Republicans Push Again For State Budget Talks [Courant]

December 3, 2014

Hartford Courant

After having their request for a special session rejected, top Republicans called once again Wednesday for bipartisan talks to close the state’s projected budget deficit.

Incoming Senate Republican leader Leonard Fasano and incoming House Republican leader Themis Klarides are seeking action on the deficit after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last month that a special legislative session was not necessary to close the deficit. Malloy has announced a modified hiring freeze and budget cuts in more than 30 different agencies to close a deficit that had been projected at $99 million for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015.

“As you know, shortly after the election it was relayed to the public, ourselves included, that the state’s revenues were short of enacted and that expenditures were not trending in a favorable direction,” the Republicans wrote Wednesday to the top four Democratic leaders in the legislature. “A week after this acknowledgement, we then learned that the treasurer had insufficient cash on hand to pay the day-to-day operating expenses of the state of Connecticut and as a result has had to borrow against bond proceeds. We know that the cash situation could have been much worse had the state not bonded half of its GAAP deficit and received a cash infusion of $560 million.”
The Republicans called for a meeting to discuss the budget situation.

“Hesitation will lead to devastation,” Fasano and Klarides wrote. “Now is the time to act together.”

Malloy says that the state tax collections come in swings throughout the year, and the state is currently in a trough because the sales tax revenues have not yet poured in from the Christmas sales that will lead to millions of dollars being collected by late December. In addition, millions more will come pouring into state coffers in February, March, and April as consumers complete their state income tax filings before the annual April 15 deadline.

The Republicans do not have enough votes to force a special session, and the Democrats say that the budget deficit can be closed without a vote by the full legislature.

“There is no need for a special session,” Andrew Doba, Malloy’s spokesman, said recently. “The rescissions that were announced, in addition to the management measures that were announced more than a week ago, are more than sufficient to address this minor shortfall.”

The two top Democrats in the Senate, President Pro Tem Donald Williams and Majority Leader Martin Looney, both said recently that a special session was “unnecessary” because Malloy was making cuts within his authority under state law.

In addition to a projected deficit in the current fiscal year, the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office is estimating combined deficits of $4.47 billion over the next three fiscal years, starting in July 2015.

Alan Calandro, the fiscal office’s director, told legislators recently that the state has problems both on the spending and taxing sides of the budget. In the short term, the state is still trying to obtain about $200 million in additional funds from the federal government for Medicaid that is currently under negotiation. The federal budget has still not yet been adopted, and the government has been funded under continuing resolutions.

Incoming Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney said that the fiscal analysts working for the governor and the legislature have not called for any immediate action by the legislature.

“We are monitoring state finances just as closely as our Republican colleagues are, and we look forward to working with them on a responsible and achievable plan of action when and if that time arrives,’’ Looney said.