6 billion component of our new biennial budget,” he said. “I think this shows a blatant disregard by the administration for the office charged with safeguarding the integrity of our budget process.”
For weeks now, the Malloy administration has been insisting their numbers hold up and that its own experts were in on the process. “The actuaries were on speed dial…They were doing a lot of work for us,” Malloy budget chief Ben Barnes said back on May 17th. But GOP leaders’ contention that the savings aren’t real seems to be bolstered by OFA’s inability to verify them. Republicans have charged that Malloy’s people “cooked the books,” used “smoke and mirrors” or made the numbers up “out of thin air.”
Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders are working on a way to sort of pre-approve the plan before it’s even ratified by labor’s rank and file. In short, if labor ratifies the deal, it would become law within five days if the legislature takes no action. It is said to be an effort to speed up the process.
And to throw one more log on to the fire, Republicans are nowing saying the Malloy budget blows through the spending cap. We are far from done with this legislative session.