Adam Goldfarb, Alan Taylor, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Adam Goldfarb, Allan Taylor, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowksi
A primary question facing Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is how did they have the authority to create a special position for Steven Adamowski when the State Board of Education hadn’t even voted to continue Adamowski’s role as “Special Master” for the Windham and New London school systems.
In fact, the position for “Special Deal” Adamowski wasn’t even part of the State Department of Education’s organization plan.
For that we have to go back to January 18, 2012 when the Connecticut State Board of Education approved Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s reorganization plan. Pryor’s plan was developed with the help of a team of consultants who were brought in on no-bid contracts to help Malloy and Pryor write the Governor’s new education reform bill and reorganize the department to implement the new initiative.
Connecticut’s taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for these out-of-state consultants to develop a re-organization plan for Pryor and the education reform bill for Malloy.
At the time, Commissioner Pryor said that the reorganization plan laid out “the essential groundwork for realizing reform by creating the structure and capacity” to carry out Malloy’s education reform efforts.”
According to a press release issued at the time, “The reorganization addresses Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s six principles on education reform, including: (1) Enhancing families’ access to high-quality early childhood; (2) Turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools and districts; (3) Expanding the availability of high-quality school models; (4) Removing red tape and other barriers to success; (5) Ensuring that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals; and (6) Delivering more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need-provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success.”
State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor was quoted in the official press release saying, “The Board’s support for the reorganization of the Department sets into motion a new era for education reform grounded in high expectations for every student in Connecticut’s public schools. Chief among our goals is to harness the strength to overcome deep achievement gaps in our system. This reorganization plan provides the right framework for progress.”
Commissioner Stefan Pryor added, “This reorganization plan sets the stage to accomplish the significant education reforms presented by Governor Malloy. We will position a talented team and operating structure that’s second to none, making Connecticut a national education leader once again.”
But the plan didn’t include the office of Special Master or a position for Steven Adamowski because Adamowski’s no-bid contract had already been delivered to him through the State Education Resource Center.
But now Malloy and Pryor wanted Adamowski to get a state job and apparently were hoping nobody would remember the earlier statements surrounding Pryor’s re-organization plan.
On August 8, 2013, Adam Goldfarb, Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff, wrote to Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management explaining, “The purpose of our requested increase in headcount is to successfully implement the new work required of the state by the Governor’s reforms…”
So now Pryor’s operation needed more positions to implement Malloy’s education reform initiative?
But just a few weeks earlier Pryor had let seven State Department of Education experts go. The four Leaders in Residence and the three retired superintendents of schools, all of whom at had been successfully working with these priority school districts to enhance their local education programs were gone and Pryor replaced them with a $1 million contract with a well-connected, out-of-state company called MassInsight that proceeded to send in a series of inexperienced consultants to help Connecticut’s poorest school districts.
But now Malloy’s Chief of Staff was asking for more positions, one of which we have now learned was intended, all along, for Steven Adamowski.
Apparently the professional staff at the Office of Policy and Management was also confused by Goldfarb’s argument on Pryor’s behalf.
According to a packet of emails acquired last week, one OPM analyst wrote back to Goldfarb saying,
Ben [Barnes] forwarded me the memo from the Commissioner to Mark Ojakian [Malloy’s chief of staff] and Ben regarding the staffing plan for implementation of Governor’s reforms. Following a meeting with Ben on it, we would ask that you provide more detail as to how this can be accomplished within the budget for FY14 and FY15. I assume the 24 new positions outlined in the memo include the 15 that were previously requested…I believe SDE currently has twenty something vacancies, which I assume would go unfilled in order to pay these other 24 positions…
- A new “staffing plan” needed to implement the Governor’s education reforms?
- 24 new positions including the 15 that were previously requested?
- But the State Department of Education already had 20 funded vacancies?
- And all of this time, one of these positions was targeted for Steven Adamowski?
And perhaps the most stunning point of all is that none of this came before the State Board of Education for approval despite the fact that the State Board, with great fanfare, had already approved a major reorganization plan to handle Malloy’s education reforms?
Is there anyone in charge of anything at the State Department of Education?
The new state budget that was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy took effect on July 1, 2013…That budget is the legal framework for the expenditure of all taxpayer funds.
