Sunday, May 8, 2011

Unconstitutional Budget? So What?

There is, so far, only one semi-official response to a recent suit brought by the Roger Sherman Liberty Center against a budget fashioned by Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic Party caucus in the General Assembly. Republicans were not permitted to handle the sausage during the budget process, which unfolded in private behind closed doors.

The liberty center argues that the budget is unconstitutional because, absent concessions from state labor unions, the budget is not in balance, as required by the state constitution.

There is no doubt the state constitution requires a balance budget. The constitutional language is unambiguous:

“The amount of general budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed the estimated amount of revenue for such a fiscal year.”

There is no doubt the budget was not in balance at the time it was written into law and signed by Mr. Malloy. Negotiations between agents of Mr. Malloy and union leaders had not been concluded, and the union give backs required by Mr. Malloy that would have create a balanced budget have not yet, days out from the signing of the legislation, been given back. Thus, the amount of general budget expenditures authorized in the Malloy budget exceeded the revenues for the fiscal year.

Ergo, as the logicians say, there is no doubt the state’s operative budget is unconstitutional.

Mr. Malloy’s communications director, Roy Occhiogrosso, did not even bother to deny it. The law suit, he said, will be mooted once the union give backs materialize. Signed on the bottom line give backs are expected some time after Mr. Malloy’s attempts to intimidate union negociators prove successful. Presently, the budget is unconstitutional… but just you wait.

Ryan McKeen, a lawyer, considers the suit “stupid.” His blog is titled, “Even If CT’s Budget Is Unconstitutional….So What?”

Assuming the suit is successful, mr. McKeen argues, “The Court is not going to write a budget – it can’t. Like it or not, writing the budget is the legislature’s job.”

So then, we have from Mr. Malloy through his back door, Mr. Occhiogrosso, a noisy yawn, and a legal salon weighs in with a “So what?”

A robber robs a bank and is arrested. Brought to justice in Mr. McKeen’s court, the robber tells judge McKeen that his plan all along was to return the money to the bank. He is in negotiations with his confederates and feels certain that they will allow the return. His wife also has urged him to return the ill gotten gains. And he loves his wife, dearly. Judge McKeen rules that the arrest is stupid. True, the robber broke the law, but any ninny should understand that the law will be unbroken once the money is returned and, really, who expects judges to tell repentant bank robbers what to do? They can’t. They just can’t.

The spokesperson for the bank robber assures the media that the man’s negotiations with his confederates will in time be successful, at which point the charges against his boss will be mooted.

What’s to worry?

So, the governor and Democratic legislative leaders produced an unconstitutional budget that has a hole in it big enough to float a battleship and a half dozen submarines.

So what?

On the labor front, it is by no means certain that state worker union negotiators will agree to give backs amounting to about $20,000 per pay check. But Mr. Malloy has a pistol – Budget B – pressed to the temple of the negotiators. The governor has given union chieftains a few extra days to submit to Budget A, or else.

One uber-liberal, writing in the Hartford Advocate, has asserted that the budget demands presented to union leaders were all along a false front: Mr. Malloy wants to slash spending and then, Nero like, wash his hands of blame. It was the guy at the other end of the pistol’s barrel who was obstreperous.

And so the state stumbles forward into a brave new world in which massive tax increases will be permanent and union givebacks temporary.

The latest bad news is a survey in Chief Executive Magazine of 55 business leaders showing Connecticut, once a business powerhouse, limping along in 44th place in a listing of best states in which to do business.

But really – so what? Who expects anyone to do anything about it? They can’t. They just can’t.

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