(Updated 5:53 p.m.) The budget Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget director handed off to Governor-elect Dan Malloy’s chief of staff Monday reflected current spending levels with a menu of revenue options to reduce the $3.4 billion budget deficit.
The 94-page document presented some options for closing the deficit, but left it up to a Malloy administration to set its own priorities and come up with its own solutions for solving the deficit.
Tim Bannon, Malloy’s chief of staff who accepted the budget, said Malloy always knew the deficit would be $3.4 billion and “it hasn’t gotten any less scary over that period.” He said for the most part Malloy ran to solve the state’s budget woes.
The 94-page document created by the Office of Policy and Management represents a “piece of the puzzle,” Bannon said. “This is where we are today and suggestions that have been collected at OPM to get us to a different place tomorrow.”
Some of the spending reductions Rell mentioned in the budget proposal include flat funding municipal grants to save about $500 million each year, increasing the retirement age for state employees and asking the state employee unions for more furloughs and wage freezes to save $825 million in the first year and $925 million in the second year of the biennium. The document also suggests eliminating $750 million each year in tax exemptions, but doesn’t specify which of the $5 billion in exemptions would be eliminated. Rell’s proposal also suggests eliminating all the legislative commissions, the Office of the Health Care Advocate, the central Connecticut State University office, and the Office of the Child Advocate to save a total of $50 million over two years.
An asterisk at the bottom of the page says most of the recommendations will need legislative approval and it’s fair to say most were unpopular when presented last year.
“This is very useful information,” in building a Malloy budget, Bannon said. He thanked Rell’s administration for working with them during the transition period.
“We will take a close look at the material provided by Governor Rell as we put together our own budget for submission to the General Assembly in February 2011,” Malloy said in a statement. “That budget will be honest, clear, fair and balanced. It will be a tough budget, to be sure.”
Before Bannon received the budget document Monday at a 45-minute meeting with Rell officials, Rell met with Republican lawmakers to talk about the budget document.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said basically Rell presented Bannon and Malloy with a current services budget to show “if we simply fund just what we had last year we have a significant problem.” He said if it’s not balanced either with spending cuts or tax increases the first year of the biennium goes over the constitutional spending cap by $1.3 billion and the second year goes over by about $1.6 billion. There’s also a spending increase of 10.4 percent in 2012 and 3.6 percent in 2013 built into delivering the current services in Rell’s proposal.
McKinney defended Rell’s decision to offer a menu of revenue enhancements and spending cuts instead of trying to impose her agenda on the incoming administration. He said privatization of social services and agency consolidations were just a few of the measures suggested. McKinney recalled that former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker handed former Gov. John G. Rowland over a complete budget document, but that former Gov. Bill O’Neill handed over something similar to the document Rell presented Malloy’s administration Monday.
Without its own budget director named yet, Bannon said the Malloy team will begin to analyze the information. Pressed about the how far along they are in naming a person to the position Bannon said “there’s no deadline for that.”
“We would like to identify a budget director designate, but we are going to do that when we’ve got exactly the right person in mind,” Bannon said.