Sen. Kane on Gov. Malloy’s budget approach: “I’ve seen this movie before, and I don’t like the way it ends.” (Hartford Courant)

November 18, 2014

Hartford Courant

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be cutting the state budget later this week in order to help close a projected deficit ranging between $89 million and $99 million in the current fiscal year.

Malloy’s budget director, Benjamin Barnes, said Monday that Malloy will be making unilateral cuts that are within his authority without the legislature’s approval, but said details about where specific cuts will be made will not be released until later this week.

The most that Malloy has ever cut with his so-called rescissionary authority has been $60 million to $70 million. Barnes said he did not expect the cuts to be above that level.

Malloy’s budget office and the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office both issued deficit projections last week. The nonpartisan office pegged the projected deficit in the current year at $89 million, and Malloy’s budget analysts estimated it at $99 million. Those numbers cover the fiscal year that ends on June 30.

The bigger problem begins July 1, when the deficits are projected to be more than $1 billion in each of the next three fiscal years.

Malloy has authority to cut only certain line items by up to 5 percent, and he is not permitted to unilaterally cut municipal aid, for example. Deeper cuts require approval by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“We are trying to find things that are realistic” to cut, Barnes told reporters in a conference room at the Capitol on Monday morning. “We will try to do it in a way that minimizes the harm to the beneficiaries.”

Barnes said that no final decisions have been made on the budget, adding, “I don’t know a number yet” on the total amount of cuts.

During the recent election campaign, Malloy repeatedly promised that he would not raise taxes if elected to a second term.

But Sen. Rob Kane, the ranking Senate Republican on the budget-writing appropriations committee, said he does not believe that Malloy and the legislature will close the budget deficit without raising taxes.

“I’ve seen this movie before, and I don’t like the way it ends,” Kane said Monday. “We’ve been down this road. … We still have a $1.4 billion deficit looming in the next fiscal year. I’m afraid they’re going to raise taxes yet again. I don’t believe him when he says taxes are not part of his proposal in the upcoming session — especially when he was just re-elected. I hope I’m wrong in that assumption.”

Kane said the projected budget deficits were not discussed enough during the gubernatorial campaign because the contest centered mainly on attacks and counterattacks concerning Republican candidate Tom Foley.

“They do a very good job at deflecting what takes place by going on attack mode,” Kane said.

Although saying that everything is on the table, Barnes said some key programs would likely avoid the budget ax.

“I think that there are some areas where we are not likely to make rescissions,” Barnes said. “Some of the new programming surrounding the mental health initiatives that came out of the gun law, which are relatively new programs being implemented, I think those are extremely unlikely to be considered for rescission. There are some incredibly important programs that we have to support people with needs of one kind or another — developmental needs or mental health needs or health needs, and we’re certainly not going to do anything that will undermine those programs” ability to function. But we will probably go further than some people would like in all kinds of areas.”

He added: “I think we will maintain the safety net, in spite of these rescissions.”

Asked if more cuts will be necessary in the current fiscal year, Barnes said: “I don’t believe so. … I’m not going to take anything off the table.”

Budget officials prefer to make cuts earlier — rather than later — so that a larger amount of money can be saved. If a cut were made with two months left in the fiscal year, officials said, only a small amount of money would be saved.