Legislative Action on Deficit May Not Be Required, But Should It Happen Anyway?

The finances of the state of Connecticut seem to be falling into a pattern: the projected deficit increases, the governor makes cuts, Republican legislative leaders plead to be part of a mitigation plan, then no such strategy emerges. As the deficit edges toward an amount that would require legislative action, the question is shouldn’t the General Assembly get out in front of this and mitigate the situation anyway?

That seems to be the question. On the one hand, there are only three months left in the fiscal year and April tax revenue is coming (we hope) so there is no real need to craft a deficit reduction plan. On the other hand, according to Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the deficit is now just a little more than $3 million short of the one percent of the total budget that would by law require the legislature to act.

Conn. Comptroller Kevin Lembo

Conn. Comptroller Kevin Lembo

Lembo, a Democrat, is in a tough spot in that he is advising that the legislature take action and he disagrees with the Malloy administration’s rosy future fiscal picture. Color him brave.

Malloy has been criticized by some who are concerned that while he hammers another governor, in another state, on another issue, he should be dealing with the problems at home. But the governor’s budget man simply announced another round of cuts, this time smacking education pretty hard.

Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders are predictably upset. They really could have issued the exact same news release each month since the fall. “Republicans have been saying the legislature needs to get involved every single month since November,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano in a statement. “We shouldn’t be waiting to reach that ‘magical’ 1% before taking action. But now…it is too late to make meaningful changes. The governor dragged his feet and we lost the time we needed to create an effective, bipartisan solution, he said.

Conn. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano

Conn. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano

“Governor Malloy’s newly announced rescissions…show that the [he] has run out of options. I fear the budget reserve fund is now the only way to close this shortfall,” Fasano said.

Republicans are not the only ones wanting an answer to the budget shortfall. The liberal advocacy group Voices for Children is out with a report that outlines what it would like to see as a fix to the problem. The Shad believes Voices does good work. The group also has never offered a solution that doesn’t include tax increases.