HARTFORD, CT — Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano held a press conference Tuesday to complain that the two-year $43.35 billion budget, which Gov. Ned Lamont received yesterday, increased projected tax receipts beyond consensus revenue.
Consensus revenue was passed a decade ago to make sure the governor’s Office of Policy and Management and the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis agreed on the revenue figures they would use to put together a budget. The legislation that requires them to do that was passed in 2009 when then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell failed to recognize the full extent of the budget deficit. Every year since then the consensus revenue figures are agreed to three times a year by the two branches of government — on Nov. 10, Jan. 15 and April 30.
On Tuesday, Fasano said the budget the General Assembly sent to Lamont earlier this month contains $180 million more revenue over the next two years than anticipated by the April 30 consensus revenue figures.
OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw said that’s because they anticipated an increase in the withholding portion of the personal income tax. The consensus revenue estimate anticipated a 4% increase, but the budget assumes a 5.5% increase.
“It became very clear that those forecasts were very conservative,” McCaw said. “And therefore, the revenue package that was voted out by the Finance Committee acknowledged that.”
She said it’s still based largely on the consensus revenue figures from April 30.
She said it might be appropriate to change the law so the last forecast moves from April to May, closer to when the budget is passed.
Fasano maintained that there’s no procedure by which you can change consensus revenue.
“We have laws because you have to follow the law,” Fasano said.
He said Democrats “can’t balance a budget” so they made up numbers. But he admitted that as the minority party the only thing they can do about it is point it out.
McCaw said they followed the law, which says the budget only has to be based on consensus revenue.
She said they saw withholding increasing in May to 7.8% and they felt 5.5% was still conservative.
The budget assumes $6.91 billion in 2020 and $7.17 billion in 2021 in personal income tax withholding.
McCaw said the numbers were assumed as part of the budget and they weren’t trying to hide anything.
Lamont said the projections used in the budget “are good conservative assumptions.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they had complete agreement between OPM and OFA on the budget numbers, which were adopted by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Looney said Republican complaints about the projections “is just standard issue from the minority-party playbook to undercut the achievement of the majority party in passing a good, responsible budget.”