Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will use a good portion of his State of the State address Wednesday to reframe how lawmakers think about the state budget.
Instead of assuming state agencies will need the same amount of money as last year, Malloy’s budget starts from as close to zero as it can.
“My budget limits spending in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond to actual revenue projections,” Malloy is expected to say, according to excerpts released in advance of his speech. “In other words, this budget is based not on how much we want to spend, but how much money we actually have to spend.”
The budget Malloy will unveil Wednesday gives state agencies greater discretion over the money it allocates, but it also requires them to post “detailed, meaningful, timely information” online explaining how they are spending “the people’s money.”
This new way of budgeting takes away some of the power the legislature has in allocating specific amounts of money to specific programs within each state agency. That has some lawmakers concerned.
It’s unknown if online reporting will be enough for lawmakers to feel comfortable with the concept.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who co-chairs the Appropriations Committee, doesn’t think it’s unusual for a governor to seek more power over the budget process. She said it’s also not unusual that the General Assembly would be reluctant to give up its power.
Bye said she’s not going to take a position on the proposal until she can understand exactly how it will work.
Malloy contends that by “simplifying line items in the budget, we can give our top executives the ability to manage their agencies, while providing quality services to taxpayers in the most efficient way possible.”
Staring down a nearly $570 million deficit in 2017 and another nearly $700 million deficit in 2018, Malloy’s budget also seeks to focus on what he’s calling “core state services.”
“Functions that fall outside of those core services must be considered on merit alone,” Malloy will say. “We must transition toward making recipients of state funding compete for available dollars based on proven results.”
And in order to avoid what House Speaker Brendan Sharkey later admitted was a mistake, Malloy intends to urge lawmakers to end the practice of procrastinating on passage of a state budget.
In November, Sharkey said parts of last year’s revenue package were “not well thought out” and “fully vetted” in the rush to come up with a balanced budget at the end of the General Assembly’s regular session.
“I firmly believe that by changing how we come to a budget bill, we can improve the final result,” Malloy is expected to say. “So this is my challenge to you and to me. Let’s not pass a budget on the final day of this session this year. Let’s get it done early.”
Traditionally, a state budget is approved hours before the General Assembly adjourns. Last year that meant just minutes before the clock struck midnight in the state Senate. That was only after the House passed it shortly after 5:30 a.m. in the morning after an entire night of debate.
“While committees do their work, legislative leaders and committee leadership can meet regularly with me and my staff to understand each other’s goals,” Malloy plans to tell lawmakers. “I welcome anyone to that table – Democrat or Republican. No one party, no one leader, and no one individual holds a monopoly on good ideas.”
Malloy will deliver his address at noon to a joint session of the General Assembly.