Donovan: Legislators want details before giving Malloy budget power

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is offering legislators a deal: Expand his authority to unilaterally cut the budget next week, and he will take the political heat for fixing a $1.6 billion problem caused Friday by the unions’ rejection of a concession deal.

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, said Malloy has no deal with legislators for expanded rescissionary authority, a power that the House pointedly declined to give the governor during the regular session.

Is Malloy’s offer more attractive today, when Democratic legislators who already have voted for a record $1.5 billion tax increase now are confronted with casting painful votes for layoffs and deep programmatic cuts?

They will be asked to give an answer by Thursday, when they are returning in special session. The new fiscal year begins the next day, July 1.

“I think the easiest and quickest way to get this resolved is to give me the recessionary authority that we sought earlier in the session, and then I’m prepared to do what is necessary to balance the budget,” Malloy said.

Donovan’s take is that the only way the House majority would grant Malloy the expanded authority to see details about what the governor intends. There is widespread legislative opposition to cutting municipal aid.

“We need to see what the governor is considering and what the parameters are,” Donovan said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, did not respond to requests for comment, but the Senate has been more amenable to the idea.

In a statement, Williams said,  “Given the rejection of the labor agreement, it’s critical that we act decisively before the beginning of the new fiscal year. We support the governor’s call to action and will work with him to ensure that Connecticut has a balanced budget.”

There is precedent for what Malloy is proposing.

The 2002 General Assembly temporarily expanded then-Gov. John G. Rowland’s emergency budget powers for one fiscal year amidst a recession.

Rowland was empowered to cut up to 10 percent of any account, and was allowed to reduce select municipal grant programs, but not major education, road maintenance and property tax relief programs.

But Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, said the GOP will oppose the expansion of rescissionary authority.

“Republicans continue to stand ready and willing to work with Gov. Malloy and legislative Democrats to cut government spending and balance the budget,” McKinney said. “However, it is not acceptable for the legislature to shirk its responsibility and cede constitutional authority to the governor to make those decisions alone. Rescission powers exist to deal with fiscal emergencies that arise after a balanced budget has been passed, not before.”