When the Senate adjourned 17 minutes before the end of the legislative session Wednesday night, it effectively killed legislation proposed by Comptroller Kevin Lembo to develop a searchable database of the state’s economic assistance programs.
The bill, which passed the House unanimously last week, was designed to allow the public to easily access data on the hundreds of millions of dollars the state spends each year on tax credits and forgivable loan programs for companies promising to create jobs in Connecticut.
Lembo, who spent time Wednesday lobbying lawmakers outside the Senate chamber, released a statement Thursday expressing concern over the Senate decision not to act on the bill. He said the bill had public support and bipartisan consensus.
“When hundreds of millions of dollars are spent or foregone every year to promote economic development, the public has a right to know how these transactions are performing,” he said. “Most importantly, it would have compelled, by law, that state government disclose important details about the investment of taxpayer dollars — rather than rely on the discretion of any given administration.”
At a Thursday press conference, Sen. President Donald Williams said plenty of bills die on the Senate calendar at the end of every session. In adjourning early, Williams said the chamber avoided the usual rush to pass legislation in the final moments of the legislative session.
“Seventeen minutes is not enough time to debate a bill that’s going to have any significant back and forth discussion,” he said.
Williams said he thought much of what the bill called for will be accomplished by through steps already being taken by the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“If we find that there’s any lack of ability to get that information going forward, then certainly we can take a look at it,” Williams said.
Although he said a law requiring the database would have been ideal, Lembo acknowledged the state can establish it on its own.
“The good news is that government already has the authority to establish this database — and disclose this state tax credit and economic assistance data — on its own in the absence of legislation, which I hope the administration will do and I will continue to urge,” he said.