While the state fiscal crisis may offer some opportunity for reforming the budget process, political differences on key issues at the state capitol make it highly unlikely major change will occur anytime soon, state Representative Arthur J. O’Neill said today.
Representative O’Neill, R-69th District, and state Representative Tom Reynolds, D-42nd District, discussed the budget crisis and possible reforms to the process in a joint appearance on WNPR’s ‘Where we Live’ program, with host John Dankosky May 5th.
(Listen to the interview here.)
Reynolds, who recently unveiled a position paper entitled “Crisis – A Terrible Thing to Waste,” contended that Connecticut, currently facing its “greatest fiscal crisis since 1991,” has been presented with “an opportunity to pursue a blueprint for change” that could help the state “endure and emerge more quickly from future economic downturns.”
“Why can’t the governor and state legislative leaders get together on a long term plan [to improve the budget process]?” Dankosky asked
“Obviously there is a crisis and it provides an opportunity for reform,” O’Neill said. “I’d be open to results-based accountability. However, we’ve gone through this before and I’m not as confident as Tom that implementing his proposals will be easy. There are fundamental disagreements [between legislative Republicans and Democrats and Governor Rell] on how state revenues should be spent.”
O’Neill noted that the state’s constitutional spending cap was put in place in response to the state’s last major budget crisis in 1989-1991, and while for the most part “it has worked pretty well; it also has been subject to criticism, mainly from people who want to spend more. We have never defined the terms of the spending cap and we have never voted on [legislation] to implement it.”
Many major reforms that could significantly improve the budget process would be contrary to the interests of powerful state government employee unions, who are closely allied with the state legislature’s majority Democrats. As long as Democrat legislators have overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers, those kinds of reforms have virtually no chance of being enacted into law, O’Neill indicated.