(Updated 6:21 p.m.) If new state revenue projections released Friday hold, then those elected to the General Assembly this week may be in for a bumpy ride as the state is forced to either cut spending or raise taxes to close a deficit.
Expected revenue dipped by $128.1 million based on the numbers adopted by the General Assembly in June and the new projections released Friday by the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Policy and Management.
The numbers released Friday are called “consensus revenue estimates” and they represent only the revenue side of the ledger and don’t take into account the spending side.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said he believes the “real deficit” is even larger because the only revenue category that increased was federal reimbursements, which means the state had to lay out the money in advance for programs.
“We’re four months into the fiscal year and I bet the real deficit is north of $200 million,” Cafero said Friday. “I suggest the governor stop gloating over the election and get to work.”
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney added that this is the fourth time since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first budget that revenue projections have been downgraded. He said he knows state Comptroller Kevin Lembo hasn’t certified a deficit big enough to call for a deficit mitigation plan, but it seems as if the writing is on the wall.
Under state law, the governor doesn’t have to submit a deficit mitigation plan to the legislature until the deficit is 1 percent of the total budget, which is around $20 billion.
Lembo certified a $60.1 million deficit on Nov. 1.
Budget Secretary Ben Barnes repeated Friday that he’s not surprised that revenue is lagging “given the continued sluggishness of the national economic recovery.”
The numbers released Friday will be used to compile a Nov. 15 fiscal accountability report and will be updated again in January before Malloy unveils his two-year budget in February.
“It is far too early to know what revenues will look like as we get closer to the fiscal year that starts next July — but Connecticut residents and businesses should know that the Governor intends to do whatever is necessary — including potentially painful cuts in state spending — to ensure that the budget is balanced and that we are living within our means,” Barnes said.
That could mean some deep cuts.
Just yesterday, Malloy repeated his statement that he did not intend to raise taxes.
“I have no intention of raising taxes. I’ve been saying that for weeks,“ Malloy said. “I have no intention of raising taxes and I think the election of the president takes off some of the provisos I had supplied you with previously. So I have no intention of raising taxes.”
McKinney said he hopes that Malloy is correct and there’s no need to raise taxes, but the current budget — even after the state’s second largest tax increase in history — seems to be structurally weak.
“The foundation of the Malloy budget has always been weak and the governor has exhausted every easy option and one-time gimmick he could think of to keep it afloat. Now we’ve got a real problem. And Governor Malloy needs to provide some real solutions for dealing with it,” McKinney said.