Christine Stuart file photo

It’s unclear at the moment if Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s deficit mitigation plan will attempt to close a $388 million budget gap or the $624 million budget gap calculated last week by state Comptroller Nancy Wyman.

What is clear is that the legislature will be asked to return before the start of the next legislative session in February to address the budget deficit.

“The longer you wait the harder it is to achieve the savings,” Rell’s Budget Director Robert Genuario said Wednesday in a visit to the Capitol press room.

Genuario made an effort to cut through the partisan rhetoric on the budget and convey a message to the legislature about the depth of the fiscal crisis the state is facing.

His visit was in response to a press release sent out earlier in the day from the Senate Democratic caucus criticizing the governor’s office for not making the budget cuts called for in the $37.6 billion two year budget passed by the General Assembly on Sept. 1.

“We know that declining revenues continue to threaten our budget,” Sen. President Donald Williams said, “and that’s why it’s so important that the Rell administration roll up its sleeves and reduce spending to the levels called for in the budget.”

“Each day that passes without these cost saving measures puts us further behind the eight ball,” Williams said in a press release. “Any deficit mitigation plan must include a real focus on capturing savings already included in the budget.”

Williams specifically criticized Rell’s administration for not immediately finding the $40 million in Medicaid savings included in one of Rell’s previous budget proposals and discovered after an audit conducted by Wyman’s office earlier this year.

Genuario explained Wednesday just how hard it is to achieve these savings since it involves renegotiating contracts with three Managed Care Organizations that run the state’s HUSKY program for low-income children and families.

“I would not have known in detail the process that is necessary to effectuate some of these changes,” Genaurio, a former legislator for 14 years, said Wednesday. “I’m not saying that as a criticism, it’s not their job.”

He said the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services is currently renegotiating that contract in an effort to find those savings, but results won’t be realized overnight.

“If we are going to close the deficit in fiscal year 2010 hard choices are going to have to be made,” Genuario said. “The governor believes to the depth of her soul that it is important and essential to end fiscal year 2010 in balance.”

The governor’s deficit mitigation plan will include some programmatic cuts and changes, Genuario said. He wouldn’t go into detail about any of them, but the proposed cuts are due before Dec. 1.

Republican lawmakers will hold a press conference later this morning on the subject of the budget deficit.