The fact is, the state has had a Spending Cap since 1992, and actually obeyed it for the first decade or so. Then the cap began to leak, so to speak, as legislators found ever more creative ways to get around it.
Last year, Attorney General George Jepsen issued an opinion stating that the cap is unenforceable because the General Assembly never formally ratified it into the state constitution. So the legislature did what it usually does in such cases, it formed a committee.
The 24-member Spending Cap Commission has begun its work. Co-Chaired by William Cibes and Patricia Widlitz, the commission includes three Greater Waterbury legislators: Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury; Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, and Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury.
The commission held a public hearing Monday, (April 18), but still has much work to do. You can find the commission, and a few related documents it has already received, here:
You may recall that an enforceable Spending Cap is the top priority listed on the Chamber's 2016 Legislative Agenda. If you need a reason for that beyond the current fiscal mess we are in, try this:
between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, total state spending rose by about 5.1%, while the cumulative rate of inflation declined 0.1 percent (based on the Consumer Price Index). That kind of spending growth is unsustainable.
The commission is seeking public comment on the Spending Cap. In addition to Monday's hearing, it is expected to conduct public hearings in each of the state's five congressional districts. Dates for those have not yet been set.
The Chamber submitted testimony on behalf of its members in support of an enforceable cap, but it would also help if our member businesses would send emails to the commission in support of the cap. You can send an email to the commission via this address: email@example.com. (Keep in mind that all submitted testimony is public record and will be published on the state's website.) The email address is for the Appropriations Committee; the Spending Cap Commission is a task force of that committee. You can also submit testimony to local legislators on the committee via these email addresses:
Sen. Hartley: Hartley@senatedems.ct.gov
Sen. Kane: Rob.Kane@cga.ct.gov
Rep. Berger: Jeffrey.Berger@cga.ct.gov
Don't know what to say? Below is the testimony I submitted on behalf of the Chamber. Feel free to use some or all of it in your email.
STATEMENT OF DAVID KRECHEVSKY, PUBLIC POLICY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR for the WATERBURY REGIONAL CHAMBER, to the SPENDING CAP COMMISSION of the APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, IN SUPPORT OF AN ENFORCEABLE STATE SPENDING CAP
Co-Chairs Cibes and Widlitz, and members of the Spending Cap Commission, thank you for incorporating my testimony into the public record. The Waterbury Regional Chamber, which serves 13 towns in Greater Waterbury and represents the interests of nearly 1,000 businesses in matters of public policy, supports the work of the Spending Cap Commission and believes strongly that the state desperately needs an enforceable Spending Cap.
Earlier this year, the Waterbury Regional Chamber distributed its 2016 Legislative Agenda to members of our region’s legislative delegation, including three members of this commission — Senators Hartley and Kane, and Representative Berger. The top priority identified in the Chamber’s legislative agenda is to make the Constitutional Spending Cap enforceable.
As you are well aware, Connecticut has faced one budget crisis after another in the past few years, resulting in the two largest tax increases in state history. This recurring fiscal instability, which again grips the state this year, has caused businesses large and small to move, or consider moving, out of state in search of a more stable and predictable business climate. To end this cycle of crisis, the state must enact measures toward budgetary and fiscal stability, and one way to do that is for the state to do what its citizens and businesses already do — live within its means.
While state Attorney General George Jepsen has issued his opinion that the Spending Cap is unenforceable, the fact is the General Assembly chose to abide by the cap for the first decade of its existence. Over the last few years, however, more and more expenses have been shifted and deemed exempt by generous interpretations of cap-exempt expenditures. This has occurred even while the cap enjoyed widespread support among voters — more than 80 percent in favor — when it was first approved. Taxpayers support the cap because it was intended to offset the state income tax, as a way to keep state spending growth in line with personal income increases and inflation. That is the proper way to budget, but without an enforceable cap the General Assembly has found it too easy to ignore.
Instead, between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, total state spending rose by about 5.1%, while the cumulative rate of inflation declined 0.1 percent (based on the Consumer Price Index). That kind of spending growth is unsustainable, and that is why the Chamber supports an enforceable Spending Cap.
Please contact me at your convenience with any questions you may have.
Public Policy & Economic Development Director, Waterbury Regional Chamber