Governor Dannel Malloy will propose cutting the budget for the next fiscal year by nearly $600 million.
The figures come from a document that was circulated to state agency heads and obtained by NBC Connecticut. The governor will give his annual State of the State Address this Wednesday.
The cuts will come from 5.75 percent in new spending reductions across state government amounting to $360.8 million and maintain the $208.7 million in reductions made in recent months during the 2016 fiscal year. Many of those reductions made hit social service and welfare programs the hardest.
Governor Malloy alluded to changing the way the Connecticut spends taxpayer dollars during an exclusive meeting with NBC Connecticut.
Without providing budgetary specifics, the governor said, “We have to change our expectations in government and I think these same services analysis that simply says we’re going to spend the same next year as we did this year even though it’s going to cost us way more money doesn’t work anymore.”
The document also said cuts of up to 9 percent during the next fiscal year should be considered as well.
The governor also proposed using what he referred to as "block" budgeting, wherein agencies would receive lump sums of cash and the executive branch i.e. the governor and the agency head would have discretion over how that money gets spent. Historically, the budget would contain line items for each program and individual expense within an agency. The governor's proposal would be a departure.
Malloy said between that issue and the current services projections always assuming that the state will spend more, drastic changes are needed to keep the state's fiscal house in order.
“We’ve established a system that simply assumes that you’re always going to spend more money," Malloy said. "Let’s make a break with that system.”
Since the economic downturn of 2008, even though Connecticut has added 80,000 people to employment rolls, Malloy said the state hasn't recovered and that government has to reflect that as well.
"We all thought it was going to recover quickly. It hasn’t recovered and now. We’re now in 2016 and we better change our assumptions and we better change how we do these things, otherwise we’re going to be trapped.”
Republicans, too, are calling for spending reform.
Perhaps the most aggressive proposal coming from Republicans is to make all labor contracts subject to approval by the general assembly, which they said will eventually save taxpayers money because it would add a new level of transparency.
They also want to change compensation and benefit structure for state workers, which they said will also save money.
“It's Groundhog Day and here we are doing the same thing over and over and over again" said Sen. Len Fasano, the top Republican in the Connecticut Senate. “We need to stop. We need to change the way government is done in this building. We need to change the structural nature of our budgets. We need to get a hold of our spending.”
Fasano warned that adopting the governor's budget proposal to give more authority to department heads would be irresponsible.
“That isn’t what the legislature was created for. We create policy, not the governor and the democratic governor needs to lead. They need to do their job.”
House Speaker Rep. Brendan Sharkey, (D - Hamden) responded to the Republican proposals and said, "I am disappointed the Republicans, on the eve of a new session have chosen to revert to their tendency to point fingers instead of leading."
Senate Democrat President Martin Looney responded similarly saying, “The Republicans couldn’t even wait for the opening of the General Assembly session before embracing the dark side of partisan politics and resorting to a gross political stunt."