And here, thirty days later, Commissioner Pryor’s office is asking for an entirely new staffing plan for Malloy’s education reform bill…
And none of these important policy issues are reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education —- the entity which is legally mandated to oversee the operation of the State Department of Education?
And we wonder why the people of Connecticut have lost faith in their government.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy, State Budget, State Debt Malloy, State Budget, State Debt
[Or perhaps a better title would be: Didn’t that sign back there say… “Bridge Out” to which the elected official responded…what sign?]
Earlier this week, the CT Mirror ran a story entitled “Debate intensifies over CT’s credit card,“ while CT Newsjunkie’s story was State On Pace to Exceed Malloy’s Self-Imposed Debt Limit.
Since the stories contained quotes from State Senator John McKinney, a potential candidate for governor and rather defensive statements from Governor Malloy’s media operation, some readers may have misinterpreted the issue as being primarily political in nature.
However, the truth is far from that.
If you skipped over the stories about the state’s bonding and tomorrow’s state Bond Commissioner meeting, go back and read them very, very carefully.
They highlight what is surely one of the most important fiscal issues facing Connecticut and the failure of our elected officials to take the matter seriously. The course they are on will literally destroy Connecticut’s economic future.
The short version of the issue is as follows;
Tomorrow morning the Connecticut state Bond Commission will meet to borrow an additional $395.5 million in general obligation bonds.
With two more Bond Commission meetings left in the year, this new borrowing will “put Gov. Dannel P. Malloy within $20 million of his self-imposed $1.8 billion bonding limit.”
As CT Newsjunkie reported, at the first Bond Commission meeting this year Malloy said, “I can’t imagine that we would exceed $1.8 [billion], but we may be substantially less than that.”
But here we are…. At $1.8 billion and counting.
The $1.78 billion number actually exceeds last year’s amount of borrowing by nearly $400 million.
As State Senator John McKinney observed, “The governor, who two years ago set the record for the largest tax increase in state history, has today set a new record for the highest amount of borrowing in state history…This level of borrowing and these broken promises show a lack of leadership, a lack of fiscal responsibility, and a lack of consideration for the taxpaying public.”
McKinney’s statement was brushed aside by the Malloy administration who went on to claim that borrowing more money is not a drag on the state’s economy.
But that attitude overlooks a far more serious issue.
The drag on the economy is not so much a concern today, but the $19 billion in bonds the state must be off over the next twenty years will have significant and far-reaching ramifications.
Across the country, the average state per capita debt burden for state funded bonds is about $1,400. In Connecticut, the state per capita debt burden is just about $5,100.
And that is just the amount owed for bonds.
According to the state of Connecticut’s own numbers, over the next few decades, Connecticut taxpayers will have to come up with nearly $64 billion in addition to the funds necessary to pay for the State’s annual expenditures.
Besides the $19 billion in existing outstanding debt, Taxpayers will have to deal with the following obligations;
State Employee Retirement System (SERS) $ 11 billion
Teachers’ Retirement System $ 11 billion
State Post Employment Health and Life Benefits $18 billion
Teachers’ Post Employment Health Benefits $3.0
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles Deficit $1.5 billion (a major portion of which the state intends to borrow)
Like having to use a bigger and bigger portion of one’s salary to pay off the minimum balance on their credit cards, the state’s extraordinary debt is requiring more and more of the state budget to be diverted from services to debt payment.
Ten years ago, about 8.5 percent of the state budget went for debt service. Today that figure is over 10 percent and growing. In this year’s state budget, about $2.2 billion is going for debt service.
Compare that $2.2 billion to Governor Malloy’s claim that he improved education funding by providing about $50 million in new funds for Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing Formula.
As Keith Phaneuf wrote in his CT Mirror article earlier this week,
“Financing for state government’s capital program basically follows a three-stage process:
- The legislature has sole authority to “authorize” bonding. Every two years lawmakers adopt a schedule of projects that may be financed with long-term borrowing.
- The bond commission — a 10-member panel of administration officials and legislators chaired by the governor — has sole authority to pick which projects will be financed.
- And when a state agency or some other entity is ready to actually carry out a project, the state treasurer’s office is empowered to issue bonds on Wall Street to raise the funds needed to cover expenses.
So while bond commission action doesn’t necessarily mean money will be spent right away, it does represent the state’s intention to move forward at some point with a project.
