State FOIC, Watchdog Agencies Would Be Decimated by Proposed Cuts

The state’s watchdog agencies warned lawmakers that cuts in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget would render their agencies essentially useless, the Journal Inquirer reported last month.  In order to meet all of Malloy’s recommended spending reductions, they would need to either lay off essential staff or reallocate funds that are currently used to pay for office utilities.

In testimony before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, Freedom of Information Commission Executive Director Colleen Murphy said “the cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget are grave.”

The JI reported that Malloy’s budget proposal would cut a combined $891,983 from the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Freedom of Information Commission, and the Office of State Ethics — the three biggest of the nine so-called watchdog agencies that operate under the Office of Government Accountability.

The governor also has proposed consolidating funding for the remaining six agencies into one appropriation for the Office of Governmental Accountability as part of his call for block-grant funding to give executive branch heads more discretion.

“The commission’s case docket has increased dramatically over the past several years, while its staff and funding have been greatly reduced due to consolidation and budget cuts,” Murphy said. “I am actively seeking ways to fulfill the Commission’s responsibilities, without abridging the right of the citizens of Connecticut to open and accountable government,” Murphy added.

Open government advocates urged lawmakers to maintain current funding levels for the watchdog agencies.

“Public scrutiny and oversight is essential to a government that is of, by, and for the people,” Connecticut Common Cause said in written testimony. “Governor Malloy’s proposal would make the process of allocating taxpayer dollars completely opaque and hidden from the public. Openness in government strengthens democracy, promotes efficiency, and allows members of the public input on decisions that directly affect their lives.”