Malloy, Legislative Leaders Tussle Over Deficit Mitigation
HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he plans to fulfill his constitutional obligation to submit a deficit mitigation plan to the legislature. However, legislative leaders who put together the budget that’s now in deficit are also working on a plan to erase it.
Malloy and legislative leaders held separate press conferences outside the governor’s Capitol office Wednesday and offered slightly different versions of what happened during their meeting.
“He made it clear that he’s going to balance, which is his obligation,” Senate Republican President Len Fasano said. “Then we’ve got to take a look at it and see what it looks like.”
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified a $207.8 million deficit on Dec. 1. That’s higher than 1 percent of the general fund, which obligates Malloy to submit a deficit mitigation plan to the legislature.
Legislative leaders said they would also be looking for ways to close the budget deficit and hoped they could reach an agreement with the governor before the end of the year.
Senate President Martin Looney said it’s a difficult set of circumstances because the governor is required to present a deficit mitigation plan by the end of the year, but two weeks after that there will be new revenue estimates with better detail.
“We’re looking at both tracks at the same time,” Looney said.
But Malloy had a different take.
“What they told me was that they had their own mitigation plan and they planned to come into session before Christmas,” Malloy said.
When reporters expressed shock because that’s not exactly what legislative leaders told reporters, Malloy insisted that’s what he was told.
“I was told in that room that there was a plan to come in before Christmas,” Malloy said.
He said legislative leaders have only talked about the spending that they want to restore to the budget. He was quick to point out that restoring funding for the Medicare Savings Program won’t help resolve the budget deficit.
“There’s only two things that can be in the mitigation plan, unless they’re selling new hats that deliver rabbits, and that is you need to cut spending, you have to raise revenue, or you have to do some combination of the two,” Malloy said.
Fasano said they invited Malloy’s budget staff to join legislative budget staff in fashioning a plan to erase the deficit before the end of the year. He said they don’t have a date because they don’t know how quickly they will be able to negotiate one.
While the state constitution doesn’t obligate legislative leaders to correct the budget deficit, it does obligate the governor to do so.
“I can absolutely assure you I will fulfill my obligation as governor,” Malloy insisted.
But Malloy did not offer a time frame in which he would deliver a deficit mitigation plan to the General Assembly.
He said his advice to legislators is “whatever they do temporarily or long-term at least has to start with balance. The idea that they’re going to change the spending plan and then kick it over to me to make the hard decisions is not acceptable.”