Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley called Friday for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget chief to step down for not foreseeing the huge drop in the state’s projected budget surplus.
Foley said that Ben Barnes, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and a longtime Malloy ally back to the days when Malloy was Stamford mayor, should be replaced because he and his budget team did not foresee huge drops in state tax collections. Those collections were so low that the state budget surplus has collapsed from more than $500 million down to $43 million.
Democrats immediately dismissed Foley’s comments.
“OPM Secretary Ben Barnes either can’t add or caved to election-year political pressure when he published budget estimates showing a sizable surplus this year,” Foley said. “His estimate was the foundation for the governor’s foolish election-year policy initiatives including several hundred million dollar plus handouts that would have further burdened Connecticut taxpayers and further stressed Connecticut’s precarious fiscal situation. Barnes comment that he was “taken off guard” by the $471 million drop in revenues is either dishonest or an admission of breathtaking incompetence. Either warrants Mr. Barnes stepping down as OPM Secretary, an important position of responsibility overseeing billions of taxpayer money, a $20 billion a year government budget, and a $280 billion state economy.”
Foley continued, “If Mr. Barnes was “taken off guard” by the massive drop in revenues, he was one of the few people in the state who was. I pointed out on January 22nd that the Governor’s so-called surplus was phony because it included unsustainable revenues of $200 million borrowed from last year’s budget, an increase of $300 million in capital gains revenue which, if it had turned up, would have been a one-time shot from a strong stock market, $110 million stolen from the transportation fund, and $625 million borrowed for operating expenses from new bonding or delayed repayments of bonds issued in previous years.”
“The people of Connecticut need leaders they can trust and who have the skills to get the job done,” Foley said. “Connecticut’s problems are serious, but fixable. With honest and competent leadership committed to smart policies and good decision-making, Connecticut can once again be on a path to renewed opportunities and more prosperity for everyone. Mr. Barnes has shown he is not up to that standard and he should step down as OPM Secretary.”
Malloy’s chief press spokesman, Andrew Doba, responded, “This ridiculous statement is not worthy of a response.”
Jonathan Harris, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, responded, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Ben Barnes is an enormous part of the reason that the Malloy Administration has moved Connecticut from a $3.6 billion deficit to $300 million in the Rainy Day Fund, from years of job loss to nearly 50,000 private sector jobs created, and from decades of fiscal mismanagement to four years of balanced budgets.”
Harris added, “It’s incredible to me that Tom Foley, the same person who testified before a legislative committee on a bill he claimed to have introduced but could not even explain what was in the bill, is calling for a resignation of a respected public servant over consensus revenue numbers accepted by Republicans and Democrats.”
When asked Friday if he agreed with Foley’s call for the resignation of Barnes, Senate Republican leader John McKinney said of Foley, “I think he’s just jealous that I called for [state education] Commissioner Pryor’s resignation, and he had to figure out something else to do.”
On Barnes, McKinney said, “He’s been wrong for 3 1/2 years, so why change now?”