And given that Connecticut has one of the largest bonded debts, per capita, of any state in the nation, McKinney said Malloy should be more restrained about assigning projects to the credit card.”
To that, Malloy’s press operation shot back at McKinney saying, “The work supported by the bond commission creates jobs for Connecticut residents. It also allows the state to invest in local projects like schools, parks and senior centers. Senator McKinney should explain which important investment in job creation and quality of life improvements for residents in all of our towns and cities he does not support.”
While investment in “shovel” ready projects to create jobs is undoubtedly an important priority, the rather flippant response from the Malloy administration reveals the same lack of appreciation that previous governors have shown – Democrat, Republican and Independent – all of whom have pushed up the state’s indebtedness and undermined the long-term health of Connecticut’s economy.
The underlining problem is that many of today’s politicians will be long gone when the children of today’s taxpayers are given a bill that they can’t possibly pay.
For more about this issue, start by reading the CT Mirror story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/09/23/debate-intensifies-over-cts-credit-card and then the CT Newsjunkie story here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/state_on_pace_to_exceed_malloys_self-imposed_debt_limit/#more.
Then when you have your courage, go check the General Assembly’s Fiscal Accountability Report which you can find here: (Especially look at pages 26-32): http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/year/FF/2013FF-20121115_Fiscal%20Accountability%20Report%20FY%2013%20-%20FY%2016.pdf
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Bridgeport, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, State Budget Ben Barnes, Bridgeport, ECS Formula, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
Connecticut’s taxpayers cover more than 80 percent of the costs associated with running Bridgeport’s Schools.
For more than twenty-five years, Connecticut’s primary funding mechanism has been called the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Underfunded by about $2 billion dollars, the money is distributed to towns based on a variety of factors including the number of students living in poverty and the town’s ability to come up with their own funds via their local property taxes.
Every town gets some state aid; the poorest towns get the most.
There are three criteria that towns must meet to get their state aid;
First, the entire amount of the ECS state-grant MUST be spent on education
Second, any increase in the ECS grant CAN NOT be used to supplant local funding for education.
Third, the town must invest a minimum amount of its own money, a system that is called the ECS Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR).
As the CT Post is reporting, “Mayor Bill Finch’s administration is negotiating feverishly in Hartford to shrink a state-mandated $3.3 million spike in education spending that the mayor inexplicably left out of his proposed budget.”
The story goes on to read, “Since Finch did not include the money in his 2013-14 fiscal plan, Bridgeport officials are now trying to convince the state they should not be on the hook for the $3.3 million because of all the unreimbursed “in-kind” school expenses the city covers.”
Connecticut’s entire school funding system is based on the notion of shared expenses. Bridgeport is at the very top of the list of towns that benefit from the state system.
Although the ECS fails to allocate sufficient funds to cover what the state should be paying, rather than pay their share, Bridgeport officials claim that they should be allowed to duck their responsibility to pay their required share.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bridgeport appears to have any ally in Ben Barnes, Malloy’s Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.
Barnes worked for Malloy when Malloy was the Mayor of Stamford. When Malloy left the Mayor’s office in Stamford to run for governor, Barnes landed in an administrative position in Bridgeport. Soon after, he transferred over to become the chief financial officer for Bridgeport schools.
Barnes knows very well that Bridgeport’s schools are underfunded and he knows the requirements of the local Minimum Budget Requirement law.
However, instead of demanding the Bridgeport, like every other Connecticut city, meet its MBR Requirement, Barnes is quoted in the CT Post article as saying, “If a city takes over some $1 million activity for the (school) board, they get a credit, or vice versa…So we’ve agreed to look for some additional information from them. (And) we’ll provide them with some additional clarification of how we’re interpreting the statute.”
But Barnes knows that history and intent of the law and there was never the notion that a city’s “in-kind” support for its schools was meant to take the place of the city’s fundamental requirement to meet its Minimum Budget Requirement.
Last month, the school budget proposed by the Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” counted on the additional $3.3 million the law requires Bridgeport to spend.
Now Vallas is changing his tune. According to the CT Post article, at a recent Bridgeport Board of Alderman meeting, Vallas said, “Do we need $3.3 million more? Yeah…Can we live without it? If we have to, we will find a way to do that.”
