State Budget Deficit Grows To $133 Million In Current Year [Courant]

March 23, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

HARTFORD — The state budget situation just got worse.

The projected budget deficit has jumped to nearly $133 million for the current fiscal year ending June 30 because of lower federal grants, slower tax collections and increased spending, according to a new estimate released Friday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had been working to receive $45 million in Medicaid claims, but those claims have been rejected by the Obama administration — at least for the moment — pushing the deficit up by $45 million. The state is considering appealing in an attempt to receive the money later.

State agencies have been warned to watch spending closely as the Malloy administration continues with its modified hiring freeze, which fills only the most crucial positions.

“We continue to work to address the remaining deficit through administrative actions, including heightened scrutiny of position refills and contract requests in order to ensure that year-end expenditures are limited to those that are critical for state operations,” Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes, said in a letter Friday to the state comptroller.

The state legislature is also studying Malloy’s proposed two-year, $40 billion budget in an attempt to close projected deficits of about $1.3 billion to fund current services in each of the next two fiscal years.

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven, whose calls for bipartisan budget talks have been rejected by Malloy and top Democrats, said the deficit is getting worse.

“Connecticut certainly isn’t springing forward when it comes to our state’s finances,” Fasano said. “We’re falling backward. It’s no surprise that yet again, late on a Friday afternoon, during a snowstorm, the governor is dumping bad news on us.

“The increase in the state deficit is staggering and unacceptable. The only reason it hasn’t exceeded 1 percent of the state budget is because the governor has made two rounds of rescissions and so far the only way he plans address the deficit is to take money away from municipalities, take money away from hospitals, and break promises.

“Bottom line, the governor is not paying attention, and he is refusing to work on the problems Connecticut is facing. This leaves us with very few options, none of which are in the best interest of the state.”