State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said he’s anticipating the state will end the fiscal year with a $73.6 million deficit under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The estimate represents an erosion of about $82.3 million from last month’s projections.
“Despite the projected state shortfall, the economy continues to show slow and erratic growth – overall headed in a positive upward trajectory,” Lembo said.
Lembo expressed confidence Wednesday that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be able to correct the issue by taking the steps he’s already taken to rescind about $79 million in spending.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said last week that about $44 million of the $79 million have already been counted as lapses and about $34 million are in new spending cuts. Regardless, Lembo said he’s confident the Malloy administration will be able to balance the budget before the end of the fiscal year.
Lembo agreed with the Office of Policy and Management and the Office of Fiscal Analysis’s consensus revenue estimates which show revenues dropped by nearly $95 million largely due to low collections in estimated income tax payments.
State spending changed little from last month and is trending 2.3 percent more than last year, Lembo said. He said OPM’s projection of a 5.9 percent growth is dependent on $900.7 million in lapses or forced savings, which should be “attainable” even though they are higher than in previous years.
“In light of state spending trends – and the budget control mechanisms available to OPM – this estimated savings is reasonable,” Lembo said. “I must emphasize that my analysis is based on the total state spending trend for the year, and not on achieving savings in any individual areas within the budget plan. The potential need to shift funds in order to address a savings shortfall is ultimately a matter for the administration and legislature.”
The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis believes the budget hole may be larger, but their estimates were completed last week before Malloy announced the $79 million in rescissions.
OFA pegged the deficit at $145 million, prior to the rescissions.
Neither Secretary Ben Barnes in his Jan. 20 letter to Lembo, or Lembo in his letter to Malloy Wednesday put a number on the potential projected deficiencies related to the changes made this summer to the state employees labor agreement.
Barnes acknowledged in his Jan. 20 letter that OPM is projecting two significant net deficiencies in the account that funds health care for retired state employees, and a shortfall is also expected in the account that funds pension payments to state employees. Some of those shortfalls are related to changes in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement and the 2,700 retirements that followed.
But no numbers were attached to those potential deficiencies.