Hugh McQuaid file photo
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes (Hugh McQuaid file photo)

Already forced to find $200.6 million in savings in their 2016 budgets, state agencies are now being directed to cut 5 percent from their 2017 budgets — part of what state officials say is an annual exercise in responsible budgeting. 

Office of Policy and Management Deputy Undersecretary Gian-Carl Casa said the cuts submitted by each agency will be gathered and analyzed as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy puts together budget revisions to be proposed to the legislature in February.

Malloy and the legislature are responsible for making any adjustments necessary to keep the budget balanced in the face of excess spending or insufficient revenue.

The directive came out last month, just days before the release of a memo announcing a temporary hiring freeze among all state agencies following 95 layoffs in the state Department of Labor.

The Aug. 14 memo from the Department of Administrative Services and the Office of Labor Relations was sent to all state agencies, colleges and universities to inform them of a moratorium on new hires and promotions.

While acknowledging the burden on agencies with vacancies that must be filled, the memo said the freeze is necessary to make sure those affected by the layoffs are given every opportunity to continue working with the state.

“We hope that will be resolved this week,” Casa said.

On Aug. 11, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes wrote to agency heads articulating Malloy’s directive to streamline operations, prioritize programs and reduce unnecessary expenditures.

“In order for this office to provide Governor Malloy with a full array of options to deal with any contingencies and to ensure the continued financial stability of the state, you are expected to submit realistic and achievable reduction options totaling at least five percent of your agency’s adopted FY 2017 appropriations,” Barnes wrote. “You should explore opportunities to eliminate, scale back, or achieve significant efficiencies across all budgeted areas.”

Agencies must submit a list of cuts to the Office of Policy and Management by Oct. 16, according to a department memo.

Casa said OPM requests “budget options” from every state agency each year around the same time.

“This is simply responsible budgeting, enabling OPM to make responsible decisions about the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY17), keeping agencies as efficient as possible,” Casa said.

In addition to budgetary cuts, other options solicited by the Office of Policy and Management include reallocation efforts to shift resources to higher-priority needs, new revenue ideas, and technical adjustments based on laws implemented in this year’s legislative session.

Department of Transportation Spokesman Kevin Nursick said the cost-cutting expectations don’t put any extra pressure on his organization.

“It’s what we do. It’s not a burden on staff. This is part of our budgeting,” Nursick said.

According to Nursick, who has been with the agency for 11 years, the practice has spanned the administrations of former Gov. Jodi Rell as well as Malloy.