HARTFORD — Majority lawmakers have given the governor’s administration even more power over the budget and are willing to let his changes stand without taking a vote on them, Rep. Rob Sampson said. By a 78-56 vote on July 1, House Democrats granted Gov. Dannel Malloy full authority to make budget cuts however he sees fit. Malloy asked for the added power after rank-and-file state employees rejected the concession package he negotiated with their leaders, leaving a $1.6 billion hole in the state budget. Senate lawmakers approved the measure, too.
Sampson said the legislation adopted today sets a bad precedent because it provides an opportunity for state lawmakers to forgo their fundamental, and perhaps constitutional, responsibility of voting on budget related matters. It seems that voting is a move majority legislators would rather avoid given taxpayer ire over Malloy’s “shared sacrifice” budget and tough decisions he has no choice but to make, whether it’s state employee layoffs or cuts to programs or agency budgets. Sampson wanted a mandatory review.
“In a single swoop they gave the governor more power and marginalized the House and Senate,” said Sampson, a member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “It’s a new reality in Connecticut—the governor can make a budget adjustment and unless his colleagues in majority party leadership decide otherwise, that cut would go into effect without a discussion about how it would impact constituents.”
House Democrats also escalated the governor’s game of cat-and-mouse with state employee unions when they furthered the political charade by refusing to take up a separate Malloy-penned and senate approved proposal to change employee benefits such as longevity payments and pension calculations.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle dropped the reins again,” Sampson said. “Instead of seizing an opportunity to make real changes, they’ve given the governor yet another chance to shape the budget in a way that perpetuates a government spending machine reliant on taxpayers who can’t afford it.”
The governor clouded the day’s controversial votes by telling the news media he would eliminate 1,000 state jobs to save the state funding cities and towns depend on—an announcement to which Sampson took exception. State aid to municipalities, Sampson said, was already reduced by Malloy and Democrats and replaced with a shell-game revenue sharing scheme that stops short of offering local leaders a guarantee that they’ll receive the same amount of funding as last year.