Governor Dannel P. Malloy used his executive authority on Wednesday to make $65 million in budget cuts, including millions from day and residential programs for people with disabilities, to help slash Connecticut's $220 million deficit.
The Democratic governor's list of budget reductions was released hours after he met with legislative leaders to discuss how to address the stubborn budget shortfall.
"These were difficult decisions, but ones that nevertheless have to be made to ensure that we don't spend more than we actually have," he said.
Under state law, Malloy has limited authority to order cuts in certain parts of the budget. He is allowed to reduce a line item by five percent or less.
Malloy said he now needs the General Assembly to pass legislation to cover the rest of the budget deficit for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said he expects a vote will happen during the final week of March.
"The rest of it is going to have to be legislative enacted," Malloy said of the deficit reductions, following his meeting with the leaders. "We have a commitment, that whatever we're going to do, we're going to do it by the end of the month."
Malloy said he wants to tackle the current fiscal year deficit as soon as possible and then focus on addressing the projected $900 million deficit in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Both budgets are about $20 billion.
The largest of Malloy's mid-year cuts — $17 million — is being made to the Department of Development Services. That figure includes nearly $9.7 million from community residential services and $4.5 million from employment and day services. Malloy's plan also reduces funding to the Department of Children and Families by $6.5 million. More than $1.8 million of that will come from short-term and residential care for children.
"The governor's announcement of rescissions will close programs for some of the neediest individuals in our state," warned Jeffrey Walter, interim CEO of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, urging Malloy and state lawmakers to come up with alternative short-term deficit fixes.
Other reductions include more than $7.1 million from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, including $1.4 million from mental health service grants; nearly $6.2 million to the Department of Education, including $2 million to the regional vocational-technical school system; $4 million from the University of Connecticut; nearly $2.3 million from the Department of Public Health; and $1.8 million from the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Malloy also recommended that legislative branch agencies cut their budgets by $4.2 million and judicial branch agencies cut theirs by more than $9.3 million. Malloy is only allowed to impose cuts on executive branch agencies.
The legislature's minority Republicans already released a list of ideas for addressing the current fiscal year deficit, including a 10 percent cut in legislative pay and two furlough days for state employees — something the unions would have to agree upon. The majority Democrats are expected to finish their proposals by the end of the week.
"We're trying to gather as much information as we can and make [a] more surgical approach to the kinds of cuts that we need to make," said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.
Meanwhile, patients and staff at Connecticut hospitals appeared at the state Capitol on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to still release $31.6 million in state payments. Malloy has put those payments on hold, given the state's fiscal problems.