Without Spending Cap Change, Budget Chaos; GOP Won’t Rule Out Legal Action

The lynchpin of both Gov. Dannel Malloy’s new, two-year budget proposal and that of the Democratic-controlled legislative fiscal committees is a redefining of the state’s constitutionally mandated spending cap. As expected, Republicans don’t want a change that could lead to more spending and are leaving all their options open including legal action. But without the change in the cap, the budget process would be thrown into turmoil.

Under the rules, it takes a super majority of both the house and senate (60 percent) to redefine the cap which was instituted as a compromise when the state income tax was enacted. In the senate, that means every Democrat would have to be on board. That is in serious doubt. Sen. Joan Hartley of Waterbury has long been known to buck her caucus and voted against changing the cap in committee.

So what to do? Maneuver things around so only a simple majority is needed to redefine the cap. That has Republicans apoplectic, claiming such a move would be unconstitutional. If the Dems make the “simple majority” change, a lawsuit by the GOP is possible.

“I certainly wouldn’t rule out a legal challenge,” said state Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. “We always have the option of legal recourse,” he said. Republican leaders in both the house and senate have said they believe the move to get around the cap is unconstitutional. “The Democrats will do anything if unchecked,” Labriola said.

As far as the budget itself, if the spending cap is not changed, hundreds of millions would have to be cut if Gov. Malloy sticks to his no “new” taxes pledge.

Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney told The Hanging Shad, “The spending cap is the key to the entire plan,” Looney said. “[Without the change] we’re looking at a couple hundred million dollars in cuts in this year and about $500 million in the second year.”