After calls by Republicans Monday to clarify a more than $130 million discrepancy in budget numbers reported by his office, budget director Ben Barnes told a state official Thursday that the deficit is only $5.7 million.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said for Barnes to claim Connecticut has a $5.7 million deficit is about as credible as Malloy’s claim in 2014 during his re-election campaign that there would not be a deficit. A few weeks after the election, the state budget was facing a deficit when revenues didn’t perform as expected.
“What are we back to the game from last year — Pick a deficit, any deficit?” Klarides said.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s frustrated because first Barnes says there’s a deficit, then he tells the public there’s not a deficit, and now he says there’s a small deficit.
“At this point it isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong,” Fasano said Thursday. “It’s about figuring out the truth. That’s not what we are getting from the governor’s office. Did Gov. Malloy mislead his commissioners? Or did he mislead the public? We need to know what our state budget deficit is so we can actually begin solving the problems, and not pushing them off.”
Fasano said he plans to hold an informational hearing next week to try and get to the bottom of the differing numbers.
In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Barnes said expenditures are expected to be $9.3 million greater than budgeted, and revenues increased $3.4 million over projections.
State revenues increased largely because of a one-time settlement with the Royal Bank of Scotland. The settlement brought in $120 million and the state had only budgeted $40 million, so that’s $80 million more than was projected.
However, not every revenue category is performing as well. Personal income tax was revised downward by $53 million and sales and use tax also has been revised downward by $44.8 million, according to Barnes.
Corporation tax collections also exceeded the September target, but Barnes said they did not reflect those gains in the report given the “historic volatility of collections.”
Barnes said his forecast is different than the one issued last week by legislative budget analysts because OPM doesn’t believe there will be a $51 million deficiency in the debt service account and his office doesn’t have any information about what will need to be paid out as part of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition lawsuit against former Gov. John G. Rowland. OFA estimated approximately $18 million would need to be paid out this year as part of that lawsuit. So far, $426,000 has been paid as part of that agreement.
“At this time we do not have updated information regarding the exact monetary costs to be paid as part of the settlement,” Barnes said.
On Nov. 10, Barnes will have to get together with the Office of Fiscal Analysis and both offices will have to agree on revenue numbers for the state.