HARTFORD, CT — The state budget is expected to end the year in the red by about $192.7 million. That’s lower than the deficit was a month ago, but still enough to require some help from lawmakers to bring it into balance
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has only so much power to control the budget and has been doing its best to hold the line on spending. It reduced the deficit by about $15 million since the end of last year — without the help of the legislature.
For those who may need a refresher, here’s what happened with the budget:
On Dec. 1, 2017, just two months after the legislature passed a budget, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified a $207.8 million deficit that triggered the need for Malloy to come up with a deficit mitigation plan. He did. On Dec. 13, 2017, Malloy offered lawmakers a plan to erase the red ink.
Since then, Legislative leadership hasn’t taken any definitive steps related to the deficit.
“I asked the legislature months ago to adjust the budget to reflect the current fiscal reality, which they didn’t do,” Malloy said.
Last year, the legislature negotiated a two-year, bipartisan budget without Malloy. The governor signed the budget on Oct. 31, 2017, and almost immediately it fell out of balance.
Malloy said he’s left with little hope that the legislature will deliver a deficit mitigation plan.
He said the “grand coalition seems to be fraying and I think that’s what gives rise to the inability to respond to the budget being out of balance.”
Legislative leaders say the budget will be taken care of before they adjourn on May 9. However, because Connecticut adopts a two-year budget, there’s actually no requirement for them to balance the second year of the budget. That means they can adjourn with a deficit on the books.
The governor said he thinks the legislature should rebalance the budget.
“Could they have done it four months ago? The answer is yes,” Malloy said.
Legislative leaders maintain that they have plans to get together and discuss potential next steps forward.
“The small deficit has stabilized, and actually has shrunk a bit, in recent months, so that is some good news,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said. “We continue to talk on a bipartisan basis on how to keep the current budget in balance as well as what adjustments are needed for the biennium.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said all four caucuses plan to meet at the end of the week to discuss their feelings about the budget.
There are some who feel they should wait until they get the April revenue numbers, just in case they come in better than expected, to make decisions about erasing the deficit.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he would prefer to do a deficit mitigation plan sooner rather than later.
“I’m of the view we need to do one. I do not know what other views are,” Fasano said.
He said no matter what happens they need to take care of this year’s deficit and ideally next year’s deficit. He said there’s been no commitment thus far to deal with the deficit in fiscal year 2019.
“There’s only one other time we didn’t fix the following year’s budget,” Fasano said.
He said there are plans to meet Friday to discuss the deficit.