Legislators – Make Malloy veto the only fair, honest and effective way to balance the State Budget.

After ordering massive budget cuts to a variety of programs that provide critically needed support for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens and making record breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, this year’s Connecticut State Budget is still $220 million in deficit.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy claimed that the State Budget he signed into law last summer was balanced and that he had succeeded in putting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, in truth, that budget missed the mark by nearly $1 billion dollars.

Over the last few month Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly have instituted deep and sweeping cuts that undermine some of Connecticut’s most vital social, health and education programs and services.

To make matters worse, Malloy is now withholding funds that Connecticut’s hospitals and non-profit providers of community services need to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents get the essential services they need.

With things getting worse by the day, Democratic leaders in the Connecticut legislature are now saying that they are poised to make even deeper cuts to programs as they flail around in an effort to balance the budget.

See:  Legislative Leaders, Malloy Continue Negotiations Over 2016 Budget Deficit (CT Newsjunkie), Senate Democratic leaders confident deficit-mitigation cuts will pass (CT Mirror), Legislature To Vote Tuesday In Attempt To Close Budget Deficit (Courant)

But there is a simple, honest and effective way for legislators to balance this year’s state budget and it is a solution that will allow them to restore some of the funding for the most important state programs and services.

However, Governor Malloy doesn’t like the idea so Democratic legislators are simply pretending that the best solution for the people of Connecticut doesn’t even exist.

It is time for Connecticut legislators to dismiss Malloy’s bullying.  He is a governor, not a king!  Their duty is to their constituents, not to the power hungry governor.

The best, most honest and most effective solution is for the members of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives to do the right thing and pass a budget deficit mitigation package that requires the super wealthy to pay their fair share.

If Governor Malloy’s decides that his priority is to coddle the rich while the rest of Connecticut suffers, let him veto the bill and face the political consequences.

The solution is extremely simple.

As the non-partisan research group Connecticut Voices for Children have reported;

  • Connecticut’s poor families pay about 12.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • Connecticut’s middle income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • And Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

As a direct result of Governor Malloy’s ongoing effort to protect the rich, Connecticut’s wealthy pay FAR less than they would if they lived in Massachusetts, New York or New Jersey..

The harsh, but unspoken, reality is that Connecticut’s middle class and working families are subsidizing Connecticut’s wealthy.

It is a policy that is unfair and needs to stop.

Connecticut’s public officials can eliminate the budget deficit by simply making Connecticut’s tax system fairer.

Depending on how it is actually structured, increasing the tax rates on wealthy resident’s capital gains or personal income would result in $250 million to $400 million in additional state revenue this year.

Instead of cutting vital programs and shifting even more of the burden onto local property tax payers, Connecticut elected officials should dismiss Malloy’s rhetoric and adopt a budget solution that is fair, honest and effective.

The question is, will elected officials do the right thing for their constituents or join Malloy by aligning themselves with the state’s wealthy.


Would the Captain please return to the bridge immediately!

You certainly can’t say that Governor Malloy is preoccupied with the minutia of running the state of Connecticut.

In fact, it is probably more accurate to say that it appears that he finds the day-to-day administrative duties of serving as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer boring, annoying or, at the very least, a waste of his time.

Many observers and commentators have already noted that Malloy has spent more time out-of-state than any other governor in recent history.  His recent “West Coast” fundraising trip, the one that he won’t discuss, is just one more example.

It certainly seems accurate to say, except in the face of an immediate natural disaster or crisis when the television cameras are running, Governor Malloy is pretty disinterested in rolling up his sleeves and attending to the actual administrative duties of managing a $20 billion dollar enterprise.

That said, when it comes to attending ground breakings or handing out taxpayer funds he is a master.

One of the most serious examples of this “hands-off” approach can be seen at the State Department of Education where Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has been allowed to systematically dismantle the professional capabilities of the agency.

While jobs go unfilled, key administrative functions go uncompleted.

And it when tasks must actually be performed, it seems the Malloy administration is more it is comfortable with out-sourcing the work to expensive, out-of-state consultants.

The impact of this approach can be easily seen with the State Department of Education’s Alliance District Program where at least eight communities ARE STILL WAITING for approval of their Year 2 Funding plans despite the fact that the fiscal year started 120 days ago and the school years is more than two months old.

The Malloy administration is quick to wrap itself in corporate education reform rhetoric but can’t seem to even review and approve the grants needed to implement its own corporate education reform program.  (Although it should be noted that checks are flowing for MassInsight, the out-of-state education reform consultants who were brought in to run the failing program).

Today we now hear about yet another example of the downside of having an Administration that is either unwilling or unable to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of running a complex organization like the government of the State of Connecticut.

A recent state audit provided a devastating assessment of the failures at the State Department of Public Health.

The situation is summarized in a press release that was sent out by the House Republicans entitled, “House Leader Cafero Blasts Health Department Over Audit Faulty Background Checks on Day Care Personnel, Missing Drugs, No Oversight.”

I use the House Republican’s verbiage, word for word, because it should send a shockwave through the entire Democratic Party and especially the Democrats who make up the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives.

A consistent refrain here at Wait, What? has been to raise the question, what would “we Democrats” be saying if the table were turned and it was a Republican governor doing the things that  Malloy has been doing.

