There’s Agreement That The State Is Cash Poor, But Disagreement On When To Act
(Updated 10:41 p.m.) It’s been three months since state Treasurer Denise Nappier and Republican lawmakers squabbled about the state’s cash flow, but this week the Democrat and Republicans seemed to be on the same page.
In a June 1 letter to lawmakers Nappier said the state’s cash position was “adequate, but the common cash pool balance has fallen substantially during the year.” Last month, the cash pool balance stood at $121 million, when last year at around the same time it stood at $895 million.
Republican lawmakers have sounded alarm bells for months on this issue and have gone so far as to write op-eds in their local papers describing how the state has been transferring bonded money to pay for operating expenses.
In March, Nappier fired back at Republicans telling them “either the legislators who wrote the flawed opinion pieces do not understand the nuances of how we manage the state’s cash, or they chose to purposely mislead the general public for political ends.”
Turns out that may have just been a battle of semantics.
“For months we have been calling upon the legislature to deal with the fact that Connecticut spends more money than it takes in but were rebuffed each time and accused of playing politics,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr. said. “After all the assurances we were given that ‘everything is fine,’ the Treasurer’s office has finally gotten around to acknowledging the depths of this problem.”
Nappier cited the $200 million intended to pay off the 2009 Economic Recovery Bonds lawmakers diverted to close the budget deficit, the inability to fund the General Accepted Accounting Principles differential, and the lack of a rainy day fund as factors contributing to the cash flow problems.
In an effort to continue to pay contractors and state employees, the Treasurer’s office has been making temporary transfers between capital expenses and operating expenses within the same account.
Cafero alleged that Nappier and Democratic lawmakers have conveniently ignored the state’s worsening fiscal conditions until now and he expects Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to announce sometime this summer that money will be borrowed to cover operating expenses.
“It looks like we are left with one option right now — borrow more money to pay the bills,” Cafero said.
And that’s where their agreement over the situation ends.
“While the need for external funding sources is possible, it is not probable at this point,” Nappier said in a statement Wednesday evening. “We are not currently planning to request authority for any short-term cash flow borrowing.”
Nappier laid out several options for lawmakers in her letter, but warned that it hasn’t gotten to that point just yet.
“This decline could trigger periods of cash flow pressure, which would require more extensive transfers to the common cash pool and possibly the need for external funding sources (e.g., short-term options include temporary notes, or a line of credit, longer-term options include issuance of bonds to more rapidly fund the GAAP deficit),” Nappier wrote.
Nappier warned that the situation is dependent upon changes in revenues and expenditures over the last few weeks of the fiscal year.
Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes said the administration is always mindful of the state’s cash position and is worried in general that “we are at a low level of cash. ”
He cited the lack of a rainy day fund and the $1 billion GAAP deficit as contributing factors, but said he was confident the Treasurer would be able to manage it.
“My office will be prepared to address this potential situation, when and if necessary, and will do so in a timely manner,” Nappier said Wednesday. “In the meantime, I have no intentions of splitting hairs over the timing of and/or degree to which the state’s cash flow has and continues to experience pressure.”
“Make no mistake: Our cash flow is inextricably linked to the state’s fiscal challenges.”