Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday he is seeking to trim $54.6 million in funding from numerous state agencies to help balance Connecticut's $20 billion budget.
The list of cuts came a day before Malloy's budget director was scheduled to brief the legislature's budget- and tax-writing committees on how the administration planned to address a projected $99.5 million shortfall in the budget, which ends June 30. Ben Barnes also was expected to discuss budget projections for the next three years. The General Assembly's fiscal analysis office has predicted deficits topping more than $1 billion in each of the next two years.
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Malloy has tried to downplay the significance of these mid-year budget cuts, predicting the state will eventually end the fiscal year with a surplus.
"As the governor has promised, we are managing and administering the budget so that there will be no deficit. These rescissions are painful for some, but tough decisions are necessary to keep the state on firm fiscal footing," Barnes said. "State government will living within its means and we will not raise taxes."
He warned, however, "there are more, even tougher choices as we look ahead to next fiscal year."
The $54.6 million in mid-year cuts includes $47.8 million in spending reductions to executive branch agencies Malloy controls. He also asked the legislative branch to cut its budget by $900,000 and the judicial branch to make $6 million in cuts.
Executive branch cuts range from nearly $6.3 million in residential services for children served by the Department of Children and Families to $451 in aid to paroled and discharged inmates. The University of Connecticut received a nearly $2.3 million cut in operating expenses while the Connecticut State University schools were pared $1.5 million. Transform CSCU, an initiative to upgrade the newly combined state universities and community colleges, was reduced by $1.1 million.
State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said she's particularly concerned about the cut in DCF funding.
"I need to better understand what that looks like, exactly, because I don't want anything to negatively impact our care for adolescents who have mental health and behavioral challenges," she said, adding how lawmakers are willing to work with Malloy to balance the budget.
State Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, the incoming House minority leader, said these cuts prove Malloy's optimism about the budget during the recent campaign was misguided.
"Connecticut has a lingering fiscal crisis that was never adequately addressed either because of politics or woeful disregard for the truth," she said. "This is just the first step forward that all sides must take together."
Malloy, a Democrat, has the statutory authority to rescind up to 5 percent of any budget line item and 3 percent of any fund without seeking legislative changes to the budget.
Besides the spending reductions, Barnes last week called on state agency heads to reduce their expenses and limit new hiring to only essential personnel.