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Commission Clashes over State Spending Cap

Commission Clashes over State Spending Cap
Hartford Courant, November 29, 2016

As the legislature moves forward in 2017 with the tightest margins in decades, Republicans and Democrats clashed Monday over which items should be placed under the state’s spending cap.

Republicans called for tighter spending, while Democrats called for loosening spending as has been done in recent years for Medicaid expenses.

The work by the special Spending Cap Commission may not move forward because changing the definitions of the Constitutional cap requires a three-fifths vote in both chambers of the legislature. With the Senate tied at 18 - 18 and the state House of Representatives at 79 to 72, getting a three-fifths vote on any controversial topic will be difficult.

Exemptions to cap back to top

The state has been operating under a statutory cap because of the difficulty of the three-fifths vote.

The sharply divided commission voted 12 to 10 in favor of exempting federal funds from the cap – with Democrats saying the state shouldn’t limit itself on the amount of federal funds it receives.

Republicans countered that there needs to be more controls and the state should avoid piece-meal exemptions to the cap. 

But the commission co-chairman, former state legislator and former state budget director William Cibes said the state should be able to receive as many federal reimbursements as possible.

"Our ability to gather federal funds should not be limited'' by the spending cap, Cibes said.

Commission member Bart C. Shuldman, the chief executive officer of TransAct Technologies, Inc. in Hamden, objected to some of the proposed changes.

"This isn't what business wants,'' Shuldman told his colleagues. "Business wants a real spending cap.''