Breidbart: Rell’s budget awash with worries

Connecticut state legislators remained divided this week over how Connecticut residents should do their laundry. With close to 150 testimonies submitted to them on the subject, 29 of the legislators have already signed on to a new bill that would prevent communities from banning clotheslines and drying racks.

I guess if this really is a depression, it might as well look like one.

But the real question is: Will there be a clothesline outside of the governor’s mansion? And if so, will there be enough room for all of the dirty laundry Gov. M. Jodi Rell has to air?

Just two weeks after Rell put forward a budget that seemed to have something for everybody, the governor’s promises are falling apart under the weight of her own lies.

As it stands, the governor’s budget only prepares for $6 billion in deficit over the next two years. Not only is that projection $2 billion shy of the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis assessment, it seems it was also $2 billion shy of the administration’s own assessment just days before its Feb. 4 announcement.

A Connecticut Network video of a Jan. 20 press conference reveals that Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert Genuario said he was already expecting that the deficit “will be closer to $8 billion than to 6.”

And in her statewide television address Feb. 2, the governor seemed just as sure that “the period covered by my proposed budget is nearly $8 billion.”

So why $6 billion then?

That question is simply confounding, and it may be unanswerable. The governor herself is still holding that she acted with all of the information she had at the time. And as this year’s deficit continues to escalate past the $1 billion threshold, it’s probably worth holding off the investigations for now.

But what it does mean is Rell will have to give up more ground to Democratic lawmakers as her plans make their way through the General Assembly.

Thursday, shortly after the governor revealed her third budget mitigation plan for 2009, state Democrats called on two of their own — co-chairmen of the Appropriations Committee Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. John Geragosian — to come up with a budget “addendum” that closes the $2.6 billion gap in Rell’s 2010 and 2011 calculations. They also asked the two to reassess the impact of President Barack Obama’s stimulus in the budget, as the OFA estimates that Connecticut will see less money than Rell’s budget anticipated.

In total, the Democrats are trying to find $2.8 billion — $2 billion for 2010 and $800 million for 2011 — by March 9.

In a letter addressed to Harp and Geragosian, Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and House Majority Leader Denise Merrill expressed their wish to do so without raising taxes, apparently acquiescing to the parameters Rell set for herself in her Feb. 4 budget. Perhaps it’s simply posturing for what they know is inevitable: tax increases. But for now, it seems they are not sticking it to the governor too hard.

But Rell has to be patient and realize that until March 9, she needs to work with the Democrats on a problem she created. In fact, they are requesting that she submit some of her own suggestions.

As Sen. Williams said on Thursday afternoon, “It is abundantly clear that the governor did not meet her fiscal responsibility to submit a workable budget to the state legislature. Now, as majority Democrats begin the task of doing what the governor should have done, we seek her input.”

Rell’s dirty laundry: $2 billion. Rinse and repeat.

Sam Breidbart is a sophomore in Branford College.

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