So here is the person heading up Bridgeport’s schools backing off his own budget proposal and the need for the state and the city to properly fund Bridgeport’s schools.
Meanwhile, the CT Post reports that, “Finch and his office have refused to discuss the matter publicly, instead issuing the same terse statements that the administration is focused on a resolution.”
This isn’t the first time the Bridgeport has attempted to duck their local funding requirement. A major Connecticut State Department of Education Audit in 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 raised extremely serious problems with Bridgeport’s unwillingness to fulfill its legal obligations when it comes to properly funding education.
Here we are, almost ten years later…
And we are left with the realization that the more things change, the more the stay the same.
Once again, Bridgeport officials want us to believe that Connecticut’s education funding laws applies to everyone but them.
For the full CT Post article go to: http://m.ctpost.com/connpost/db_43463/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=hcRAd05N&full=true#display
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Healthcare, Human Services, Malloy, Mental Health Services, State Budget, State Deficit Budget cuts, Economic Development, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Pick up any newspaper and you are bound to see at least one story about the impact of budget cuts and another about how state governments are giving money away to private companies in an attempt to convince them to create or retain jobs.
It is quite a commentary about our times. A lack of adequate funding means people who work for schools, hospitals and nonprofit providers of human services are or will be losing their jobs, while taxpayer continue to provide the money that is being used to try and persuade businesses to pledge that they will create or keep private sector jobs.
True, it may not be the notoriety that we want, but you certainly can’t say that Connecticut hasn’t become the epitome of this paradox.
For example, earlier this week, Wait What? readers were provided an opportunity to read two posts, one entitled Has it come to this…? and another entitled And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery.
The first post reported on a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece by a father lamenting Governor Malloy’s cut to essential programs that help Connecticut’s developmentally disabled residents while the second was about the Governor’s visit to a brew pub in Stamford to celebrate a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant that the Malloy Administration was giving to help the brew pub expand.
The two stories served to enlighten readers about the reality of our times or the juxtaposition between an era where we are cutting vital services while providing private companies with what some would call economic development incentives and what others would refer to as corporate welfare.
What I failed to report was that, in addition to the brew pub, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Catherine Smith, were actually visiting three other companies around the state that day. All four of the companies were receiving funds thanks to the State’s Small Business Express Program (EXP).
Over the past eighteen months, the Small Business Express Program has given out more than $80 million. According to state officials, the program has helped “create and retain more than 7,600 jobs.” The Legislature will soon be voting to give the Governor an additional $60 million for this program.
In addition to Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, Malloy was visiting Atlantic Canvas and Awning (a company that received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000); Automotive Core Recycling (a company that recycles and sells catalytic converters and other auto parts and received a $250,000 loan) and Katalina’s (a cup cake bakery that received a loan of $30,000 to add equipment and furnishings to their new retail shop).
According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, the $50,000 loan and $10,000 grant “support the creation of three new jobs and retained four,” the $250,000 loan translated into one new position and retained 8 jobs, while the $30,000 loan to the bakery “created one full time job and retained two full time and two part time jobs.”
The Governor’s press release that day announced that the Small Business Express Program has already created or retained more than 1400 jobs in 2013.
Meanwhile that distraught and frustrated father, along with the others who care for Connecticut’s developmentally disabled, try to cope with Governor Malloy’s $6 million cut to employment and day service programs.
Actually, that $6 million cut was part of a much bigger list of cuts Governor Malloy ordered last November 28, 2012. That day, back in November, Governor Malloy announced $170 million in budget rescissions.
The press release didn’t actually quote Governor Malloy. Instead the task of explaining the cuts was left to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director. Barnes wrote, “Many of these cuts are very difficult to make, especially now when so many residents continue to struggle in a tough economy, But as painful as they are, cuts are necessary to keep this year’s budget in balance. State government needs to live within its means.”
The November list included a wide variety of reductions including a $53,000 cut to the Division of Criminal Justice’s Shooting Task Force; a $200,000 cut to the Jobs First Employment Service Program, a $488,000 cut to the state’s Environmental Quality Program; a $335,000 cut to the Department of Health’s Community Health Services Program and $41,000 cut to their Genetic Diseases Program; a $433,000 cut to the state’s Community Mental Health Centers, a $2.3 million cut to home care services that keep people out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals and the list goes on and on.
