State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said Thursday that the state will end the fiscal year with a budget deficit of about $283.5 million — the lowest of three estimates being made about the state’s growing budget gap.

Wyman’s estimate is three times larger than the $91 million deficit she projected a month ago. But it is smaller than the $302 million deficit projected by the governor’s budget office and the $348 million shortfall predicted by the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office.

Wyman blamed the deficit on drops in employment, retail sales and stock values — declines she said were exacerbated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nation.

Revenue from the income tax alone is expected to be about $91 million less than originally budgeted, mainly due to the loss of about 14,500 jobs since the fiscal year started July 1, Wyman said.

Still, Wyman said there are signs the economy could rebound by next spring. Automobile sales are strong as a result of low financing costs, Wyman said, and low interest rates may spur consumer demand for other big-ticket items.

Wyman’s monthly report came as legislative leaders met Thursday with Gov. John G. Rowland’s budget chief to discuss a plan to reduce the deficit. The Legislature is set to meet in special session Nov. 13.

Rowland, in a nod to Democrats, amended the call of the session Thursday to allow for additional state bonding to help close the budget gap.

–Associated Press