Fiscal Office Report Differs With Malloy On Budget Cuts, top Republicans again call for a special legislative session [Courant]

December 8, 2014

Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — The legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office is questioning Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget reduction calculations, raising concerns about the measures being taken to close the state’s deficit.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis, in a report issued Friday, said that budget cuts imposed by Malloy in November would reduce the projected $99 million budget deficit by $24.6 million. That’s more than $30 million below Malloy’s projections of $54.7 million in rescissions.

But Malloy’s budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, said the differences between the two projections are relatively small in the context of the entire state budget and can be resolved during the current fiscal year.

He said that OFA’s “budget projections are certainly reasonable,” and they represent less than 0.1 percent of the overall state budget.

“We remain confident that the measures we have taken to date will allow us to be in balance on June 30, 2015,” Barnes said Friday in a statement. “If circumstances change, we are prepared to take additional actions to ensure that outcome.”

So far, Malloy has imposed a hiring freeze and cut the budgets of more than 30 departments and agencies to reduce the deficit.

Agency heads and commissioners have been directed to closely monitor spending to save money. Malloy has the power to cut the budget unilaterally in certain areas if necessary, but he needs legislative approval for other actions, such as cutting aid to cities and towns.

Top Republicans have called for a special legislative session to resolve the budget deficit in the coming weeks, but Malloy and Democratic legislators say that is not necessary. The Republicans are now calling for bipartisan talks because of the latest numbers.

“Bottom line, we know we have a significant deficit, even after the governor’s rescissions,” incoming Senate Republican leader Leonard Fasano and incoming House Republican leader Themis Klarides said in a joint statement. “The longer we wait to address this problem in a productive bipartisan fashion, the more hardship Connecticut taxpayers will face in the long run.”

The Democratic leaders, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Martin Looney, the incoming Senate president pro tem, responded that the projected deficit is not large enough to justify a special session, and the legislature is prepared to take action in the next session if necessary.