Rell prepared to pass the state’s budget problems to Malloy

At a press conference to launch a holiday fund drive for National Guard families, Gov. M. Jodi Rell Wednesday said she has a little present for Governor-elect Dan Malloy: a detailed budget outline of the state’s financial commitments, her agencies’ initiatives and possible steps to help close next year’s $3.3 billion deficit.

Rell said the documents she will give the Malloy transition team Monday outline the problem. “But it will be the policy of the incoming governor and administration to determine where they want to spend money and where they can cut money,” she said.

REll transition

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In addition, Rell’s agency leaders have already sent binders of information to Malloy’s staff this week for them to begin sifting through.

Rell also said she’s not responsible for that record budget gap.

“What I’m leaving is a budget that will have no deficit,” she said. “We’ve been holding our agencies’ feet to the fire.”

But that’s the current budget, for the year that ends next June 30, and it’s balanced in large part by borrowing and one-time revenues that won’t be available to Malloy and the legislature as they face the massive deficit looming in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Rell, a Republican who has been Connecticut’s governor for the last 6 1/2 years, dismissed Malloy’s recent criticism that her administration has been “using phony numbers” to understate the state’s fiscal problems. During the campaign, Malloy pledged to convert the state to using a set of widely-accepted bookkeeping rules known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Rell said she has “long supported” using the tighter approach to budgeting through GAAP, but it is costly and she didn’t have the cooperation from the Democratic-controlled General Assembly to make it a reality.

“It would cost several hundred million dollars for us to actually go into GAAP principles and that’s why it’s been postponed each year by the legislature,” she told reporters Monday. “Once you build that in there you have to pay for it, year after year after year.”

Malloy said during his first press conference after officially winning the gubernatorial race that despite the costs, he still plans to gradually implement GAAP principles into his budget.

Rell met with reporters to talk about a drive to raise money to bring Connecticut Army National Guard troops stationed out-of-state back home for the Christmas and New Year holidays, but most of the questions turned to the transition of administrations and Rell’s post-governorship plans.

Rell said she is looking forward to all the free time she expects to have, but will miss politics.

“I have been in public service for over 25 years. I love it,” she said.

Rell said she doesn’t know what her legacy will be, but she hopes it will include her dedication to providing additional slots for early childhood education programs, the rail station upgrades and additional commuter rail cars and her efforts to upgrade the University of Connecticut’s Health Center.

Rell also said she takes pride in being a “necessary firewall” to the Democrat-controlled legislature by vetoing several bills, including one to abolish the death penalty.

“I hope people appreciate me not just being a naysayer, but being a naysayer with reason,” she said.

When her term expires at the end of the year, Rell said she plans to dedicate more time for her four grandchildren, including a grandson born just last week.

She also is excited to take a break from reading lengthy policy- and budget-related materials and dive into a box full of novels she has been collecting but has not had time to read.

When asked if she will be reading the lengthy budget forecasts and proposals that Malloy will be bombarded with, her response: “Absolutely not.”

But Rell will not completely divorce herself from the public spotlight, saying she will likely guest lecture at the soon-to-be established public policy center named after her at the University of Hartford.