Lamont, lawmakers strike deal to renew CT budget controls

But plans to redirect more funds for municipal education grants are put on hold

Gov. Ned Lamont (right) and House Speaker Matt Ritter of Hartford. (CTMirror.org)

State legislative leaders and Gov. Ned Lamont have agreed to renew for 10 years a package of budget controls that have helped generate $9 billion in surpluses since 2017.

But even though those controls will ease savings requirements modestly, the plan —which the General Assembly is expected to adopt Thursday — will not immediately redirect that savings to bolster education aid for cities and towns, as some legislators had hoped.

Still, leaders of the House and Senate’s Democratic majorities say accelerating an ongoing plan to grow the Education Cost Sharing program remains very much under discussion and could still be approved before the regular session ends in early June.

Lawmakers plan to vote on the budget controls bill Thursday through an “emergency certification” that streamlines the legislative process. Normally, the bill would have to go through multiple committees and hearings that could last for weeks. Legislative leaders can agree to waive those steps through emergency certification.

“This bipartisan agreement to extend the bond covenants and associated guardrails for the next decade sends a strong signal to our residents, businesses and rating agencies that Connecticut is committed to continuing the fiscal discipline that has been a hallmark of the past few years,” Lamont said Tuesday. “Setting these guardrails into place will ensure that the progress we have made over the past five years continues.”

Those “guardrails,” as the governor calls them, include:

  • A spending cap that keeps growth across most sections of the budget in line with changes in personal income or inflation, whichever is larger.
  • A $1.9 billion annual cap on the total value of bonds state government can issue to finance municipal school construction, renovations to state buildings, open space and farmland preservation, and various community projects supported with state borrowing. The cap does not apply to borrowing for transportation projects or for the capital programs at public colleges and universities.
  • A “volatility adjustment” that restricts legislators’ ability to spend quarterly income and business tax receipts in excess of a $3.2 billion threshold. These funds, which are tied heavily to capital gains and other investment earnings, historically have fluctuated greatly from year to year.
  • A revenue cap designed to stop legislators from creating budgets with little fiscal room for error, a periodic problem in the past. For example, the 2009 legislature approved a $17.4 billion General Fund for the 2009-10 fiscal year with a built-in cushion of just $2.1 million, a margin of less than 1/80th of 1%.
  • And the rainy day fund now can hold an amount equal to 18% of General Fund expenditures, an increase from the current 15%. In the context of the current budget, that would allow the $3.3 billion rainy day fund to be expanded to roughly $4 billion.


Lawmakers initially enacted the first four guardrails as part of a bipartisan compromise in the fall of 2017, following nearly a decade of state budgets mired by frequent deficits and modest revenue growth.

To prevent future legislatures from tampering with these controls, the 2018 General Assembly agreed to guarantee them contractually. It pledged in bond covenants — essentially the state’s contracts with its Wall Street investors — not to adjust the spending controls, except under very limited conditions, for five years.

One comment

Fred Wilms February 9, 2023 at 1:41 pm

Keeping the budget controls in place is vital to preserving Connecticut’s fiscal future. Kudos to Governor Lamont for ensuring this.
The article refers to the Bipartisan Compromise of 2017. Here is some background:
In 2017 the Legislature was basically tied between Republicans and Democrats. 18R and 18D in the Senate, and 72R and 79D in the House. I was honored to serve in the House. When the democrats failed in 2017 to come up with a budget, we Republicans filed one that included the budget controls plus ECS reform. Several democrats crossed party lines and voted for the GOP budget thus ensuring passage. For the first time in decades the Legislature passed a GOP budget! Governor Malloy then vetoed it, resulting in a standoff. After several weeks of limbo, legislative R and D leaders came together and struck a bipartisan deal. This deal incorporated about 80% of the GOP budget.

Since then the State has been awash in revenues: federal COVID relief money plus large capital gains taxes due to bullish stock markets. However in two years, the revenue surge may be over and State budget revenues will revert back to normal. Thank goodness for the budget controls, which will have prevented squandering away the revenue surge.

From my perspective this would not have happened without the R and D legislative balance. Having two perspectives is always better than one. One party rule is never good – whether it is solely D or solely R.

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