Governor Jodi Rell's budget addresses a $6 billion dollar shortfall over the next two years, but independent numbers show a gap of $8.7 billion. That has lawmakers questioning whether her proposed budget is really balanced.
The governor and her budget director offer different explanations for the deficit discrepancy. Governor Rell told CPTV's On the Record that the state's budget numbers are a moving target - a target she couldn't hit in time for Wednesday's speech.
"The most recent budget shortfall numbers literally came out on Monday, and I presented the budget on Wednesday. Those new numbers are a reflection of more continuing downturn in the economy, but the budget had already been printed."
So, she presented a $6 billion solution to what could be an $8.7 billion problem.
But after the speech, her budget chief Bob Genaurio told reporters that the governor's numbers aren't outdated, they're just less pessimistic than the nonpartisan office of Fiscal Anaysis.
"It's not old data. This is based on our best numbers after the January 15 filings."
He says his estimates assume higher income tax collections next year than OFA - and that's where the gap comes from.
The discrepancy is important, because some Democratic lawmakers, including the House Appropriations chairman, have complained that the governor did not, in fact, present a balanced budget.
The top Democrat in the Senate, meanwhile, says it is still too early for Democrats to offer an alternative budget plan. On WNPR's Where We Live, Senate President Don Williams said raising taxes, particularly on corporations and wealthier residents, has to be considered, but he says he won't be able to offer specifics until Congress passes the federal stimulus bill.
"Quite frankly, until that's passed, it's all speculation. So I think you're going to see a lot of ideas kicked around, but in terms of exact numbers, we need the final passage of the stimulus package to be able to know exactly what the budget gap is."
As proposed, Rell's budget counts on $2 billion of federal stimulus money over the next three years.
- Below, listen to Ray Hardman's interview with Appropriations Chair John Geragosian