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No Consensus on Size of Budget Deficit, Despite Meeting
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The three state agencies that track Connecticut's budget met on Wednesday to try to reach a consensus on budget deficit numbers, but the budget picture remains muddy.

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates an 8.7 billion dollar deficit for the next two years. The governor's budget, on the other hand, only closes a 6 billion dollar hole.

Governor Jodi Rell called the staffs of these agencies together, along with Comptroller Nancy Wyman's office, to reconcile those numbers.

"Basically, if the purpose of the meeting was to reach a consensus on the deficit that did not happen."

Wyman, a Democrat, says her staff came prepared to explain their analysis line-by-line, but there wasn't much discussion.

"You know, we were told that this meeting was the first step in reaching a consensus, but we're not sure that there's any road map for how we're supposed to be getting there."

"I have a different take," Governor Rell says. "What they told me was they really did review the assumptions and methodologies for how they came to their numbers, so we're all looking at the same numbers."

Rell says it's too early to talk about new taxes because expected revenues remain a moving target, in part because of the federal stimulus package. In fact, she criticized the Democratic-led Finance Committee for raising new tax bills this week, including an increase on alcohol and tobacco. 

"It's actually official now. They've spent more time talking about tax increases than they have one spending cut," she says. 

House Finance Committee chairman Cam Staples says that criticism is unfair.

"I am taken aback by her tone. It's so petty and partisan and really is disingenuous to suggest that when the Finance Committee drafts bills for a hearing, that somehow that reflects an endorsement.

The bill to increase tobacco and alcohol taxes will be discussed at a public hearing on Monday.