Lembo to Malloy administration: Explain conflicting budget projections

Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo


Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo

State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo has asked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration to explain why it withheld revenue estimates from his office last month that would show a $133 million deficit in the current budget.

Two weeks after a Sept. 6 memo the administration wrote to agency heads referencing downgraded revenues, it wrote in its formal budget projections to Lembo that “our revenue forecast remains consistent with the budget plan.”

“The contradicting forecasts deserve an explanation in order to preserve confidence in the state’s official statements,” Lembo wrote Wednesday in a letter to Malloy’s budget director, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.

The Mirror outlined the conflicting projections in an Oct. 11 article.

Malloy spokesman Chris McClure said at that time that the administration used “extremely conservative” revenue estimates in the memo, which was directing agency heads to be frugal.

Barnes said Thursday in response to Lembo’s letter that, “It has been our consistent practice to provide the comptroller with OPMs best judgment regarding the status of the current budget each month, and last month was no exception. We monitor revenues on a daily basis and regularly consider the impacts of economic and financial events and trends on our near- and long-term revenues.”

Barnes also said that the letter to agency heads “was based on a scenario [of] extremely conservative revenues. It is essential that the governor have a variety of significant budget reduction options to consider as he develops a budget recommendation for the coming biennium. The forecast we used was appropriate to that goal.”

The top Republicans in the Senate and House minorities, Len Fasano of North Haven and Themis Klarides of Derby, both have charged that the budget Malloy and his fellow Democrats in the legislature approved in May is not balanced, and that the governor is hiding red ink until after the legislative elections in early November.

The comptroller, the state’s chief fiscal watchdog, is required by law to issue a monthly budget forecast, and must decide whether to certify the fiscal projections issued  by the governor.

But the comptroller also can offer commentary on the budget. Lembo, also a Democrat, already has expressed concerns about whether this fiscal year’s $17.9 billion General Fund — which comprises the bulk of the budget — is balanced, identifying problems both with revenues and expenditures.