Christine Stuart photo

Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget office told the state Comptroller Monday that the state’s budget deficit for 2009 is down slightly from last month, but not by much.

The Office of Policy and Management estimated this year’s budget deficit at $967.6 million, down from $968.2 million in May.

The legislature’s Democratic majority and Rell continue to be at odds over a budget agreement, however, Democratic lawmakers said Monday that they would run their own budget proposal later this week.

At a press conference Monday outside the Windsor offices of the Board of Education and Services for the Blind, lawmakers and union members gathered to talk about some of Rell’s budget cuts.

“The Rell administration is taking the easy way out by going after services for people who can least help themselves,” Cathy Osten, president of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 said. “We’re asking her to take and make that hard choice and go to those who can most afford it.”

Brian Sigman, executive director of BESB, said the cuts Democratic lawmakers and advocates protested Monday will not compromise the services the agency provides to blind children. He said the agency has already absorbed $1.64 million in cuts the legislature approved earlier this year. He said there are also federal stimulus funds, which will help make sure services are maintained even if some of the state spending is scaled back.

Monday’s press conference was just one of many Democratic lawmakers have held across the state to highlight Rell’s proposed budget cuts. The press conferences seem to be a way to highlight Rell’s budget cuts, but also serve as a platform for them to make a case for increasing taxes on the wealthy and businesses.

“The continued deterioration of the economy and our tax collections offer clear and convincing proof that we need to reduce spending, not impose additional burdens on our taxpayers,” Rell said Monday in a press release.

“In May alone, income tax withholding fell $26 million below expectations – and for the current year, OPM expects income tax revenues to miss the target by a total of $60 million,” Rell said. “Sales tax collections are now running $10 million below already lowered projections while estate taxes are an additional $10 million under previously reduced expectations.” And cigarette taxes are off by another $2 million.

“To put it bluntly, the revenue picture is getting worse instead of better,” Rell said.

The legislature’s Democratic majority doesn’t necessarily disagree, but it will approach the problem differently.

On Thursday the legislature is expected to convene a special session to run a Democratic budget, which will include an additional $1.1 billion in spending cuts. The new budget, which has yet to be detailed, restores the $500 property tax credit for homeowners making $100,000 a year, scales back the Democrats original proposal to increase corporation taxes by 30 percent and increases the cigarette tax, but by how much is still unclear.