Praise, unease over budget | Politics & Government

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HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bipartisan budget adjustment into law Tuesday despite concerns about using one-time revenue to ease the burden on municipalities and vulnerable residents.

Malloy commended the legislature for its collaboration that led to the second consecutive bipartisan budget. This year’s budget revisions also were completed on time and didn’t require a special session to vote on a plan.

“You have given our cities and towns, our nonprofit providers, and others who depend on our state services an added degree of certainty and predictability as the new fiscal year approaches,” he said. “This budget contains a number of things to be proud of.”

These include, Malloy said, stabilizing the special transportation fund to avoid bus and rail fare increases, as well as averting cuts to services and delayed projects.

It also will give the next legislature and governor a robust budget reserve fund, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund, which is expected to exceed $1 billion next year.

Malloy used the opportunity to remind legislators that the next governor will be in a position that “is a sharp contrast to how my administration arrived in Hartford.”

Although the governor showed support for aspects of the budget, he still raised concerns regarding the fiscal discipline required in the future.

He said the revisions fail to close this fiscal year’s $386.7 million deficit despite his efforts to convince lawmakers in December to use his deficit mitigation plan.

“Unfortunately, the lack of legislative action for the current fiscal year means that we must tap the budget reserve fund to close that gap,” Malloy said, adding that the issue is made worse by the use of more than $383 million from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget for next year.

He said the new budget spends $197.2 million more than the original fiscal year 2019 budget, but does so in part by expanding various health and human services programs, providing benefits that are some of the most generous in the country.

The revisions offer these benefits without making difficult cuts in other areas, Malloy said.

“We all strive to make Connecticut a fairer, healthier, and more just place to work and live, but in this worthy pursuit, we cannot risk our fiscal stability,” he said. “In other words, if Connecticut believes it should provide a high level of services to our residents, it is incumbent upon lawmakers to pay for those services either through offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget or through new revenue.”

Malloy raised further concerns about the growing deficit in coming years. By spending $185.3 million in one-time revenues, the deficit for fiscal year 2020 is now projected to be $1.96 billion, growing by nearly $600 million each year after.

Although the Rainy Day Fund is expected to be $1.16 billion by the end of fiscal year 2019, the governor believes that is far below what is needed for the next recession, which he said is overdue.

“The General Assembly needs to take manageable steps now to rein in out-year deficits,” Malloy said.

Despite his concerns, Malloy noted the budget revisions work in conjunction with his administration’s attempt to provide stability to the state, which has seen the lowest average growth rate in the state’s general fund in several decades.

The governor also touted two labor agreements that he said will save the state more than $42 billion over a 20-year period, and an executive branch that is at its lowest staffing levels since 1975.

Malloy also noted that the Rainy Day Fund was completely depleted when he first took office and is now expected to exceed $1 billion by the end of next fiscal year.



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