Process Counts: Substantial Changes to the Approved State Budget in an Implementer Bill?

The special session of the Connecticut General Assembly won’t be until the end of the month but there is plenty happening behind the scenes. Among the issues to consider is whether changes Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to make to the state budget to try to appease the business community should be done in an implementer bill. The thought here is such substantial changes to the spending plan already passed by the legislature should be done as a separate bill with new debate.

Majority Democrats have long played fast and loose with implementer bills (yes, I was there) which are supposed to put the budget into law, or implement the budget bill. However, over the years they have been used to change language in approved bills, adjust effective dates of certain provisions and even put into law some bills that for whatever reason didn’t pass during the regular session.

The changes to the budget Gov. Malloy wants to make are not simple adjustments. They relieve corporations of some new tax burdens to the tune of $224 million over two years. The modifications made to the budget came after an outcry from some of the state’s biggest corporations that threatened to find a new state to call home. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), which represents hundreds of smaller businesses as well, had a meeting with Malloy and the changes were proposed.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and CBIA Pres. Joe Brennan

Gov. Dannel Malloy and CBIA Pres. Joe Brennan

As of now, it’s not a done deal that Democrats in the legislature will agree to the changes. Senate President Marty Looney is on record as saying, “The fundamental pillars of this budget are not going to change as far as we are concerned.” The question remains as to whether the business taxes included in the budget that passsed are a “pillar” or not.

Sen. Beth Bye, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, is the first to push back against the governor’s changes. Other members of the caucus need convincing as well. The House, which passed the budget by the smallest of margins, is a wild card as to whether they’ll accept the changes.

Appropriations Co-Chairs Sen. Beth Bye (left) and Rep. Toni Wallker

Appropriations Co-Chairs Sen. Beth Bye (left) and Rep. Toni Walker

The legislature’s major goal in the committee process was to restore many of the cuts to social service programs in the governor’s original budget proposal. Will they accept cuts in those programs to appease big corporations? We’ll see.

In any event, it would seem the changes to the business taxes in the budget are a big enough issue to not have it simply tucked into an implementer. That’s not what an implementer is for. To do so would be to do an end around the legislative process—an unfair move the general public would reject if given the chance.

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