Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano has requested a formal opinion from Attorney General George Jepsen regarding the Malloy administration’s plan to withhold funding from three watchdog agencies.
In June, Malloy’s administration told the Freedom of Information Commission, Office of State Ethics, and State Elections Enforcement Commission that it would be holding back about $183,000 from their 2017 budgets, and state Rep. Toni Walker and other good government advocates reminded Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, that only the legislative branch has the authority to cut the watchdog agencies’ budgets.
Last week, Malloy dismissed a characterization by a reporter that he’s digging in his heels over $183,000.
He said the legislature passed a budget and gave his office the authority to trim the budget and bring it into alignment with expectations.
However, the watchdog agencies and their allies believe the 2004 law trumps the adjustment to the current budget.
Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information President Dan Klau said his organization “strongly disagrees” with the Malloy administration’s interpretation.
Klau said the 2004 law protects the agencies from a governor’s unilateral decision to cut their budget.
“Nothing the General Assembly did last session expressly or implicitly repealed the 2004 law,” Klau said. “The watchdog agencies remain subject to the legislature’s budget-cutting authority, but not the governor’s.”
Fasano said the purpose of the 2004 law was to “insulate these agencies from the political vagaries of the executive branch and ensure that they have both the funding and political autonomy necessary to perform their oversight functions.”