(Updated 5:55 p.m.) Two Republican lawmakers, two former lawmakers, and a conservative think tank called the Roger Sherman Liberty Center said Friday they will file this lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Wednesday afternoon.
Tom Scott, a former lawmaker and one of the plaintiffs, said the constitutional provision that requires the state’s expenditures to match its revenues was violated when it was adopted with a $2 billion hole.
“The Senators who voted for this and the representatives who voted for this and the governor who signed it into law violated their oath to protect the constitution of the state of Connecticut,“ Scott said standing on the steps of Hartford Superior Court. “This constitutional provision was designed to protect the taxpayers against the very thing that happened this week.”
Scott said the only remedy taxpayers have is to ask the third branch of government to intervene and protect the taxpayers.
He argued the language of the constitution is unambiguous it says: “The amount of general budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed the estimated amount of revenue for such a fiscal year.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser, said that the budget will be balanced by July 1 the start of the fiscal year. He said the lawsuit will be moot and the budget will be balanced either with union concessions or $1 billion in spending cuts.
“We researched the matter when the Republicans made this claim,” Colleen Flanagan, Malloy’s spokeswoman said. “We’ve reviewed the matter and are confident that it is fully compliant with the Connecticut constitution and that the courts won’t interfere with the duly adopted budget of the State of Connecticut.”
Sen. President Donald Williams, one of the named defendants in the lawsuit, said the Republican’s no-tax-increase budget also assumed $2 billion in union concessions.
“The Republican lawsuit is frivolous and hypocritical,” Williams said. “The same legislators who claim the $2 billion in savings is unconstitutional actually voted for a Republican budget amendment this week which included an even larger number. The lawsuit is a publicity stunt that will waste taxpayer money and Republican leadership should call for its immediate withdrawal.”
But Scott, who is not an attorney, said it’s not that cut and dry.
The budget Malloy signed into law relegates “$2 billion worth of policy to unelected bureaucrats,” Scott said. “One of our many claims is the citizens have no opportunity to participate in the process of this $2 billion question.”
Section 12 of the budget, which was debated and changed by the legislature before passage of the budget, allows lawmakers to come back and vote on $1 billion in spending cuts if Malloy fails to get the concessions he needs. However, it doesn’t require them to return to vote on the cuts or concessions. Originally it gave sole control of the spending cuts to Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes.
“The fact that it’s not required is telling as is the fact that there’s no constitutional basis for section 12,” Scott said. “It was cobbled together by the House and Senate at the last minute.”
Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said to him the issue is very clear.
“At this point in time the so-called budget that’s been passed has a situation where revenues are exceeded by the expenditures by $1 billion a year,” Suzio said. “It’s not constitutional to pass a budget with a fill-in-the-blanks form to it.”
Even though they haven’t joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said they support the lawsuit because even though changes were made, it still doesn’t require a vote on the $1 billion in spending cuts. Cafero said the lawsuit would be moot if the legislature had adopted the language Republicans recommended.
McKinney said whether the budget signed by Malloy takes away some of the legislature’s constitutional authority is a question that needs to be asked.
The lawsuit will be filled by former attorney general candidate Martha Dean Friday afternoon. The lead plaintiff will be the Roger Sherman Liberty Center and the defendants are Malloy, Sen. President Donald Williams, Barnes, and House Speaker Chris Donovan.
Click here to read the lawsuit.