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Connecticut's Budget "Reality" is Called Into Question

Credit CT-N
Alan Calandro, director of Connecticut's Office of Fiscal Analysis, presented budget projections during a fiscal accountability meeting on Monday.

Republicans in the legislature are accusing the Malloy administration of sugar-coating the state's financial picture. The administration conceded in its annual budget forecast that the state is heading for a deficit after next year's elections. But its estimate of the budget gap was about half of that projected by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis

Republican Vincent Candelora told Benjamin Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, that he's disturbed his estimate does not take account of inflation, and leaves out an increase in aid to towns. He said, "It’s very hard for me to get a handle [on] what this document represents. I think it’s more of a wish list. Given that we’re coming up on the holidays, maybe that is appropriate. From an accounting standpoint, I find that I need to turn to OFA’s document to really appreciate where Connecticut is today, and where we’ll go in the future."

Barnes's office projected a more than $600 million deficit in fiscal year 2015, but OFA's estimate was more than $1 billion. Barnes said his estimate is more conservative, because it does not assume future administrations will continue to fund services at current levels. "Clearly," he said, "we do not project that we’ll have the ability to fund inflation, or significant increases, in all the different grants and spending that we have. We have put in more conservative assumptions about what the future holds."

Barnes said any major new spending must likely be postponed for at least two years in order to hit his estimate. In a statement, he said, “It’s to be expected that the same Republicans who rail against spending without offering their own budget proposals would now be calling for more spending and tax increases in the future. This is a well-worn page in their cynical propaganda manual. The reality is that the budget is in balance today, with a strong surplus projected for the end of the year. It will be balanced next year, with no new taxes. To the Republicans who are calling for us to spend more and raise taxes in the future, we say no.”

Watch CT-N footage of Monday's Joint Appropriations and Finance Committee annual fiscal accountability meeting:

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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