Attorney General: Mr. William J. Cibes, Jr., Office of Policy and Management, 1991-036 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

December 10, 1991

Mr. William J. Cibes, Jr.
Secretary
Office of Policy and Management
80 Washington Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Honorable William E. Curry, Jr.
Comptroller
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Messrs. Cibes and Curry:

You have each asked independently for our opinion on a series of questions regarding the transmission of budgetary and financial information from the Office of Policy and Management (hereinafter referred to as "OPM") to the office of the Comptroller under Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 and 3-115. Your questions involve the following factual background.

The Comptroller has requested from the Secretary of the Office of Police and Management (hereinafter "OPM") information described as follows:

Copies of the economic forecasts which were used as the basis for the estimates, especially those relating to the Personal Income Tax, Sales and Use Tax, and Corporations tax.

Copies of your staff's analysis of these forecasts, including any changes to assumptions and the methodology which was used to produce the specific revenue projections provided.

The forecast results produced by any econometric modeling used and the rationale for any changes to these results.

An explanation of the $30 million change in the Finance Committee's estimate for personal income tax collections.

Any other information is [sic] your possession regarding this [sic] estimates, including projections produces [sic] by independent sources.

A monthly breakdown of anticipate receipts for each major tax.

The Comptroller claims he is entitled to this information under that portion of Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 which provides: "All records, books and papers in any public office shall at all reasonable times be open to inspection by the comptroller." He also relies on another provision of that statute which states: "The comptroller may require reports from any department, agency or institution...upon any matter of property or finance at any time...."

The Secretary of OPM, on the other hand, contends that the Comptroller's request for information about the "rationale," "analysis" and "explanations" underlying his revenue estimates is not pertinent to the Comptroller's "determination of claims or the maintenance of state accounts, the only proper topic of reports which are within your constitutional and statutory purview." The Secretary's position relies on statutory changes in the Comptroller's powers during the June, 1991 Special Session of the General Assembly -- changes contained in Public Act No. 91-14, which amended Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115. Although the Secretary has offered to "share" with the Comptroller "all relevant information including that which is regularly forwarded to OFA [Office of Fiscal Analysis] and which will be discussed with the Economic Conference Board," he seeks our interpretation of the relevant statutes. Letter from William J. Cibes, Jr. to William E. Curry, Jr. November 12, 1991.

The questions posed by the Secretary are:

1. Does the material requested by the Comptroller constitute a "special report" under Section 3-112 of the General Statutes?

2. Does Section 3-115 of the General Statutes, as amended by Public Act 91-14 of the June 1991 Special Session, operate to limit the scope of inquiry authorized by Section 3-112 by placing revenue forecasting analysis and methodology outside "any matter of property or finance" within the purview of the Comptroller?

3. To what extent, and upon what basis, does the constitutional authority of the Comptroller to adjust and settle all public accounts and demands, and to prescribe the mode of keeping and rendering all public accounts, include the power to demand the material requested?

4. Does the license agreement executed by OPM for econometric data, analysis and computer access permit compliance with the Comptroller's request?

The Comptroller poses a single question which is closely related to the Secretary's second question. The Comptroller wishes to know "whether or not [his] office has the right under Connecticut General Statutes Section 3-112 to compel the production of certain documents and reports from the Office of Policy and Management (OPM)." The documents and reports are those listed earlier in this opinion.

Each of these questions will be addressed.

I.

The first question asks us to determine whether the material the Comptroller has requested the Secretary to produce constitutes a "special report" within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112. We conclude that it does not. To explain our opinion in this regard we turn first to the language of the statute. The pertinent provision of 3-112 states:

The comptroller may require reports from any department, agency or institution as aforesaid upon any matter of property or finance at any time and under such regulations as the comptroller prescribes and shall require special reports upon request of the governor, and the information contained in such special reports shall be transmitted by him to the governor.

