New OFA Report Sets Much Higher State Budget Deficit Projection [Hartford Courant]

February 4, 2015

Hartford Courant
New estimate from Office of Fiscal Analysis shows state budget deficit at $182.3 million

HARTFORD — The legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office said Tuesday that the state’s budget deficit is twice as large as what has been projected by the governor, prompting immediate criticism from top Republican legislators.

Malloy and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, both Democrats, believe the deficit is about half the level cited by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, which forecast it at $182.3 million for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30.

Lembo said on Monday he projected the deficit at $89.4 million, attributing the difference to ongoing budget cuts.

The discrepancy prompted Senate Republican leader Len Fasano and House Republican leader Themis Klarides to again call for bipartisan budget talks to close the budget deficit.

“The comptroller may have full faith in the governor’s analysis, but in light of the OFA report today, how can you not question Malloy’s numbers?” they asked in a joint statement Tuesday. “How can we not question why our comptroller continues to side with the governor again and again, while our deficit has continued to balloon? This is politics before people.

“While the governor and comptroller are closing their eyes to the full severity of the situation at hand, the only nonpartisan budget office in the state is telling a completely different story. Connecticut’s finances are in trouble. The state deficit is growing faster than the governor can make cuts to the budget.”

For more than two months, Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to schedule budget talks and a special legislative session to close the budget deficit in the current fiscal year.

Lembo on Monday backed Malloy’s budget figures, saying that the governor was making mid-year budget cuts that were reducing the deficit. He said that Malloy’s saving targets were “attainable” because the state has about five full months remaining in the fiscal year.

“My projections are based on careful and thoughtful analysis and historical trends. My analysis and opinions are my own,” Lembo said.

“It seems to defy logic that, when I disagree with the governor, I’m characterized as an independent and honest voice, but when I agree —- even in part — it’s considered partisan. It will take a tremendous amount of hard work and focus to guide us out of this recession. Thoughtful people need to work together.”

Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, said, “It is ironic that legislative Republicans would criticize the administration for failing to deal with any problem. Governor Malloy is implementing tough cuts and also developing a budget and legislative program to close the gap in the coming biennium and address any current year deficiencies.”