The elusive state budget deficit fluctuates almost daily

Trying to keep track of the state budget deficit? As of Friday it stood at about $239 million or just over 1 percent.

Don’t like that figure? Check back next week, or in mid-December, or early next year. It is likely to change several more times — for good or for bad — in the near future.

What is certain is that tracking the pluses and minuses in state finances is the fiscal version of herding kittens — just as one segment of the budget appears stable, another is in motion.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration pegged this year’s shortfall at just under $363 million entering the week. By Friday, the shortfall had gone through three adjustments.

On Wednesday the governor cut $170 million in spending legislators had built into the budget. Do the math, and that lowers the shortfall to $192 million.

But it’s just not that simple.

More than $40 million of the cuts ordered Wednesday involved spending the administration already had canceled to meet miscellaneous savings targets built into the original budget. Put those dollars back into the deficit, and it grows to $232 million.

And at least one of this week’s spending reductions — payments to hospitals who treat uninsured patients — will in turn lower the amount of federal aid Connecticut will qualify for this year by $6.7 million, according to nonpartisan fiscal analysts. Plug those negative numbers into the equation and the latest shortfall stands at $239 million.

That should be good — at least for three more days.

That’s until state Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo issues his required monthly budget assessment on Monday.

Lembo could certify that number or go higher or lower, depending on the fiscal trends his office is tracking.

But whatever figure the comptroller issues also might be good for only a few weeks.

Legislative leaders have said they expect to call the full General Assembly into special session on the week of Dec. 17 to consider a plan to mitigate the deficit further.