(Emphasis added)

Our reading of the foregoing provision is guided by the tenet of statutory construction requiring that a statute must be interpreted as it is written. Ganim v. Roberts, 204 Conn. 760, 763, 529 A.2d 194 (1987). That is a statute must be applied as its words direct. Johnson v. Manson, 196 Conn. 309, 314, 493 A.2d 846 (1985). In addition, a statute should be construed so that no word is treated as superfluous or insignificant. Zichichi v. Middlesex Memorial Hospital, 204 Conn. 399, 407, 528 A.2d 805 (1987). Lastly, we must be cognizant of the rule that a court cannot rewrite a statute to accomplish a particular result; that is the function of the legislature. State of Connecticut v. Perruccio, 192 Conn. 154, 163, 471 A.2d 632 (1984).

With these rules of construction in mind, the plain language of Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 permits the Comptroller to require State agencies to furnish reports to him but establishes a prerequisite for "special reports." The term "special reports" is explicitly defined as one required "upon request by the Governor." Hence, any report the Comptroller seek from another State agency is not by definition a "special report" unless the Governor initiates the request for the particular report.

From the factual background pertaining to this dispute, we understand that the Governor has not asked the Comptroller for the information the Comptroller now seeks from the Secretary of OPM. Therefore, the reports the Comptroller seek in this instance are not "special reports" under Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112.

II.

The thrust of the Secretary's second question and of the single inquiry posed by the Comptroller concerns whether the 1991 amendments to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 limit the scope of the Comptroller's request for reports and documents authorized by 3-112. It is our opinion that the 1991 amendments to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 do not limit the Comptroller's authority under Section 3-112.

Section 24 of Article Fourth of the Connecticut constitution gives the comptroller two general constitutional powers, to wit, he is authorized to adjust and settle all public accounts and demands and to prescribe the mode of keeping and rendering all public accounts. In addition, the constitution directs that the "general assembly may assign to him other duties in relation to his office ... and shall prescribe the manner in which his duties shall be performed."

The duties assigned to the Comptroller by the legislature are generally found in Chapter 34 of the General Statutes. Included in that chapter are the two statutes now in question, Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 and 3-115.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 provides in relevant part:

The comptroller may require reports from any department, agency or institution as aforesaid upon any matter of property or finance at any time and under such regulations as the comptroller prescribes and shall require special reports upon request of the governor, and the information contained in such special reports shall be transmitted by him to the governor. All records, books and papers in any public office shall at all reasonable times be open to inspection by the comptroller.

It is a cardinal rule of construction that statutes must be construed to give effect to the intent of the legislature, State v. Parmalee , 197 Conn. 158, 161, 496 A.2d 186 (1985) quoting, State v. Campbell, 180 Conn. 557, 561, 429 A.2d (1980), and where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, legislative intent is determined form the language of the act alone. Beloff v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., 203 Conn. 45, 54, 523 A.2d 477 (1987). Moreover, words and phrases used in a statute must by interpreted according to their ordinary meaning unless their context dictates otherwise. Kilpatrick v. Board of Education, 206 Conn. 25, 18, 535 A.2d 1311 (1988); State v. Bruney, 189 Conn. 321, 326, 455 A.2d 1335 (1983); Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-1(a).

The language in this statute is clear and unambiguous. All state agencies and institutions are under a legal duty to supply the comptroller with "reports" that he may request on "any matter of ... finance." The term "finance" is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as "Money resources generally. The state of the finances of an individual or corporation, being his condition a monetary point of view. The cash he has on hand, and that which he expects to receive, as compared with the engagements he has made to pay." According to this definition, the word "finance" as used in Section 3-112 encompasses revenue and expense forecasts and projections. Equally important, this legal understanding of the term -- presumptively the legislature's -- comports with a common sense, everyday view of it. Clearly, therefore, under Section 3-112, the Comptroller may request reports from any department on matters of property and finance including revenue and expense forecasts. It is also clear that the Comptroller has a legal right to inspect "[A]ll records, books and papers in any public office ...." There is no doubt from language of the statute that the records, books and papers produced and retained by OPM are "open to inspection" by the Comptroller.

The Secretary of OPM, however, has inquired as to whether the 1991 amendments to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 "operate to limit" the comptroller's "scope of inquiry authorized by Section 3-112 by placing revenue forecasting analysis and methodology outside" the Comptroller's purview.

