With the incoming Senate evenly split between 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, Sen. Hartley's vote is crucial. She has a long, admirable track record of being a fiscal conservative and voting her conscience, so voting with her party is never a given.
Sen. Hartley is a co-chair of the Commerce Committee, and a vice-chair on the Appropriations Committee, but word is she has turned down some significant positions offered by her party. If that is the case, it means she doesn't want to owe anyone anything, so she can continue to vote her conscience.
The "new" evenly divided Senate doesn't take office until Jan. 20, but Sen. Hartley has already revealed her importance. Monday, the legislature's Spending Cap Commission voted on proposed definiitions that would make the state's constitutional spending cap enforceable. The vote is important, because the legislature must approve the definitions recommended by the commission.
As reported by Paul Hughes in the Republican-American this morning, the recommendations voted on by the commission failed by an 11-12 vote, with the deciding vote cast by Sen. Hartley.
The sticking point, according to the article, is that Republicans on the committee — which includes Sen. Rob Kane of Watertown — "calculated the proposals would exempt $685 million in additional spending on top of the billions that have been excluded from the spending cap calculations over the years."
What to include, and exclude, from under the cap is a key issue for the comission and the legislature. The more that is included under the cap, the easier it is to control spending. The Chamber believes that everything except debt service should be included under the cap.
What this means for the spending cap now is unclear. The comission was supposed to make a recommendation for the General Assembly to approve, and gaining approval for any proposal was going to be difficult.
As the Republican-Ameican article notes, adopting the definitions requires three-fifths of each legislative chamber to approve them. "That equates to 91 votes in the 151-seat House and 22 votes in the 36-seat Senate."
Achieving those totals won't be easy, because as noted above the Senate is evenly split among Democrats and Republicans, while in the House the Democrats hold just a seven-seat majority.
As I write this, information on how each member of the 24-member commission voted (and who did not vote) was not available. I will update this post with that information when I receive it.
The Chamber and other major statewide business organizations strongly believe the spending cap issue is among the most important issues facing our legislature as it struggles with deficits and reduced revenue. Controlling spending is a vital step for the state to create fiscal stability and certainty.
So we should be grateful to Sen. Hartley for her steadfast commitment to holding the commission, and the legislature, accountable to Connecticut's taxpayers.
You can read Paul Hughe's article in the Republican-American here. (Subscription required)