Democratic state Comptroller Nancy Wyman has seen the future, and it doesn’t work.
Cautioning that it’s a bit risky this early in the game to be “quantifying a general fund budget deficit amount,” Wyman was willing in comments to the Journal Inquirer to point to certain "risk factors" that increase the likelihood of a deficit.
Revenue trends are week, said Wyman. In plainspeak that means the recession will continue to diminish state revenues. Wyman also pointed to huge “undefined savings” in the new budget facilitated by Rell and the Democratic legislature. Instead of vetoing the budget or signing it and using her line item veto power to trim away some lard, Rell permitted the budget to pass into law without her signature.
So then, the revenue stream continues to diminish to no one’s surprise, and the “savings” trumpeted in the budget are poorly defined, which in plainspeak means that the savings may not save as much as anticipated.
After much palavering, Democratic legislature leaders Don Williams in the Senate and Chris Donovan in the House, pressed upon Rell a budget the governor was unwilling in good conscience to sign.
Rell complained the budget was soft on spending cuts and much too strong on tax increases. At the beginning of the negotiations between Rell, Republican leaders and Democratic leaders, the Democrats offered a budget that contained few spending cuts, a progressive income tax and a 30 percent increase in business taxes. This astoundingly irresponsible measure may have caught the attention of some business leaders over at Pratt&Whitney. The company is moving jobs out of Connecticut to Sinapore and Georgia.
The projected saving, Rell hinted, were phantoms. She did not use the expression “smoke and mirrors.”
The final budget, recently pushed through the legislature by Williams and Donovan, is a$37.6 billion lodestone that disperses $18.64 billion this fiscal year and $18.93 billion in 2010-11.
And even this budget, according to Wyman’s calculations, is out of balance.
Wyman, who takes seriously her job as the state’s fiscal guardian, figures that this year’s budget is about $1 billion short. Her warning, conveniently tardy, comes on the eve of the vote that affirmed the budget – a little over 3 months past the end of the fiscal year.
If the state legislature were a company, it would now be in bankruptcy, or hoisting a tin cup in hopes that money lenders in Washington would fill it with phantom stimuli.
At the beginning of budget negotiations with Rell months ago, Democrats held up the budget well beyond the fiscal year because, so they said, Rell’s budget figures lowballed the deficit.
If Wyman’s calculations are right – and she is rarely wrong -- the Democrats now have passed a spending plan that lowballs the deficit on this year’s budget by about $1 billion.
The lowballing comes at a moment propitious for Democrats. Largely because Rell perversely refused to follow the advice of her own lawyers that she could not line-item excessive spending in the budget while permitting it to become law without her signature, Rell cannot now use her line item veto to make necessary adjustment in spending cuts. In an early arrangement with union leaders, the ever accommodating Rell set in stone union contract demands that now have the force of law. So, the governor cannot press the unions for future savings.
In the budget chess game between Rell, a marginalized Republican Party and Democratic leaders Williams and Donovan, the governor has lost all the major pieces on her chess board but for a few Republican pawns.
And this means that any savings to be realized until the next fiscal year cannot be accomplished without the support of Democrats who have shown themselves to be expert chessmen and efficient pawns of special interests.
The governor’s arms have been lopped off, her legs have been lopped off, and her head has been replaced with the head of her chief of staff, Lisa Moody.
God help the state of Connecticut – no one else will.