Legislative panel proposes budget increase amid huge deficits

Despite nearly $5 billion in deficits projected for through 2012, the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee will recommend later today adding nearly $350 million in spending to next year’s preliminary budget, according to draft documents released by the committee.

The Democrat-controlled Appropriations will be asked to adopt a$19.28 billion spending plan for 2010-11, which also tops the $18.91 billion proposal Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered in February by $373 million.

Most of the additional spending restores cuts ordered last year to social service programs. Other additions reflect the likelihood that state government will not achieve a controversial goal set this year, specifically finding $473 million in undefined savings across all agencies. The committee’s new plan restores funding in “other expense” accounts in many departments.

Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, the committee’s House chairman, said Wednesday that much of the additional spending would be offset by additional federal reimbursement for social service and health care programs.

But Rell’s budget  director, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert L. Genuario, said a preliminary analysis by his staff shows the proposed additional spending would add no more than $160 million in bonus reimbursement.

“We have some serious concerns,” Genuario said. “Even if you can enhance federal revenue, why not use it” to offset projected holes in the budget. “It is somewhat troublesome.”