Over the past few months as the legislature and Gov. M. Jodi Rell argued over a $337 million budget shortfall, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman said that it‘s closer to $500 million. On Wednesday Wyman was vindicated when the legislature and governor’s budget offices essentially agreed.
The Office of Policy and Management, Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget office, projected a $500.5 million budget deficit Wednesday. Wyman projected a $513 million budget deficit on Jan. 2. It’s the closest the two numbers have been since the legislature passed its budget on Sept. 1, 2009.
A sharp $209.6 million decline in projected revenues is responsible for the latest deficit estimates, Rell’s Budget Director Robert Genuario, said in his letter to Wyman. The $187.7 million dip in personal income tax revenue accounts for a majority of the $209.6 million decline and income tax refunds were revised upwards by $40 million.
Rell said Wednesday that the latest estimates “are unmistakable indications that our economy remains weak and that state spending must be reduced to offset the deficit.”
However, the state is also spending about $193 million more than it’s bringing in and several state agencies are expected to have deficiencies by the end of the year.
Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said Thursday that over half of the projected deficit is the result of Rell‘s administration failing to implement the savings in the budget.
“They’re sitting on their laurels not doing what needs to be done,” Harp said.
Rell’s spokesman Rich Harris fired back Thursday.
“Even as Senators Williams and Harris are putting together a group to ‘save’ the LPN program and criticizing Governor Rell for ‘unilaterally’ cutting the class – a cut that is well within her authority under state law and the state Constitution – Senator Harp is complaining that the Governor hasn’t cut enough and hasn’t done it fast enough,” Harris said.
“The Senate Democrats really need to get their stories straight,“ Harris said. “This kind of ‘say anything, do nothing’ approach is exactly what the people of Massachusetts repudiated Tuesday night.”
Harp disagreed. She said when people say they want less government involvement, what they really mean is they wish government was more efficient. “They want us to do it faster and smarter,” Harp said. “They’re asking us to be better stewards of their money.”
In addition to not implementing legislative cost-saving recommendations, Rell still has not used her full rescission authority and failed to sign a $120 deficit mitigation package, Harp said.
When Rell vetoed the Democrat-controlled legislature’s mitigation package in December she said it only “nibbled away“ at the problem.
The bulk of the Democrats mitigation package involved raising additional tax revenue by canceling a Jan. 1 reduction in a tax on wealthy estates. It also included $12.4 million in spending cuts and transferred $23 million from special off budget accounts to the general operating budget.
Harp said Democrats are in the process of looking for further cuts and urged Rell to do the same.
Sources said Rell was in budget meetings all day Thursday. But it’s unclear if she’s going to be releasing another deficit mitigation plan prior to the Feb. 3 start of the legislative session.