An accounting error that pushed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal $54 million over the spending cap is now the legislature’s problem to deal with, according to budget director Benjamin Barnes.
“We submitted a balanced budget, that’s our obligation. The spending cap is a requirement of the General Assembly,” Barnes said. “They have to deal with the whole thing. They are required to pass a budget.”
That means it will be up to the legislature to figure out how to cut an additional $54 million and possibly another $47 million if Republican lawmakers are correct about the diversion of funds from under the cap to pay off the Generally Accepted Accounting Principle borrowing.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, sent a letter Wednesday to the governor’s office stating that Malloy is the one who needs to rectify the budget errors.
“You have an obligation to the people of Connecticut and to the legislature to present a budget that does not exceed the spending cap, which was overwhelmingly supported by Connecticut voters and taxpayers,” Fasano said.
A 1992 constitutional amendment to the state Constitution and the statute that preceded it both specify the “General Assembly shall not authorize” a budget that violates the spending cap. The cap, which was instituted at the same time as the income tax, is calculated by tying increases in state spending to either personal income growth or the rate of inflation.
According to Barnes, the language clearly states the role of the legislature — but it does not speak to the governor’s obligation.
Fasano cited the portion of the law stipulating the spending cap cannot bypassed unless the governor declares an emergency or the existence of extraordinary circumstances.
“Thus, absent an emergency declaration from you explaining why the people’s constitutional spending cap should be ignored, the budget you have presented cannot legally be adopted,” Fasano wrote.
At an unrelated press conference Thursday, Malloy said he has no intention of declaring an emergency.
The budget is “off my desk,” Malloy said.
“I’m required to present a balanced budget. It was balanced. It is balanced. They’re required to send back a budget that’s under the spending cap,” Malloy said.
Barnes characterized the error as an “inadvertent calculation.“
“Obviously, we will work with the Appropriations Committee in any way possible to help them … conclude their work — based on, I hope, some pieces of what the governor has proposed, or perhaps based on none of what the governor’s proposed,” Barnes said.