We are going to here a lot of talk about Connecticut’s Constitution over the next weeks and months, as elected officials try to ram tolls down our throats. We will be told that our elected officials will save themselves from their own temptations by supporting a constitutional amendment to place revenue from tolls into a dedicated account to be used for transportation infrastructure improvements – only. Worse, as proof that constitutional amendments work, we will be reminded that the state has a constitutional amendment, mandating a spending cap on our annual budget. We will be told that voters endorsed it in return for granting a state income tax. Except that is not true.
Here’s the dirty, little secret that our elected officials won’t tell us. When the voters passed that spending cap in the form of a constitutional amendment in 1992, the legislature then had to knuckle down and design a plan to fully implement the cap. Approving the amendment was like passing the bill, before we even knew what was in it. Our illustrious elected officials were then required to design a spending cap – as demanded by the voters in that 1992 amendment vote. Then both the House and Senate needed to pass it by a three-fifths majority to make it a part of the state constitution. They never designed a plan, let alone vote on one.
Oh, we here conversations about the spending cap. And in fact, when the state income tax was passed in 1991 – by one vote – the legislature hoodwinked the public by enacting a spending cap by statute. But they play more games with that than UConn hands out raises, increasing expenditures well beyond what voters approved, by exempting more items from the “spending cap.” That enables them to claim they have held the reigns on spending.
But, repeat, there is no spending cap in the state constitution, even though voters passed an amendment to the state constitution mandating one. That is because legislators failed to hold up their end of the bargain. Again.
“We’ve done constitutional amendments, and they haven’t worked out the way people at the ballot box had anticipated,” House Republican spokesman Patrick O’Neil told the Hartford Courant in its Saturday, Jan. 10 edition.
That is why any talk about a constitutional amendment in return for tolls on Connecticut highways is a lot of hot air. In Connecticut, passing a constitutional amendment is no guarantee that amendment will be part of the constitution. We have a bloated budget to prove it.
So be wary of politicians touting constitutional amendments. In Connecticut, its not even worth the paper on which it’s never been written.