State Budget Numbers Drama is More Politics than Actual Numbers

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Last week’s back and forth between the Malloy administration and Republican legislative leaders regarding how the Malloy-crafted budget is performing is more typical political drama than huge differences in how the numbers should be viewed. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) is caught in the middle—always providing analysis of whatever is requested and then being in the crossfire as the two political sides have at it.

On Friday, OFA reported as a result of a request from Republicans, that pension concessions granted by unionized state employees last year will provide just over one-third of the $4.8 billion savings projected by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration. This comes on the heels of the OFA projection that showed the current state budget to be $145 million in deficit. Malloy’s administration says the budget is $1.4 million in the black.

It was that second point of contention—whether the current spending plan is in deficit or is running a surplus—that led Malloy to make the mistake of saying of OFA and its numbers, “I think they have it wrong,” he said. “We’re confident based on the current numbers that we’re dealing with that we’ll land in the black.” Going back decades, the governor’s budget office numbers don’t match with OFA’s numbers, with the governor’s office being more optimistic. It’s their plan. The governor’s budget office is a political animal. The OFA is not. Their game is numbers, plain and simple.

What has changed this year is the extent to which Republican legislative leaders are offended by being cut out of the original budget process. To add insult to injury for the Republicans, Malloy told reporters OFA is wrong on the numbers in a call from Davos, Switzerland!

One former long-time Capitol insider who was for years part of budget process tells The Shad that in reality, the two sides are really only $50 million apart when everything is properly counted.

In any event, Gov. Malloy is back home and will likely face questions from reporters on the budget battle Monday morning as he holds a press availability after the state Bond Commission meeting.