More recently, the state budget plan that Governor Malloy proposed a month ago continued those cuts. In fact, his new budget makes even deeper cuts to a variety of vital and essential services.
So how is it possible that a Governor would be instituting record budget cuts while giving away record amounts of taxpayer funds to private businesses?
Truth be told, it is the difference between how the State operating budget works compared to the way the State Capital or Bond budget functions.
Even in the desperate times, the Capital budget continues to pump out cash.
The State’s operating budget is paid for with tax dollars. The State’s Capital Budget is funded via the state’s credit card.
Because we are borrowing the money and then paying the amount (plus interest) back over twenty years, the argument is that cutting the Capital Budget won’t help to balance this year’s operating budget. This year’s operating budget is still facing a $135 million plus deficit despite the terrible cuts instituted by the Governor and the additional cuts approved by the General Assembly.
Although Connecticut already has the highest per capita debt burden in the nation, since the word “deficit” applies to the operating budget and not the Capital Budget, we end up with a situation in which vital services are cut at the same time money is being handed out.
In fact, if Governor Malloy gets his way, we’ll see more cuts to essential services and more layoffs of hospital and human service workers in the coming months, and at the same time, the General Assembly will be allocating even more money for the Governor to hand out to the private sector.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Ethics, Freedom of Information, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, State Budget, State Elections Enforcement Commission, State Politics Freedom of Information Commission, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, State Budget, State Elections Enforcement Commission
In his first budget, Governor Malloy went a long way toward undermining the effectiveness of Connecticut’s landmark Freedom of Information Commission, Office of State Ethics, State Elections Enforcement Commission and Connecticut’s other watch dog and good government agencies by merging them into a single agency, reducing their resources and giving financial control to a political appointee.
Although he somehow forgot to mention it during his speech last week, Malloy’s new state budget plan takes another giant leap forward in his effort to destroy Connecticut’s once stellar standing as having one of the best good government programs in the nation.
The CTMirror has the details in an article entitled “Howls as Malloy tries to shorten leash on watchdogs,” but the quote of the day goes to Malloy’s Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, Ben Barnes, who says of the proposal to destroy the remaining independence of the watchdog agencies, “There is nothing insidious about this.”
As quoted in the CTMirror article, James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information explains, “These proposals can only be explained as an effort to gain control over the guarantors of transparency and integrity in government…We ask why the Malloy administration is determined to emasculate the independent watchdogs?”
As the CTMirror explains, “Malloy’s plan would give a gubernatorial appointee, the executive director of the Office of Government Accountability, the authority to assign and discipline lawyers whose duties could include investigating Malloy or some future governor.”
The CTMirror summarizes the situation noting, “The change would remove a layer of political insulation that protects the agencies and the governor: The watchdogs are free of executive influence, real or perceived; and the governor’s office is protected against accusations of protecting friends or punishing enemies.”
Imagine what the Democrats would be saying if a Republican governor made such an outrageous proposal.
I bet if we listen carefully, we can hear John Rowland laughing…
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes Ben Barnes, Malloy, Municipal Aid, Slots Revenue, Tax
Right…The State Lottery was for Education; Native Gaming Slots Revenue was for cities and towns…And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
In 1993, the Mashantucket Pequot Nation signed an agreement with Governor Lowell Weicker and the state of Connecticut.
In return for the exclusive rights to have slot machines, Connecticut’s Native American Tribes would donate 25 percent of their gross slots revenue to the state of Connecticut. It was the most generous Native American Revenue Sharing agreement in the nation.
When the Mohegan Sun was opened a few years later, the program became known as the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Grant. According to the program description, the fund “annually distributes a grant to each of the state’s 169 municipalities. The distribution is based on numerous factors including, but not limited to, the value of state-owned property, private college and general hospitals, population, equalized net grand list, and per capita income as set forth in Sections 3-55i, j, and k of the Connecticut General Statutes. Payment is made in three equal payments on January 1, April 1, and June 30th.”
In its first full year, about $85 million was distributed to Connecticut’s cities and towns. The state of Connecticut was a bit short on revenue that year, so it withheld the other $30 million in order to help balance the state budget.
Over the years, as the two Native American casinos became more and more successful, the amount of money flowing into the state coffers grew substantially.
