Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo bolstered spirits in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office Monday, finding that the state’s fiscal situation is not as dire as previously forecast.
In a financial report released Monday, Lembo projected the 2015 fiscal year deficit to be $89.4 million, well under the $170.9 million deficit projected by the state legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis last week. As a result, Malloy’s administration will not be required to devise a formal budget deficit mitigation plan for the state legislature, a measure required when the comptroller’s office projects a deficit higher than 1 percent of the budget.
The state budget is currently projected to be $17.5 billion, according to the CT Mirror.
Lembo’s prediction follows contention over the scale of the deficit. The comptroller’s prediction was more in line with that of Malloy’s budget office — the Office of Policy and Management — which put the figure at $120.9 million.
“Based on current spending trends and realized lapses over the past five fiscal years, I believe that the OPM savings target is attainable,” Lembo wrote in the report. “I am, therefore, in general agreement with OPM’s deficit projection for the General Fund.”
Malloy has already postponed his next budget presentation in front of the legislature by two weeks, pushing the date from Feb. 4 to Feb. 18. The legislature approved this delay in early January.
According to the CT Mirror, the Malloy administration did not disclose any deficits from July to October 2014, but projected a shortfall of $100 million in November, after the governor had won his re-election bid.
“Just like nearly 25 states around the country, we are dealing with our short-term budget issues responsibly,” OPM spokesman Gian-Carl Casa said in an email to the News. “We will continue to make adjustments as necessary to keep the budget in balance.”
Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University, said that, in light of the substantial downward readjustment of the deficit, Malloy’s pledge not to raise taxes this term — which Rose anticipates Malloy to keep — will help his job performance rating.
The governor’s administration has already made two rounds of spending cuts since his re-election. The first, in November, consisted of $54.6 million in rescissions, including cuts to the Department of Children and Families, the Board of Regents for Higher Education and the Department of Education.
The second round of spending cuts, ordered by Malloy on Jan. 23, reduced spending by $31.5 million. This included $24.6 million in rescissions to the executive department, which affected the accounts such as those of the Department of Social Services and the University of Connecticut. Malloy also requested $6 million in cuts to the judicial branch.
“It’s possible that [Malloy is] going to run an austere budget here for the foreseeable future,” Rose said. “I don’t see him closing the deficit altogether but he’s probably on safe ground politically.”
The Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated that the 2016 budget will run a $1.3 billion deficit.