Republicans and Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget chief traded barbs over numbers released by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis showing a projected General Fund deficit of $145 million, and substantially less money coming from union pension givebacks than the governor had originally projected, several news outlets reported.
It started during the middle of last week after the OFA issued a report projecting the deficit, which stood in contrast to the $81 million surplus in the original budget – a difference of more than $225 million, according to the agency.
While Republicans highlighted the report of that deficit as evidence of bad news for the state, the governor's Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes disputed the projections, saying the numbers did not consider more than $100 million in the Reserve for Salary Adjustments account that could be used to bolster revenue. OFA had said any carry forward funding of that account may be available, but also could be moved to offset other shortfalls.
Irregardless, Barnes said the governor already had promised to manage expenses so that the state would end in the black, with a balanced budget and no deficit.
A day or so after news of the projected deficit, Republicans pulled out another memo from OFA that said pension concessions struck with union state employees last year amounted to just a third of the $4.8 billion projected by the governor. (CT Mirror has a link to the memo.)
"It speaks to a constant overstatement and misrepresentation of our real budget difficulties and deficits,'' Sen. John McKinney (R-Fairfield, Newtown) told reporters, including from the Hartford Courant.
By the end of the day, Barnes shot back with a statement in which he turned the tables on McKinney, House Republican leader Larry Cafero and two prior GOP Govs. John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell.
"Given all that Governor Malloy has done to clean up the financial wreck he inherited from Rep. Cafero, Sen. McKinney, Governor Rowland, and Governor Rell – a $3.5 billion deficit, early retirement incentives, borrowing for operations, underfunding pension payments, etc. – the criticism is kind of ironic," Barnes said in the statement.
The budget chief also questioned OFA's calculations.
"While we respect the capabilities of the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, they are not actuaries; their analysis of the pension fund is flawed," Barnes said in the statement. "The House minority should refer questions about the actuarial funding of the pension plan to actuaries. We have relied on the plan’s actuaries and we are confident in their findings, which show billions of dollars in long-term savings to taxpayers as a result of plan changes negotiated by the Administration last summer."
Meanwhile, checking in from Davos, Switzerland where he is attending the World Economic Forum, Malloy announced he would move forward with additional agency consolidations to 52 from a high of 81 when his administration began.