Attorney General: Honorable Nancy Wyman, State of Connecticut, 1997-009 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

April 3, 1997

Honorable Nancy Wyman
Comptroller
State of Connecticut
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-1775

Dear Ms. Wyman:

You have asked us whether the Comptroller has authority to remit funds, which have been offset from amounts payable to state vendors who have defaulted on their federal student loans, to the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation (CSLF). After consideration and review of this question, we believe that the Comptroller has implied authority to remit such funds directly to the CSLF.

Our analysis begins with the statutory provision which directs the Comptroller to withhold payments due third parties who are in default on one or more installments of a student loan guaranteed by CSLF. This provision is Conn. Gen. Stat.  10a-206a, as amended by 1996 Conn. Pub. Act No. 96-180,  16. It states:

Upon notification to the Comptroller by the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation that any borrower under this chapter is in default on one or more installments of a loan made or guaranteed by the corporation under this chapter, including any interest related thereto, the Comptroller shall withhold any order upon the Treasurer for payment of any amount payable by the state to such borrower, unless the amount so payable is reduced by the amount of such indebtedness, provided any such amount payable by the state shall not be so reduced if (1) such amount payable is a payment of salary or wages, or any payment in lieu of or in addition to such salary or wages, to a state employee, (2) such taxes, penalties and interest have been fixed by [said] THE commissioner OF REVENUE SERVICES pursuant to a request within the time allowed under title 12 to correct the amount thereof or (3) such taxes, penalties and interest have been determined by said commissioner to be due and such determination is the subject of an appeal pending before any court in this state. The Comptroller shall promptly notify the corporation of any payment reduced under the provisions of this section.

Curiously, this provision does not expressly instruct the Comptroller what to do with funds she withholds from the State's payees who are in default on student loans guaranteed by CSLF. Generally, we cannot, by construction, read into legislation provisions which are not clearly stated. Local 218 Steamfitters Welfare Fund v. Cobra Pipe Supply & Coil Co., 207 Conn. 639, 645, 541 A.2d 869 (1988). However, in construing a statute we must also abide by the tenet that asks us to look beyond the literal meaning of the words of the provision and search its history, the problem it was designed to remedy and the policy underlying the law. P. X. Restaurant, Inc. v. Windsor, 189 Conn. 153, 159, 454 A.2d 1258 (1983). A statute should be construed to give effect to the legislative intent. Zachs v. Groppo, 207 Conn. 683, 690, 542 A.2d 1145 (1988). In other words, a statute should be construed according to the policy which the legislation seeks to serve; Frito-Lay, Inc. v. Planning & Zoning Commission, 206 Conn. 554, 574, 538 A.2d 1039 (1988); and it should be interpreted so as to effectuate its manifest purpose or object. McGaffin v. Roberts, 193 Conn. 393, 407, 479 A.2d 176 (1984).

We have reviewed the legislative history behind 1985 Conn. Pub. Act No. 85-423, now codified as Conn. Gen. Stat.  10a-206a. The Act's antecedent was Substitute House Bill No. 7631. When reported on to the floor of the House, it dealt solely with the offset of taxes due the State from the State's vendors.1 The bill was amended on the House floor to include defaulted student loan payments. Representative Cibes, a sponsor of the amendment, characterized the student loan provisions as follow:

Mr. Speaker, this is a god-and-motherhood bill. We all know that there are instances in which there have been defaults under student loans provided by the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation. This is simply an effort to increase those instances in which money is recovered. There may well be instances in which a former student who is in default has some payment due from the state. And this amendment is simply an effort to recover those monies to the extent of the payment which is owned [sic] by the state. And I would strongly urge members on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment.

28 Conn. H. Proc. Pt. 20, 1985 Sess. 7200 (1985).

The statements made on the floor of the General Assembly often provide strong indication of legislative intent. Manchester Sand & Gravel Co. v. South Windsor, 203 Conn. 267, 276, 524 A.2d 621 (1987); State v. Golino, 201 Conn. 435, 445, 518 A.2d 57 (1986). Here, Representative Cibes stated that the purpose of the amendment was to assist in the recovery of payments defaulted on student loans guaranteed by CSLF. The amendment, however, failed to expressly state that the Comptroller must pay over to CSLF, the funds she sets off from payments due the State's vendors.

In construing a statute, courts must use common sense and assume that a reasonable and rational result was intended. In re Luis R., 204 C. 630, 635, 528 A.2d 1146 (1987). Statutes should be interpreted so as to effectuate their manifested purpose and object. McGaffin v. Roberts, 193 Conn. at 407. In ascertaining the intent of the legislature, the object of the legislation should be considered. Perille v. Raybestos-Manhattan-Europe, Inc., 196 Conn. 529, 536, 494 A.2d 555 (1985).

Based on the foregoing rules of construction, we believe that the Legislature intended that the State Comptroller assist CSLF in recovering defaulted payments on student loans by setting-off such sums as are appropriate from payments the State intends to make to its vendors. Although Conn. Gen. Stat.  10a-206a does not explicitly state the entire procedure for remitting funds to CSLF, it is implied from the entire intent of the statute that once funds are set off, the Comptroller must transfer such sums to CSLF since such sums are not property of the State, but are properly due CSLF.

Your office may wish to seek a legislative amendment to this statute in this session to clarify this statute. We trust this answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

William J. Prensky
Assistant Attorney General

RB/WJP/p


Footnote:

1 This part of the bill became section 1 of 1985 Conn. Pub. Act No. 85-423 which has been codified as Conn. Gen. Stat.  12-39g.


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