Lawyers from the attorney general’s office filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state budget signed by the governor last month on the grounds that, among other things, the budget is still a work in progress.
The lawsuit, filed by two Republican lawmakers, two former lawmakers, and a conservative think tank called the Roger Sherman Liberty Center, claims that the budget signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy violates a constitutional provision requiring the state’s expenditures to match its revenues. The budget was signed with a $2 billion placeholder set aside in the bill for union concessions.
The state’s motion to dismiss asserts that it would be improper for the court to get involved with an ongoing process traditionally left to the legislature and the governor.
“The plaintiffs want this court to declare the budget bill unconstitutional before the budget process is anywhere close to being complete,” the motion read.
The complaint notes that it’s not uncommon for the legislature to require a special session to flesh out the final details of the budget. The lengthy process allows the state the flexibility to make changes, if needed to finances without locking it in to specific changes up front, the compliant said.
“Given the uncertainty as to what the legislature’s final decisions will be, it would be grossly premature to attempt to adjudicate the constitutionality of its decisions now,” it said.
“Once the budget process is complete, the plaintiffs’ claims will likely be moot, rendering adjudication at this time even more wasteful and imprudent,” it continued.
The complaint also alleges the suit presents a classic political question, attempting to entangle the judicial branch in a budgetary process under the purview of the executive and legislative branches.
“Without violating the separation of powers and expressing disrespect for the co-equal branches of government, there is no relief that this court can provide,” it read.
In addition, the court, historically independent from the process, lacks discoverable standards for determining how a state budget should be balanced or to assess whether a budget is balanced, it said.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition leadership agreed to $1.6 billion in concessions, but that portion still needs to be ratified by 45,000 rank-and-file members.
The Malloy administration announced a plan last week to fill the remaining $400 million gap in the budget. That plan consists of $80 million in spending cuts over two years and uses $320 million in surplus funds.
Arguments in the lawsuit will not be heard until June 24, well after the legislature’s June 8 adjournment date.