Sen. Bye: ‘Concerned but No Need to Panic’ About Deficits, Budget Cuts

A key Democratic state Senator says it’s clear no one is more “pained” by the budget cuts that had to be made than the governor himself and that it’s much too early to start to panic about the numbers.

Sen. Beth Bye, the co-chair of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, tells The Hanging Shad she is certainly concerned that the bulk of the cuts have hit the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) which is responsible for the integrated statewide services for persons with intellectual disabilities. It also includes an Autism division. DDS took an $8.5 million hit in the cuts announced Friday afternoon.

“There are not a lot of good options,” Bye said. “We’ve had conversations with them [the administration], they thought very hard about what to do and no one is more upset about it than the governor.” Gov. Malloy Friday announced another $31.5 million in cuts to pay down a deficit of $121 million. He has the authority to make $24.4 million of that himself but needs agreement from agencies and departments for the rest.

Bye says things can shift so much so quickly that it’s too soon to tell just what will happen. “My first week as Appropriations chair, there was a $500 million shift [in revenue]. Things can change very quickly in either direction.”

In plain language, the state is in big trouble financially as things stand now. In addition to the current problem, nonpartisan analysis predict a $1.3 billion in next year’s budget and $1.4 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Of course, the governor and the legislature will have to find a way to balance everything out as required by law.

The big question now seems to be whether the governor will have to rethink his “no new taxes” he has repeatedly made. When asked if that might have to happen, Bye said, “That’s up to him. But remember, right now we’re talking about a tiny bit of the overall budget and the new two-year plan has not yet been proposed.”

As for the “out years,” Bye knows the task is daunting. “It’s [projected deficit] is gigantic. Much of the problem is the lack of reimbursement for Medicaid. We thought we were on firm ground when we provided these services,” she said.

Bye also says people should remember the economy is recovering and that could make a substantial difference. “There are a lot of variables involved. It’s going to be hard but there’s no need to panic,” she said.