Prior to the June 1991 Special Session of the General Assembly, Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 contained the following provisions relevant to this discussion:

The comptroller shall prepare all accounting statements relating to the financial condition of the state as a whole ... shall issue cumulative monthly financial statements concerning the state's general fund which shall include a statement of revenues and expenditures to the end of the last-completed month together with a statement of estimated revenue by source to the end of the fiscal years, at least in the same detail as appears in the budget act, and a statement of appropriation requirements of the state's general fund to the end of the fiscal year itemized as far as practicable for each budgeted agency, including estimates of lapsing appropriations, unallocated lapsing balances and unallocated appropriation requirements. The comptroller shall provide an analysis of the statements furnished pursuant to section 4-66, on or before the first day of the following month .... On or before September first, annually, he shall submit a report to the governor which shall include (1) a statement of all appropriations and expenditures of the public funds during the fiscal year next preceding ...: (2) a statement of all the revenues of the state... during such year; (3) a statement setting forth, as of the close of such year, the financial condition of the state as to its funds; and such other information as will, in his opinion, be of interest to the public or as will convey to the general assembly and the governor the essential facts as to the financial condition and operations of the state government."

With the passage of 1991 Conn. Public Act No. 91-41 of the June Special Session, Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 was amended. Section 1 of the Act specifically changed the content of the cumulative monthly financial statements required to be issued by the Comptroller by removing from those statements the Comptroller's estimates of revenues and expenditures to the end of the fiscal year and by requiring the Comptroller to include in his reports the revenue and expense estimates supplied him by OPM. In addition, the Act removed the previous statutory requirement that the Comptroller analyze the monthly revenue and expenditure estimates submitted by the Secretary of OPM pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-66. Section 1 of the Act provides in relevant part:

The comptroller ... shall issue cumulative monthly financial statements concerning the state's general fund which shall include a statement of revenues and expenditures to the end of the last-completed month together with [a] THE statement of estimated revenue by source to the end of the fiscal [years, at least in the same detail as appears in the budget act,] YEAR and [a] THE statement of appropriation requirements of the state's general fund to the end of the fiscal year FURNISHED PURSUANT OT SECTION 4-66 AND itemized as far as practicable for each budgeted agency, including estimates of lapsing appropriations, unallocated appropriation requirements. The comptroller shall provide [an analysis of the ] SUCH statements, [furnished pursuant to section 4-66,] IN THE SAME FORM AND IN THE SAME CATEGORIES AS APPEARS IN THE BUDGET ACT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,_ on or before the first day of the following month.

While the Act remove the requirement that the Comptroller include his own revenue and expenditure estimates in his monthly financial statement and eliminated his duty to provide an analysis of OPM's monthly revenue and expenditure estimates, the Act did not alter the Comptroller's other statutory duties. As set forth above, those duties include the preparation of accounting statements "relating to the financial condition of the state as a whole" and an annual report which may include "such other information as will, in his opinion, be of interest to the public or as will convey to the general assembly and the governor the essential fact as to the financial condition and operations of the state government." Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115.

As the Secretary suggests, the Comptroller's request for information "must be reasonably necessary for performance of the duties" of the Comptroller "as established by law." Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities v. Sullivan, 35 Conn. Sup. 565, 570 (1978). In this regard, the revenue and expense projections prepared by OPM pursuant to Conn. Gen. Sta. 4-66 are "matters of ... finance" and reports concerning those projections may help the Comptroller evaluate the "financial condition" of the state in his accounting statements or in his annual report or may be "of interest" to the public, the general assembly or the governor. An examination of the "records, books and papers" utilized and prepared by OPM in drafting its budget statement may also be useful to the Comptroller in carrying out his statutory responsibilities.1 Therefore, although the Comptroller is no longer required to provide his own financial projections in his monthly statement and is no longer required to "analyze" the projections supplied by OPM, the 1991 amendments to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115 do not place all revenue and expense forecasting matters beyond the scope of his statutory authority.

