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OPM Secretary: No Tax Increases Next Week

OPM Secretary: No Tax Increases Next Week

Hartford Courant, January 26, 2016

By Christopher Keating

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's spokesman says there will be no tax increases unveiled next week during the annual budget speech to the legislature.

"The governor is not proposing tax increases, nor will he support them,'' said Devon Puglia, Malloy's spokesman. "This is a tough budget that will require a different solution."

The comments came soon after Malloy's budget director had refused to rule out tax increases when the new budget is unveiled next week.

Barnes clarifies remarks back to top

Ben Barnes was asked by reporters to clarify remarks that he made during an annual speech Tuesday to the New Haven-based Connecticut Voices for Children think tank at the state Capitol.

"Ruling out tax hikes is one of those things that people often do, but I think that when you're in a tough spot you don't want to - even though I don't anticipate a lot of outcry or the ability to sustain a majority in the General Assembly for tax hikes this year. That's my amateur analysis that it would be very hard to pass a tax hike,'' Barnes said in a long answer. "I understand it's going to be a tough year. We've all got to keep our options open. I'm not going to hem anybody in by making predictions before the whole thing has started.''

Concerning the proposal to be unveiled next Wednesday, Barnes said, "It's the governor's budget, and I don't want to speak for him on that.'' When reminded by a longtime budget reporter that the administration has been "more definitive'' about taxes before Malloy's budget speeches in the past and then asked why this year was more nebulous, Barnes responded, "Just for, you know, suspense.''

During the speech in the ornate Old Judicary Room, Barnes had stated, "I don't expect any proposals next week.'' Some reporters interpreted that remark to mean that Malloy would not offer any tax hikes, but Barnes said that he was talking about potential proposals by the legislature. Barnes added, "I have not, heretofore, for fiscal '17 proposed a tax increase.'' Barnes made his remarks one day after the legislature's nonpartisan fiscal office said that the projected deficit for the current fiscal year has grown to $72 million.

The office now pegs the deficit at a higher level than the governor's budget office, which projects the shortfall at $7.1 million. One of the biggest discrepancies between the two estimates is $46.5 million in savings that have not yet been allocated by Malloy. Malloy has the authority to make those cuts, which would slice the deficit sharply to about $25 million, but the amounts "have not been identified or allocated to state agency accounts,'' the fiscal office said Monday.

Overall, the fiscal office is projecting about $38 million in increased spending and a drop in tax collections of $26.8 million since the state legislature voted to slice the deficit in a pre-Christmas session in December. The legislature's actions were designed to wipe out the deficit, but that has not yet happened.