Sen. Harding: “We absolutely have to abide by the fiscal guardrails.”

April 8, 2024

In 2017, as part of a bipartisan budget agreement, lawmakers enacted so-called ‘fiscal guardrails’ that have helped the state pay down almost $8 billion in pension debt since 2018. Nearly $40 billion in unfunded pension obligations remain. Although there are many moving parts to the guardrails, one provision, a revenue cap, requires that the state budget have a built-in cushion of – at a minimum – 1.25 percent of the General Fund.

Republicans take credit for pushing through those guardrails when they had significantly more members in the State Senate. But Republican members also, sometimes grudgingly, praise Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, for his steadfastness in supporting not only the guardrails but the spirit of the guardrails, in effect standing in the way of some of his own party’s top priorities — a source of criticism from Democrats, whether the needs are education, child care or the environment.

If the guardrails are not kept in place, Republicans are not on board, Senate Minority Leader Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, told CT Examiner.

Now, Harding said, it’s crunchtime for the budget. But, he said, there is no wiggle room on where the GOP stands on those guardrails.

“We absolutely have to abide by the fiscal guardrails,” Harding told CT Examiner in a recent interview. “Under no circumstances would the Senate Republicans support a budget that would go outside of that. But, more importantly, we have to ensure that the spirit of the guardrails are followed as well. There might be some technical ways [to go around the guardrails], but if we are doing it outside of the spirit of the guardrails, every Senate Republican would object to it in that regard… If what I’m hearing is correct, there are going to be revenue intercepts that are going to increase the budget spending beyond the confines of the spirit of the fiscal guardrails and the spending cap. We can’t play games with the revenue intercepts, revenue caps and the volatility caps.”

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