Fasano says Malloy more interested in D.C. than home state [NHRegister]

March 2, 2015

Article as it appeared in the New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN >> Republican state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget shows he is not giving the state his undivided attention.

“I think this budget reflects the fact that he checked out of the state of Connecticut (and gone) to Washington,” Fasano said.

Fasano, in his meeting Friday with the New Haven Register editorial board, covered subjects other than the budget, including his recommendation that there should be more transparency on spending by the UConn Foundation.

He said proposed cuts for the probate courts will destroy the recent regional arrangement approved by the legislature.

Fasano said the budget is not balanced, Treasurer Denise Nappier also is critical of anticipating premium payments from bond sales and it is over the spending cap.

“His (Malloy’s) answer is, it’s in legislature and by the way I will be in Washington over the weekend,” Fasano said, referring to the governor’s attendance last weekend at the National Governors Association, where he was named Democratic co-chairman by the White House of the Council of Governors.

It was described as a bipartisan group of 10 governors who advise the administration on the National Guard, homeland defense issues, and cyber security.

Last weekend, Malloy also was named chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors.

He will take over as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2016, a group that will advocate and raise money for the party’s presidential nominee. Both parties governors’ associations were the biggest spenders in the recent gubernatorial election.

“He has a crisis at home. Don’t worry about who’s the next president of the United States. Don’t worry about the two positions he has. Let’s start worrying about what we are going to do here in Connecticut. That is what he has been hired to do for the next four years,” Fasano said.

“If he wants to make an impact on Washington he shouldn’t have run again. He should have just gone to Washington and be the voice slamming Republicans running for president,” the minority leader said.

Devon Puglia, spokesman for Malloy, dismissed the criticism.

“Len Fasano and the Republicans haven’t offered a single real idea on the budget. All they have offered so far is rhetoric devoid of any actual proposals on the issue,” Puglia said.

Malloy said his obligation is to present a balanced budget and when he sent it to the legislature on Feb. 18, it was balanced.

The Office of Policy and Management this week said they since discovered an error that puts the budget some $55 million over the spending cap based on bad data from an outside vendor.

Malloy said fixing the budget is now a function of the legislature. “Read the law,” he said in a recent interview.

Separately, the $48 million needed as part of paying back bonds borrowed to convert to GAAP is in the budget, but outside the spending cap.

The bond covenant tied to the funds, Fasano said, requires that they be calculated as part of the budget and therefore have to be under the spending cap.

Malloy also addressed that.

“The idea of paying down a prior debt that accumulated over 16 years of Republican leadership (converting to GAAP) and that should come out of supporting poor people or giving services to people with disabilities doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” the governor said of the decision to remove it from under the spending cap.

On the fight between Treasurer Denise Nappier and OPM Secretary Ben Barnes on counting on premium payments on bonds to pay for debt over two years, Malloy said Nappier has overestimated debt service payments by about $150 million a year.

“Again, what should we do? Should we cut vital program for people in poverty, so we don’t have to deal with real numbers? I don’t think so,” he said.

Malloy said “they (Barnes and Nappier) will work it out and the legislature will be the judge.”

Fasano doesn’t believe the legislature can deal with Malloy’s budget proposal, unless he declares a state of emergency, because it is not balanced.

State Senate Pro Tem Martin Looney said it is out of compliance with the spending cap, but it is balanced, something House Speaker Brendan Sharkey agreed with.

Sharkey said lawmakers will have to recraft the governor’s proposal. “It (the shortfall) has a big impact,” he said.

Over two years, the governor’s proposed budget cuts spending by $1.3 billion, and boosts tax revenues by $900 million in order to close a $2 billion deficit.

Malloy said he knows the budget will be a difficult one for lawmakers, as it was difficult for him to propose the cuts that he submitted to them.

“Imagine how worse it would have been” if Republican Tom Foley has been elected, Malloy said. The governor’s budget shows a 3 percent increase over the current budget; Foley had promised to keep it flat. Malloy said it would have meant a massive amount of cuts.

Fasano, on more scrutiny of the UConn Foundation, said he is willing to agree that the names of donors should not be made public, but he feels taxpayers should know what the estimated $81.1 million raised last year is being spent on.

There has been criticism that it paid for $300,000 of UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary.

Opponents of including the foundation under the Freedom of Information Act recently testified that this would have a chilling effect on donors.

Fasano said the foundation takes advantage of the brand of excellence UConn has achieved through taxpayer funds and its books should be open. He feels the funds should be used to offset tuition increases and boost scholarships.

On the probate courts, the administration has proposed cutting the state’s contributon of $14.8 million next year and $17.4 million in fiscal 2017.

He said if the state’s contribution is ended, the fees that the courts will have to charge to operate will explode. One estimate is that a fee of $150 would increase to almost $800.

The courts were revamped in recent years with many operating on a regional basis to supplement costs with the state covering the shortfall.