HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget director on Thursday ordered a tougher freeze on state spending and hiring for the remainder of the fiscal year, hoping to help cover an approximate $60 million deficit.
In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes ordered state agency heads to refrain from entering into new personal service agreements, such as contracts with consultants, or extending those agreements.
Contracts with social service agencies, such as group homes, and "agreements necessary in order to continue essential state agency operations" are not affected by the memo.
In December, the General Assembly passed a bipartisan plan to help close a $365 million deficit in the current fiscal year's $20 billion budget, which ends June 30. Besides the reductions and changes imposed by lawmakers, including a cut in state payments to hospitals to cover insured patients, Malloy, a Democrat, used his executive powers to make $170 million in cuts. That became $108.5 million after lost federal reimbursements were taken into account.
But since that vote, a $60 million deficit has developed, which Barnes called "manageable" in an interview with the AP.
Barnes is also stepping up the administration's ongoing efforts to restrict state hiring. According to his memo, only requests to fill critical vacancies will be considered for funding and "agencies should anticipate that few refills will be approved for the balance of the fiscal year." Agencies will have to provide a written description of the critical nature of the position when requesting funding.
"If they are critical for essential state services, we'll approve them," he said. "We are basically saying we are going to approve fewer of them."
He said he hopes the stepped-up hiring and spending freeze will result in tens of millions of dollars but acknowledged that it was hard to determine.
Barnes is preparing a new two-year budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Malloy is scheduled to unveil the package to the full General Assembly on Feb. 6. Each fiscal year is projected to be about $1.2 billion in the red, something Barnes and Malloy will have to tackle in the proposal.
Barnes said he's hopeful revenues will show an improvement in April, with wealthier taxpayers taking steps such as selling off stock to avoid higher federal taxes.