Barnes Plans For ‘Every Eventuality’
When revenue estimates fell behind by more than $128 million last week Republican lawmakers called upon Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to sharpen his pencil and get to work on a deficit mitigation plan.
By law, Malloy does not need to offer a deficit mitigation plan to the legislature until state Comptroller Kevin Lembo certifies a deficit that’s equal to 1 percent of the approximately $20 billion state budget. That means Malloy doesn’t have to offer a plan until the state deficit grows to about $200 million.
On Monday, Malloy told the Courant that it was “premature” to be talking about a deficit mitigation plan. However, Ben Barnes, his budget director, suggested Tuesday that one may already be in the works.
“We certainly intend to offer a deficit mitigation plan as it’s required by law,” Barnes said Tuesday. “It seems likely that we will.”
Prior to attending a meeting on education funding, Barnes said his office is “preparing for every eventuality.”
The state’s fiscal picture will become more clear on Thursday when Barnes and the Office of Fiscal Analysis release their annual “Fiscal Accountability” report.
Barnes said the ongoing economic recovery doesn’t look like previous economic recoveries. Revenue projections continue to trend downward and it’s been four years since the global financial crisis hit back in March 2008.
“It’s unheard of in Connecticut’s modern economic history to see four years after the triggering event of the recession to not be seeing normal recovery-type growth,“ Barnes said.
Malloy is taking an optimistic approach to the budget situation.
He continues to say that because President Barack Obama was re-elected, Connecticut’s citizens likely will account for their income in this fiscal year as opposed to next fiscal year because of the uncertainty surrounding the Bush tax cuts. That means more residents will be paying income and dividend taxes to the state before the end of the year.
Also, with Obama at the helm the state stands a greater chance of receiving at least the same amount of Medicaid money next year as it did this year.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to balance the budget,” Malloy told the Courant after a luncheon with Chris Matthews and Ted Kennedy Jr.
Malloy will release his two-year state budget in February. It’s unclear at the moment whether he would offer a deficit mitigation plan before the beginning of the year, if Lembo doesn’t certify a $200 million deficit on Dec. 1.