State Faces $59 Million Budget Gap

The governor's budget chief told state agencies earlier in the week that they would have to watch their spending and face increased scrutiny over hiring in light of a $59-million shortfall.

“I see these as one-time problems that we will resolve in the coming year," said Benjamin Barnes, who oversees the Office of Policy and Management.

Republicans accused the governor and his administration of playing politics with budget figures. Barnes, on the other hand, said the report on the deficit only came to light Nov. 10, six days after the election.

"We tried to treat this in the most transparent way possible," Barnes said during an interview Friday.

He sent a memo to state department heads and financial officers Thursday, informing them of the report that was returned to him on Monday providing the bleak financial news.

"I'm not buying it," said Sen. Rob Kane, of Watertown. "We have to let the public know how the budget gets crafted."

Kane said he's not sure this kind of report could have swung the election in favor of Republican Tom Foley, but did say the public had a right to know before they cast their ballots.

The missing $59 million was supposed to come from Washington in the form of Medicaid grants.

When asked whether there was a way to work around the cuts without hurting other agencies, Barnes said Medicaid is an entitlement program "and the state only has so much control over where we can make changes" that would have a major financial impact.

State agencies will have to justify all future hires for the time being and explain why the department must hire or fill a position.

Kane said such new requirements shouldn't be necessary.

He said the state had more than enough information ahead of time to avoid scrambling during the beginning stages of the fiscal year.

“We did see this coming. We recognized that there are always deficiencies in state agencies. Right now, there’s $80 million in deficiencies, 40 of which is in DSS and most of that is in Medicaid," Kane said. "So you can see that coming. The writing is on the wall.”

The missing Medicaid dollars comprise a very small portion of Connecticut’s overall spending picture. The $59 million figure makes up one tenth of one percent of the state’s overall spending plan.

Contact Us