Some years the state provided its cities and towns a little more money (one year the grant grew to $135 million), but in other years, it cut the grant a bit. Each time, the excess stayed in the state’s General Fund.
Over the past 19 years, the Native American Tribes have given the state approximately $6.2 billion. Over that same period, the state has passed on about $1.5 billion or less than 25 percent of the money generated by the agreement. Connecticut’s state government spent the rest…
In recent years, the state has reduced the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant even further.
This fiscal year Governor Malloy’s budget allocates only about $62 million to the cities and towns via the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant program.
But then came last week’s budget proposal from the Governor.
In a major policy shift, perhaps one of the biggest in the entire budget, Governor Malloy has proposed to reduce the Native American grant program to almost zero. Instead, the Governor’s budget plan has the state borrowing an additional $56 million and giving it to towns to boost their Local Capital Improvement Grants (LoCIP). The unrestricted Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant would, for all intent, cease to exist.
It is ironic, to say the least, that on the twentieth anniversary of the Native American Slots Agreement, the Governor would run a wooden stake through the heart of what is left of Governor Weicker’s original proposal to allow the Tribes to have exclusive rights to slot machines in return for a “permanent” revenue source to help cities and towns pay their bills and lower their local property taxes.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Gas Tax, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes Budget cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes
There are a lot of things I don’t agree with Senator John McKinney about, but in this case he is absolutely right. Governor Malloy’s proposed budget is a sham and a shame. It is an embarrassment that a Democrat proposed such an irresponsible budget and the Democrats in the Legislature will need to start from scratch.
As Senator McKinney put it, “”There’s so many gimmicks. I don’t know where to stop…This is the most dishonest budget I’ve seen.”
He is sadly correct in his assessment.
Governor Malloy told the Connecticut General Assembly;
“The budget I am proposing today keeps Connecticut moving forward… [and is] “an honest, balanced budget [that emphasizes] living within our means.”
But, in fact, it is a proposed state budget that;
- Coddles the rich by refusing, once again, to require them to pay their fair share in taxes
- Includes the largest gas tax increases in state history
- Shifts tens of millions in municipal aid to the state’s credit card
- Includes more than $250 million in cuts to vital social services
- Cuts $146 million in state aid for Connecticut hospitals (on top of the $103 million cut)
- Eliminates Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor parents who are now covered by the program that covers their poor children
- Eliminates the Charter Oak Health Plan, an insurance program for those who can’t get affordable healthcare elsewhere
- Reduces the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent of the federal EITC to 25 percent (retroactive to Jan. 1), thereby removing a portion of the incentive that seeks to keep the working poor working as opposed to going on welfare.
- Creates a new tax on power plants and continues a surcharge on the corporation tax — both of which were set to expire next fiscal year
- Borrows $750 million replace the plan he never implemented to move the state to GAAP financing
- Creates a $631 million state budget deficit in FY16
- And MOST IMPORTANTLY balances the budget by delaying repayment of $1 billion that Connecticut borrowed in 2009 under Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
For more on this absurd plan read:
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, Spending Cap, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes Budget cuts, Malloy, Spending Cap, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes
CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf has posted an article outlining the budget plan Governor Malloy will be presenting to the Connecticut General Assembly later today.
After reading the article, an experienced “Connecticut budget watcher” would be forced to say; “imagine the worst, fiscally irresponsible scenario and then triple or quadruple the negative aspects of the plan” … and you still don’t get to what Governor Malloy will be presenting for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2014-2015 state budget.
Much more will become available as the day goes on, but here are the highlights (or more accurately – low lights) of the Governor’s budget proposal.
While promising a budget that has no new taxes, preserves his education reform program and dramatically expands spending in a few key areas, it is now clear that the Governor’s plans and proposals are virtually completely achieved by adding even more debt to Connecticut – the state that already has the worst existing debt burden in the nation.
Not only does Malloy’s $1.5 billion UConn initiative rely on borrowed funds, but he solves Connecticut’s $1.2 billion projected budget short fall through a complex, even bizarre, borrowing scheme.
