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Plan released to cover part of projected $2 billion deficit

October 2, 2020 GMT
Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Melissa McCaw discusses points in Gov. Ned Lamont's budget plan at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. McCaw said on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 that a $200 million plan unveiled by the governor is "only a start" of measures that will be taken to deal with Connecticut's estimated $2 billion budget shortfall (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Melissa McCaw discusses points in Gov. Ned Lamont's budget plan at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. McCaw said on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 that a $200 million plan unveiled by the governor is "only a start" of measures that will be taken to deal with Connecticut's estimated $2 billion budget shortfall (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Melissa McCaw discusses points in Gov. Ned Lamont's budget plan at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. McCaw said on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 that a $200 million plan unveiled by the governor is "only a start" of measures that will be taken to deal with Connecticut's estimated $2 billion budget shortfall (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Facing at least a $2 billion budget shortfall that’s largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont and his budget office on Thursday released a partial deficit mitigation plan that relies on budget reserves, spending cuts across state agencies, hiring restrictions and the hope that Connecticut’s economy will continue improving.

Melissa McCaw, the Democratic governor’s budget director, said the $200 million plan unveiled Thursday is “only a start.” Connecticut’s fiscal year ends on June 30, 2021, and she said taking steps such as cutting $25.3 million from state government agencies and paring both the legislative and judicial budgets now could ultimately minimize how much of the state’s roughly $3 billion budget reserve account will ultimately be needed to balance the books.

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Lamont’s plan also relies on about $100 million in federal funds to cover the cost of some public health and safety personnel who handle matters concerning COVID-19.

McCaw said the governor will also ask the General Assembly to delay plans to phase out two business taxes. But she said lawmakers don’t need to act until the new legislative session opens in January. She said the administration wants to continue watching the state’s revenue picture, which she said has improved more than anticipated after the coronavirus-related shut-downs.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, called the mitigation plan incomplete and accused Lamont’s administration of “failing in its responsibility and using a dangerous ‘wait and see’ strategy to avoid a difficult situation.” By using only a portion of his budget-cutting authority, Fasano said Lamont risks having to spend much more of the state’s reserves later on.