Rell would strip next budget to balance this one

Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed stripping nearly $220 million in revenue from the next state budget Monday to help close a $500 million-plus shortfall in the current one.

But the $18.93 billion budget approved last fall for 2010-11 has a $726 million deficit of its own, according to legislative analysts. And though the governor’s proposal also takes some steps to offset that future budget raid, it still would expect the next projected deficit by about $34 million.

The governor’s second deficit-mitigation plan of this fiscal year, also would cancel a $100 million payment to the state employees’ pension fund, reinstate a hospital tax scrapped one decade ago, strip $58 million from an array of special funds – including $12 million from the account used to finance state campaigns – and cut $82 million from more than six dozen other accounts, focusing heavily on social service and education programs.

“This deficit must be eliminated now through swift and decisive action,” Rell said. “We cannot afford to wait and hope or to count on future revenues that no one is certain we will collect. … These choices may not be easy, but they are necessary. These choices may not be pleasant, but they are crucial. These choices may not be politically popular, but they are the right choices to make.”

The governor’s proposal, her second deficit-mitigation plan this fiscal year, now heads to the General Assembly, which must review but does not have to vote on the plan. Rell was required to prepare the plan in response to the $515 million deficit State Comptroller Nancy Wyman certified on Feb. 1 for the current fiscal year. State law requires the governor to submit a plan within 30 days whenever a deficit in excess of 1 percent of the General Fund has been certified.