Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Unforeseen expenditures, including a $25.2 million settlement in two wrongful conviction cases, have helped shrink Connecticut’s projected budget surplus by more than $100 million, according to a Wednesday update from Office of Policy and Management Secretary Jeffrey Beckham.

In a letter to state Comptroller Sean Scanlon, Beckham said the state General Fund was projected to end the year with a $284.5 million surplus. That’s $115.2 million less than what policymakers expected when they adopted the current two-year budget during the 2023 legislative session and $95.7 million less than OPM anticipated in a similar update last month. 

Although their impact was tempered by an $81.5 million increase in revenues, Beckham said the surplus projection was impacted by about $196.7 million in unexpected expenses.

Those expenditures included an anticipated payment of $25.2 million to Ralph “Ricky” Birch and Shawn Henning. 

The two men spent decades in prison after being convicted of the 1985 murder of Everett Carr in New Milford. The convictions were based in part on testimony from former State Police Forensic Science Lab Director Dr. Henry Lee that blood had been found on a bathroom towel at the crime scene. Later testing found no evidence of blood on the towel.

In 2019, the state Supreme Court overturned the convictions and the two men filed wrongful conviction suits. 

In a statement this week, Attorney General William Tong’s office announced the state had reached a settlement with both Birch and Henning, providing both men $12.6 million for the three decades they spent in prison. 

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement in principle to resolve these matters in the best interest of all parties,” attorney’s for the state and both men said in a joint statement. “We look forward to presenting this settlement to the legislature and reserve further comment until that time.”

The settlement will need to be approved by the state legislature, likely when it reconvenes for session early next year. Still, the $25.2 million makes up most of the $36.7 million in adjudicated claims, which OPM expects the state will eventually pay out. 

Other unexpected expenses identified in the budget update included a $50 million shortfall in the Department of Social Services Medicaid account brought on by a federal court decision, which reinstated eligibility for some residents, and $15 million in inflation-driven expenses incurred by the Department of Correction. 

Meanwhile, OPM expects $95 million in shortfalls based in large part on changes in how expenditures in the Higher Education Alternative Retirement System are accounted for.