The key component of Malloy’s new budget plan relies on getting more revenue from refinancing debt from the last recession, borrowing money to pay for municipal aid that was paid for with general fund dollars in the past and engaging in a new gimmick to make it appear the state is finally moving forward with its shift to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
In addition, Malloy’s budget proposal raises “about $140 million in new tax revenue by continuing expiring taxes on power plants and other businesses, and by reducing a tax credit for working poor families.
Apparently Malloy’s primary “budget financing plan” includes coming up with an additional $750 million dollars by “delaying repayment of $1 billion Connecticut borrowed in 2009 under Gov. M. Jodi Rell…Originally scheduled to be paid off in the 2015-16 fiscal year, the debt would be extended at least until 2018 in Malloy’s new budget.”
Meanwhile, two years ago, Candidate Malloy promised to immediately move the state to Generally Accepted Account Principles (GAAP). When Governor Malloy realized the cost of his campaign promise he shifted his plan to make a $75 million down payment in year one, a $50 million down payment in year two and then enter into a 15 year plan to shift the state to GAAP by investing $100 million a year for the next decade and a half. However, faced with budget deficits over the past two years, Malloy skipped the $75 million payment, then he skipped the $50 million payment and now he will be proposing to borrow the money to shift to state to GAAP, rather than actually make the necessary cash payments to resolve the problem the fiscally responsible way.
In addition, according to this new budget, Malloy will also turn to the state’s already overburdened credit card to provide more municipal aid. Last year he decided to borrow the funds, rather than pay cash, for the state’s $30 million municipal road aid program.
In this new budget, he is proposing borrowing another $60 million to give towns their Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Tribe slot revenue allocations. In that way, the state could keep all the Native American Indian Gaming funds for itself.
And the most incredible, piece de résistance, is that Malloy’s proposal to increase education funding – the plan he announced yesterday – appears to be paid for by changing (cutting) the Payment in Lieu of taxes program – the grant that towns get for lost revenue from state-owned property. Malloy’s plan apparently shifts money from the Public PILOT program to the Education Cost Sharing Formula, but calling the funds “NEW MONEY” for education even though the towns aren’t actually getting any additional money.
And as noted above, the CTMirror story suggests that “the governor will propose reducing the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent of the federal EITC down to 25 percent.”
Finally, the Governor’s plan also re-writes the state spending gap law to allow this increased spending to take place without having to go through the more burdensome supermajority requirements that would otherwise have been needed under the state’s existing spending cap law.
More details to come as Budget Day 2013 progresses.
For the CT Mirror article go to: http://ctmirror.org/story/19025/malloys-push-avoid-taxes-preserve-education-spurs-more-borrowing
CTNewsjunkie also has additional details at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/republican_lawmaker_is_not_impressed_with_malloys_budget/
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy Ben Barnes, Malloy
Faced with a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit for next year and $63 billion in overall state debt and unfunded liabilities – giving Connecticut the largest debt burden per capita in the nation – Governor Malloy recently proposed a $1.5 billion initiative for UConn, a program to augment the existing $2.3 billion 1995-2017 UConn 2000/21st Century UConn program that was designed to rebuild, renew and expand the state’s public research university.
When confronted about moving forward with increased borrowing during this period of fiscal distress, the Governor responded, “Listen, Connecticut is not going to move forward doing the same things that we did unsuccessfully for 22 years,” Malloy said Friday. “This is a big idea.”
The concept of focusing on major initiatives, even in the face of unparalleled fiscal problems, is not new for Connecticut’s governor. As observers have come to recognize, Governor Malloy wants people to see him as a “big” thinker.
A new investigative report by the CTMirror and WNPR highlights this issue extremely well.
“Stamford sewage treatment plant’s long history of problems, the financial implications for local residents and environmental consequences for the entire state.”
“Plagued by mismanagement, faulty equipment and a botched $105 million upgrade, Stamford’s Water Pollution Control Authority has come under fire for sending hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage into Long Island Sound in recent years.
Part of the problem was that three top city officials — the mayor, who is now Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy; his aide, Ben Barnes, now the state’s budget chief; and the sewage plant’s longtime director, Jeanette Brown, who resigned in 2011 — were focused on an exciting new technology that aimed to turn waste into energy.
Unfortunately, their plan had a few glitches.”
The two part investigative report can be read here Striving for innovation, spending millions, Stamford leaders ignored major problems and here Stamford’s failed attempt at energy innovation cost taxpayers tens of millions