1991 Conn. Pub. Acts 91-14 did not amend Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 and did not affect the Comptroller's powers or duties set forth therein. The General Assembly has the general power to assign to the Comptroller duties other than those specifically enumerated in the constitution; see, Patterson v. Dempsey, 152 Conn. 431, 445-46, 207 A.2d 739 (1965); likewise the power to remove such additional duties is implied from the positive grant to the legislature. Conn. Const. Article Fourth, 24. Consequently, if the legislature wished to limit the Comptroller's authority to inspect the "records, books and papers" in any public office or to amend Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 to remove the Comptroller's authority to require reports regarding matters of "finance," it could have done so expressly. Edmundson v. Rivera, 169 Conn. 630, 634-35 (1975). In fact, in 1937 the General Assembly did so when it repealed the Comptroller's authority to require reports on matters of property or finance, which authority was first given to the Comptroller in 1921 in language identical to that contained in the present Section 3-112. 1921 General Statutes Chapter 171.2 Where the legislature has failed to act directly to restrict the Comptroller's powers under Section 3-112, we cannot assume that a repeal of those powers was implied in the 1991 amendments to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-115. Repeals by implication are not favored. Edmundson v. Rivera, supra , 169, Conn. at 634-35.3 An additional issue raised by Section 3-112 is whether the Comptroller's power to request reports is dependent upon his adoption of regulations concerning such reports. As set forth above, the Comptroller may require reports on any matter of property or finance "at any time and under such regulations as the Comptroller prescribes" (emphasis added). The use of the word "and" subjects this phrase to two interpretations: reports may be requested in two alternative ways -- at any time and according to prescribed regulations; reports may be requested at any time only according to prescribed regulations.4

It is our opinion that the first interpretation is correct. It comports with he plain language of the statute and gives effect to each and every word. The latter interpretation would remove the word "and" from the law and render the phrase "at any time" meaningless. No word or phrase should be presumed superfluous, insignificant or without independent meaning in a statute. O'Brien Properties, Inc. v. Rodriguez, 215 Conn. 367, 372-73 (1990).

Additionally, this interpretation is consistent with the long-standing interpretation of the statute by both OPM and the Comptroller -- that reports can be requested "at any time" regardless of the promulgation of regulations.

The practical interpretation of legislative acts by government agencies responsible for their administration is a recognized aid to statutory construction. State ex rel. James v. Rapport, 136 Conn. 177, 182, 69 A.2d 645 (1949). See Roy v. Centennial Ins. Co., 171 Conn. 463, 473, 370 A.2d 1011 (1976) (in construing statutes, courts are to accord 'great deference' to construction given to the statute by the agency charged with enforcing).

Connecticut Light and Power Co. v. Public Utilities Control Authority, 176 Conn. 191, 198 (1978).

As stated previously, the Comptroller's authority to require reports on matters of property and finance was first adopted in 1921 in language identical to the language set forth in Section 3-112. In 1937, however, the Comptroller's authority to require such reports was transferred to the Department of Finance and Control (now OPM). Section 56d, 1937 Supplement to the General Statutes. There the power resided until 1978 when the power was returned to the Comptroller. At the present time, both OPM and the Comptroller, in virtually identical statutory language, have the authority to "require reports from any department, agency or institution ... upon any matter of property or finance at any time and under such regulations" as may be prescribed. Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 and 4-67. "[S]tatutes relating to the same subject matter may be looked to for guidance in reaching an understanding of the meaning of a statutory term." Doe v. Institute for Living, Inc., 175 Conn. 49, 58 (1978). Based upon our research and the information supplied to us by OPM and the Comptroller, in the 70 years this language has existed, neither the Comptroller nor OPM has issued regulations concerning such reports. This interpretation is entitled to deference. Where the governmental agency's time-tested interpretation is "reasonable," it should be accorded "great weight." Anderson v. Ludgin, 175 Conn. 545, 555-556, 400 A.2d 712 (1978) (Citations omitted).

