Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell used her executive authority Thursday to cut $34 million from the two-year $37.6 billion state budget. Some state agencies were dealt cuts as much as 5 percent, while others received cuts as little as $5.
“We have no choice but to cut state spending and these rescissions are but the first of many cuts to follow,” Rell said in a press release.
Rell has the power to rescind up to 5 percent of any appropriated line item in the budget, but not more than 3 percent of the General Fund.
“I am also preparing a deficit mitigation plan that I will present to the Legislature before December 1 and it is imperative that lawmakers act quickly and approve all of the savings. The price of inaction will be a steep and unaffordable one,” Rell said.
Under state law, Rell is required to submit a deficit mitigation plan to the legislature when the deficit is greater than 1 percent of the General Fund.
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman has estimated the deficit for fiscal year 2010 at $624 million, which is about $235 million more than Rell’s budget office estimated.
After weeks of criticism from the legislature’s Democratic majority, Rell issued the laundry list of spending cuts on the same day the legislature’s Republican minority tried to shame the Democratic majority into taking action by cutting spending.
“This is the Democrat’s budget. They need to stand up and be accountable,” Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said Thursday. “They need to come back to the table and fix their budget.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said not a single Republican lawmaker voted for this budget, but the unfortunate part about being part of the minority is that the majority “calls the shots.” He said he has no power to call the legislature back into special session to act.
Cafero reminded everyone Thursday that not one Republican voted in favor of the budget, which is now in deficit.
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said in a phone interview Thursday that the Democrats are the only ones being accountable. He said it’s the governor who is not doing her part by finding the savings written into the budget.
“She hasn’t done her job,” Donovan said a few hours before Rell released the $34 million in spending cuts. .
As for the budget deficit, Donovan, said the economy is in recovery. “We’re not dwelling in the negative like the Republicans. That’s a real difference,” he said.
Rell’s Budget Cuts
The Commission on Culture and Tourism took another big hit and everything from the Schubert in New Haven to the new Connecticut Science Center in Hartford had budget cuts. The total cut to the commission was $710,000.
The Department of Social Services budget was cut by $7.25 million, including $700,000 out of the $60 million in aid to the disabled and almost $1 million of the $38 million in old age assistance. Also, funds budgeted for outreach efforts for Husky, the Medicaid program for low-income children and families, was cut by $35,000. The Department of Children and Families received an $8.6 million cut, including board and care for foster children and those in residential care. The Department of Development Services, which provides assistance to the disabled, was cut by $3.75 million.
Altogether there are 14 pages of spending cuts. But at least one of them seemed to stick out more than others.
The state Auditors of Public Accounts office was cut $603,355. The cut amounts to about 4.6 percent of the agency’s overall budget, but the Auditors of Public Accounts are tasked with investigating Rell’s relationship with University of Connecticut Professor Ken Dautrich.
When asked for more detail about where the cuts in that agency were being made, the governor’s budget office said they were unable to give out anymore information.
“There are no disproportionate cuts,” Chris Cooper, Rell’s spokesman, said. “If there was a conspiracy, then the Attorney General’s office would have been cut too.”
The Attorney General has joined the auditors in investigation of the Dautrich study, but the office only received a $5,005 cut, while the governor’s own budget office received a $790,000 cut.
Cooper said the governor’s budget office reviews all the line items and tries to determine how much can be taken, while doing the least harm.
Click here to view a list of the cuts.