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Comptroller Says Governor's Optimism Is Good Politics, Bad Policy

Contact: Steve Jensen

Connecticut's 1998 budget surplus of $312.9 million was created by record-setting tax revenues collected from residents, not by spending restraint or conservative fiscal management as claimed by the Governor, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said today.

The most significant example of overspending, Wyman said, is that the state's constitutional spending cap was exceeded this year by $194 million - the first time ever. She also noted that overall spending increased by more than twice the general inflation rate.

"I don't see how the Governor can say he's holding the line on spending when the spending cap was exceeded by almost $200 million," said Wyman, who as the state's elected chief fiscal guardian is responsible for reporting the final surplus figures. "The Governor portrays himself as a fiscal conservative and has promised to deliver a more streamlined government. But the real numbers show that he's doing business as usual or worse."

Wyman attributed the surplus mainly to the strong national economy and the state's income tax, which brought in more than $461 million over what was expected and offset the high level of spending.

Wyman also pointed out that while the Governor is claiming fiscal restraint, the state has the highest amount of debt per-capita in the nation at $16.2 billion, or $4,924 per person, and has added another $1.3 billion in bond authorizations for fiscal year 1999. The growing reliance on debt to pay for running state government dramatically increases the cost to taxpayers for goods and services, she said, and drains funds that could be used for other purposes.

Wyman also took issue with the Governor's prediction of a $117.4 million surplus for the 1999 fiscal year, calling it premature and based on very little hard financial information. Under the state's modified-cash accounting system, a portion of the revenues for July and August are accrued to the 1998 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Wyman said she has seen no financial data for 1999 that would cause her to deviate from the 1999 year-end surplus projection of about $20 million that was included in the legislature's budget when it was drawn up last year.

"We don't even have one full month of revenue data on which to make an informed projection of what's going to happen in 1999," Wyman said. "With evidence that the economy is already slowing down, the Governor's prediction of a large surplus is based more on political hope than economic reality."

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For Immediate Release
August 31, 1998

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