Following what was described by many as a silly photo opportunity, Gov. Dan Malloy’s budget office announced another $31.5 million in budget cuts to stave off increasing red ink. Malloy has the authority to make $24.6 in cuts unilaterally (known as rescissions). The rest he has requested from departments and agencies that must acquiesce. Earlier this week, the administration announced it was dealing with a growing $121 million deficit in the current fiscal year’s budget.
The cuts were announced Friday afternoon, a popular time to release bad news (“Take out the garbage time”). The main “news” event to that point in the day was a lunch in the legislative office building’s (LOB’s) cafeteria between Malloy, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and their deputies.
Responding to repeated calls from Republicans for a sit down to talk about possible solutions to the current deficit, Malloy said they could write their ideas on the back of an envelope and send them over. So they did. Malloy agreed to meet the GOP leaders in the LOB café. A minor media circus ensued.
Klarides told The Hanging Shad after the meeting that she and the other minority leaders fully understand Malloy is within his statutory authority to make unilateral cuts but she thinks the governor is concentrating on the wrong budget.
“He kept saying that no one sits down behind closed doors to discuss the budget until it’s proposed [next month],” Klarides said. “That’s true of the new, two-year budget. But we’re not dealing with the next budget. This is about now!” Klarides clearly believes her party’s leaders should be involved. “We now represent parts of 129 of the 169 cities and towns in the state. We deserve a seat at the table.” It’s probably safe to assume she doesn’t mean one in the LOB cafeteria eating cheesesteak.
Meanwhile, Malloy may be in danger of alienating some of his Democratic legislative allies as his rescissions have hit social services and education pretty hard. After the first round of rescissions back in November, Sen. Beth Bye, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee was cautious. “I definitely have concerns about the $6 million cut for board and care for children under DCF [department of children and families] care. I need to better understand what that looks like, exactly, because I don’t want anything to negatively impact our care for adolescents who have mental health and behavioral challenges. And I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the colleges. But we have an obligation to maintain a balanced budget, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
This time around, Malloy whacked social services agencies for about $11 million. The CTMirror.com points out some $60,000 was cut from the Department of Public Health program that pays for treatment for people with tuberculosis.