CT Seen As Hiding Bad Budget News

In an article headlined “Bad Budget News? Some States Just Bury It.” Connecticut is one of two states selected as a poster child for what a national publication describes as “hindering transparency.” The Connecticut policy that brought the unwelcome attention was put in place last year.  As Governing explains:

“Connecticut ended its practice of current services projections. That’s a boring-sounding way of talking about how much programs will cost over time, assuming there are no policy changes. It’s a baseline against which to compare any proposed cuts or increases in spending.”

Ben Barnes, Connecticut’s budget director (Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management), said last year that it didn’t make sense to project shortfalls or surpluses into the future, Governing explains. “There’s no such thing, in my view, as a deficit or a surplus in years in which there is no appropriation in place,” said Barnes, whose photo accompanies the article.

Some legislators complained that the new rules would be a blow against transparency in the budget. The change was adopted anyway, the publication noted, adding that a majority of states already choose not to publish current services projections.

“There is kind of a tendency for policymakers to focus on the immediate and not the future,” Liz McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Governing. “This reduces the outside pressure to look beyond one year.”

The publication’s report notes that Connecticut “will have to fill a shortfall of more than $1 billion in its budget this year.”

The other state highlighted in the article is Kansas, where a state task force recommended that the department stop releasing monthly budget reports after numerous reports indicated that the state had fallen short of anticipated revenues.   The Governor’s administration also “decided to kill a quarterly economic report that was also habitually filled with bad numbers.”

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