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Watchdog groups to seek opinion on state budget cuts

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HARTFORD – The executive directors of Connecticut’s three watchdog agencies want Attorney General George Jepsen to weigh in on whether Gov. Dannel P. Malloy can cut their budgets.

Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she and the leaders of the State Elections Enforcement Commission and Freedom of Information Commission plan to ask Jepsen for an advisory opinion.

The planned request comes after Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, sent a letter to the agency heads rejecting their claim that Malloy is barred by a 2004 law from reducing their budgets. Barnes said Malloy was granted authority to hold back funding in the new state budget.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 that prohibits governors from reducing the agencies’ annual budgets.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Barnes said the agencies “were not unfairly or disproportionately targeted” by the cuts aimed at fixing the state’s deficit.

The leaders of the three agencies last month sent a letter to Barnes questioning the legality of the cuts, saying the General Assembly passed the 2004 legislation to protect the agencies’ independence. They requested the funding be restored.