GOP leader urges nonpartisan analysts to weigh in on CT budget controversy

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides after budget talks Wednesday

Keith M. Phaneuf /

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides

The top Republican in the state Senate urged nonpartisan fiscal analysts Tuesday to complete their own assessment of the current state budget as soon as possible.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano’s request came on the heels of a Connecticut Mirror article Tuesday that showed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration warned dozens of agency heads last month about a significant revenue shortfall — but continues to report officially that state finances remain in balance.

“Now, more than ever, our state needs an unbiased, nonpartisan voice to shed light on the status of Connecticut’s finances in detail,” Fasano, R-North Haven, wrote to Neil Ayers, director of the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. “It’s vital that lawmakers and the public receive accurate and truthful budget forecasts, something I believe we can only get from your office given what we’ve seen from the governor’s administration hiding known problems in the numbers shared with the comptroller.”

OFA traditionally does not issue public comments outside of its fiscal notes and other written reports to the General Assembly.

The Malloy administration has reported no problems with the budget since the fiscal year began on July 1. It’s last monthly budget projection, filed Sept. 20 with Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s office, held that finances were in balance and that revenues for the General Fund — which covers most operating costs in the budget — were coming in as anticipated.

Yet two weeks earlier, in a Sept. 6 memo imploring all agency heads to keep their spending requests lean for the next budget, Barnes estimated that General Fund revenues in the current budget would total $17.75 billion — $133 million less than the amount needed to balance the current budget.

Malloy spokesman Chris McClure said Monday that the revenue estimate sent Sept. 6 to agency heads was “extremely conservative and reflected the revenue weakness that occurred late in FY 16.” Revenue trends since then have been “satisfactory,” he added.

Both Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, charged that Malloy is hiding red ink until after the November elections to help his fellow Democrats running for the legislature.

“This is yet another reason why people do not trust politicians,” Klarides said Monday of the administration’s contradictory budget projections.

Nonpartisan legislative analysts traditionally issue monthly budget projections while the General Assembly is in session during the first half of the calendar year, but not during the summer and early fall.

But GOP legislative leaders asked OFA this summer to prepare an analysis early in the 2016-17 fiscal year. A report is expected this month.

Republican lawmakers have questioned whether the new state budget was balanced since Malloy and the legislature’s Democratic majority adopted it in May.

Shortly after the budget was approved in May, income, sales and corporation tax receipts were weaker than anticipated. Also, administration plans to save money from layoffs have progressed more slowly than anticipated.

“Republicans have demanded that OPM tell them ‘the truth’ about our revenue projections,” McClure said Tuesday. “The truth is that we provide our best projection each month to the comptroller based on information widely available at the time, and also that formal projections sent to the comptroller can differ from exercises we undertake with state agencies. As Senator Fasano and Representative Klarides know, projections can change.”

“Things change, and we adjust,” McClure added. “The only thing you can bet on 100 percent of the time is Republican leaders playing politics rather than working toward solutions. They’re free to issue their own revenue projections at any time.”