Finally, consistent with a commonly accepted tenet of statutory interpretation, it must be presumed that the legislature's failure to amend the language of Section 3-112 during the 70-year period of its interpretation by OPM and the Comptroller, constitutes legislative approval of that interpretation. During that period of time the General Assembly visited and revisited the statutes in question. The authority to request reports was transferred and finally shared between OPM and the Comptroller. Numerous, unrelated amendments were made to the respective statutes. The "legislative silence concerning that interpretation, especially where the legislature makes unrelated amendments in the same statute ... is presumptive evidence of the correctness of the administrative interpretation. 2A Sutherland, op. cit., pp. 262-62." Connecticut Light and Power Company v. PUCA, supra, 176 Conn. at 198-199.

It is the opinion of this office, therefore, that the Comptroller has the legal authority to request reports on any matter of property and finance both at any time and according to regulations he may prescribe.

III.

The Secretary's next question asks us to give our opinion on the scope of the Comptroller's constitutional power as it relates to the authority to demand of OPM the requested material. We need not address this issue because the Comptroller's power to request the materials is set forth in the General Statutes and this statutory authority abridges no provision of the Constitution.

IV.

In his last question the Secretary asks whether the license agreement executed by OPM for econometric data and analysis permits compliance with the Comptroller's request for the "forecast results produced by any econometric modeling." Having reviewed the agreement in question, our opinion is that it does not preclude the Secretary from providing the Comptroller with the information he seeks provided this information is not disclosed by the Comptroller in a manner which would violate the terms of the contract.

The agreement explicitly states that the contractor's services are provided to the State of Connecticut. Paragraph 7, however, provides that

Connecticut shall not copy, modify, transfer [sic], or assign use of the PC AREMOS System, or any copy modification or merged portion, in whole or part, including the User Documentation provided with the System, except for normal security backup purposes, provided that Connecticut reproduce on such copy all notices of [the contractor's] copyright and trademark. This restriction shall survive any termination of this Agreement.

(Emphasis added).

Clearly, the plain language of the agreement states that the parties intended to provide the "State of Connecticut" with the information set forth in the agreement. Although OPM was the contraction agency, it acted on behalf of the entire State. The State is the direct beneficiary of the agreement. As such, so long as the reports of information obtained from OPM's use of the leased computer software are used by the Comptroller or any other legally appropriate state agency according to the terms of the contract, disclosure of such information by OPM to the Comptroller would in no way entail a breach of the agreement.

Conclusion

In summary, the material requested by the Comptroller does not constitute a "special report" within the meaning of Conn. Gen, Stat. 3-112. The Comptroller may obtain under Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 the budget forecasting data or budget analyses produced or used by OPM. The OPM licensing agreement for econometric data and analysis does not prevent disclosure of forecasting data to the Comptroller.

We trust this answers your respective questions.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

1 Not without significance, there is no express statutory limitation on the type of records, books and papers which may be inspected by the Comptroller.

2 The Comptroller's authority to require such reports was returned to that office in 1978 through 1978 Conn. Pub. Acts 78-302.

3 In his November 12, 1991 letter to this office, the Secretary noted that the Comptroller's information request was "very broad and general." in addition, the Secretary stated that he had asked the Comptroller to review the materials which the Secretary possessed in order to "refine his request" for information. While it is the opinion of this Office that the Comptroller retains the authority to receive and review documents and information pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-112 "reasonably necessary" for the performance of his duties, request for such information should be "reasonable" and not unduly burdensome or disruptive to the operations of the Office of Policy and Management. See Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities v. Sullivan, 35 Conn. Sup. supra, at 570; 20 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 51 (1920).

4 The legislative history of Section 3-112 is not helpful because this provision was first instituted in 1921 and no legislative history exists. The legislative history of 1978 Conn. Pub. Acts 78-302, the public act which returned to the Comptroller the authority to require reports from other agencies, is likewise unhelpful. The history of that public act consists of a one sentence summary of the legislation by Senator Beck: "Going through the Sections quickly, Section 1 authorizes the Comptroller to require financial reports from any state agency according to regulations he may proscribe, and special reports at the Governor's request." Connecticut General Assembly, 1978 Senate Proceedings, Vol. 21, Part 5 p. 1985.


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