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Republican Lawmakers Struggle To Draw a Crowd To Budget Hearing

by | Oct 27, 2016 4:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo The Office of Fiscal Analysis was the only one of three budget forecasting organizations that showed up for a Republican-organized budget hearing Wednesday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo were both unable to attend because of previously scheduled commitments.

Republican lawmakers said the reason they wanted to hold the hearing was to better understand Connecticut’s fiscal situation, but a top Democratic official called it a “political stunt.”

“What we’re trying to do is get the numbers out there, it’s not too late at this point, so that the voters can really understand what’s going on,” Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said. “These numbers are not huge.”

Republicans have been critical of the how quickly the $130 million deficit Malloy’s budget office reported to commissioners on Sept. 6 disappeared. Most of the red ink was erased when the state received an unexpected $120 million legal settlement from RBS Securities Inc., a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

There were also a few increases in some other revenue categories, which contributed to lowering the projected deficit. On Oct. 20, Malloy’s budget office projected a small, $5.7 million deficit.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated on Oct. 13 that the state was facing a $78 million deficit, and on Wednesday analysts said that number has already changed for the better. A favorable bond sale has improved the deficit by about $15 million better than what was projected.

Traditionally, the Office of Fiscal Analysis is more pessimistic about the savings the Office of Policy and Management will be able to achieve. Neil Ayers, director of OFA, said there’s about $80 million in savings that haven’t been allocated yet by the administration to the state agencies.

But assuming the administration will achieve the savings it’s promised, most of the discrepancy between OFA and OPM is on the revenue side of the ledger.

In November, OFA and OPM will have to agree on what those revenue figures should be. The process happens after the election on Nov. 10. It used to happen in October, but that was changed in 2012.

OFA and OPM also will meet in January and April to reach a consensus on the revenue figures.

“Time is our enemy,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said.

He said they should revise the consensus revenues to come in early October to “avoid these awkward meetings” less than two weeks before an election.

Democrats were critical of the hearing and only one, Rep. David Zoni, D-Southington, attended.

“This is nothing more than a political stunt from a Republican Party with no plan to move the state forward and dead set on opposing progress,” Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto, said. “It is yet another example of elected GOP officials using taxpayer resources to advance their campaigns.”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, agreed.

“There are very specific timelines set in law for monitoring and reporting on the budget, making today’s concocted hearing just another example of minority Republicans shameless use of state resources in an attempt to help their failing election campaigns,” Sharkey said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the numbers Malloy’s office released were “misleading and confusing.”

“The public and lawmakers deserve to know the true numbers so we can start looking for solutions as soon as possible. It was disappointing that Democrat leaders, chairs and officials did not take part in today’s meeting,” Fasano said.

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