Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced late Friday night that he and the legislature’s Democratic leadership arrived at a plan to fill the $400 million budget gap, which relies on increases in revenues more than spending cuts.
That plan consists of about $80 million in spending cuts over the next two years and uses about $320 million of surplus funds.
Republicans wasted no time before saying, told you so.
“Classic Malloy,” House Minority Leader Larry Cafero said standing in the Capitol press room less than an hour after the press release hit email boxes.
“He says one thing, does the other. Says one thing, does the other. There isn’t a real cut in this page, I don’t believe,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers had a different take.
“Once again, Governor Malloy has kept his promises,” House Speaker Chris Donovan said. “This plan continues to protect cities and towns, it keeps the safety net intact while making additional cuts, and it brings financial stability to our state.”
Since Malloy released his proposed budget Republicans have criticized the governor for raising taxes $1.4 billion while maintaining an operating surplus of close to a billion dollars over two years.
On Friday night Cafero and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney claimed the governor had said he would close the $400 million gap by cutting spending.
However, on a conference call with reporters Malloy’s budget director Ben Barnes said the governor said no such thing.
“He never said that. He said the $400 million gap would be made up with a mix of spending cuts and revised revenue estimates,” he said.
Barnes said the decision to rely mostly on surplus funds was a compromise intended to honor commitments to local governments, the state’s social safety net, and state employees.
“In a perfect world we wouldn’t have had to make that decision, we thought it was the best decision available to us,” he said.
But Republicans said it was Malloy’s plan from the beginning to hit up the taxpayers first and keep spending for the next two years higher than spending for this year.
Cafero and McKinney bristled at recent statements from Malloy, saying Republicans should support the budget because the surplus they referenced would be used for things conservatives have called for in the past. The governor had said the additional funds would go to paying down the state’s debt, instituting Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and replenishing the “Rainy Day Fund.”
“He said that because we challenged what he would do with the surplus and he was adamant and steadfast that we should support him,” McKinney said.
Barnes said the surplus funds will still be used for all the things they planned to use it for including the transition to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. There will just be less of it to use.