“We Democrats” would be calling that Governor out on those issues and demanding immediate action.

It may be painful for Democrats to hear, but Connecticut Democrats should paying far closer attention to press releases like this one.

The Connecticut House Republicans write:

“HARTFORD – House Republican Leader Larry Cafero today criticized the state Department of Health over an audit that shows holes in background check for daycare providers, missing drugs, lack of staff oversight and numerous other findings that raise questions over agency management.

“These troubling findings by the auditors raise serious questions about how this department is being run and whether it takes seriously its core mission to function as the State of Connecticut’s premier health agency,’’ Cafero said.  “These violations need to be addressed immediately.’’

One of the most troublesome cites concerned faults in background checks for child care facilities. The auditors called into question whether the department’s procedures may not turn up people not suited to working in the child care facilities due to lack of monitoring and follow-through in checking records.

“Child care providers and their employees may be operating without the required completed background checks. As a result, children in licensed child care facilities are at an increased risk of coming into contact with unsuitable individuals,’’ the report released today states.

The department agreed with the finding. The auditors came up with 17 recommendations that need to be addressed including:

  • DPH has not established a process to properly track prescription drug distribution and drugs, including those used to treat pain, have gone unaccounted for;
  • EMS providers have failed to submit required tracking and activity reports;
  • DPH should overhaul its contractor oversight procedures to ensure that the work is being performed and invoices are processed correctly;
  • Travel vouchers for employees have not been authenticated;
  • Compensation time for employees lacks oversight and questions arose over allowing employees to return to work following lengthy sick leaves.

Cafero said nine of the 17 citations are repeats of a previous audit and questioned why they had not been corrected.

“Some of these findings appear relatively benign but overall the picture being painted is a general lack of oversight on the part of management that needs to be fixed,’’ he said.”

In truth, the failure of leadership at the State Department of Education and the State Department of Health are the most visible parts of a much bigger iceberg.

Democrats need to take heed before it is too late to get the captain on to the bridge.

Connecticut’s House Republicans step forward to protect open, fair and accountable government

If you found that hard to read, imagine how hard it was to write…

But it is true.

Last week, the leader of the House Republicans blasted Governor Malloy’s plan to undermine Connecticut’s watchdog agencies.

Representative Cafero observed that Governor Malloy’s budget proposal is, “…an attempt to undermine the public’s right to know what is going on within government.” 

Cafero added, “Investigations into campaign finance fraud, ethics complaints and Freedom of Information challenges will fall by the wayside if this proposal goes forward.’’  

While Democratic leaders remained silent or tip-toed around the issue, the House Republicans stepped forward to speak the truth.

The independence of Connecticut’s watchdog and good government entities is under assault.

What are these good government entities?

In 1974, following the Watergate scandal, the Connecticut General Assembly created the State Elections Commission (Public Act 74-213) to “ensure the integrity of the state’s electoral process.”

In 1975, Connecticut passed one of the most far-reaching Freedom of Information Acts in the nation and created the Freedom of Information Commission (Public Act 75-342) to “ensure citizen access to the records and meetings of public agencies in the State of Connecticut.”

And in 1977, the General Assembly formed the Connecticut State Ethics Commission (Public Act 77-600) to “promote the highest ethical standards and accountability in state government by providing education and legal advice, ensuring disclosure, and impartially enforcing the Codes of Ethics.”

In each case, the commissions and offices were set up to be bi-partisan or non-partisan entities, independent of any inappropriate political influence from the administrative or legislative branches of government.  The laws were designed to protect each entity’s fundamental mission to oversee Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, Connecticut’s freedom of information laws and Connecticut’s ethics laws.

Over the years, although Connecticut’s laws were already some of the strongest in the country, state government expanded and strengthened its good government statutes even more, further ensuring open and fair elections and government. 

In 2005, Connecticut adopted a Citizens’ Election Program, considered the “most sweeping public campaign finance program in the country. “

Then, in 2011, Governor Malloy proposed merging the government watchdog agencies into a single entity called the Office of Governmental Accountability.

While the Connecticut General Assembly revised Malloy’s original proposal to allow the various watchdog entities to retain some independence, the legislation, (Public Act 11-48) created the position of Executive Administrator, a position appointed by the governor.  The job of the Executive Administrator was to “provide consolidated personnel, payroll, affirmative action, and administrative and business office function.”

In this way, the Office of the Governor was given far greater reach into the day-to-day operations of the independent, government watchdog agencies.

However, as the Office of Governmental Accountability’s website notes, even today, each entity within the Office of Governmental Accountability “retains its independent decision-making authority, including for budgetary and employment decisions.”

But just a couple of weeks  ago, as part of his proposed state budget, Governor Malloy and his OPM Secretary, Ben Barnes, proposed doing way with that independent budget and employment decision-making authority.

As Representative Cafero explained, “All these watchdogs we rely on to ensure the rights of individuals and root out government fraud and mismanagement would fall under authority of an appointee of the governor. We will be losing any autonomy in these units.’’

Considering Connecticut’s long standing commitment to good government and independent watchdog agencies, the Governor’s decision to make this unprecedented power grab is beyond belief.

But that is exactly what Governor Malloy has done…

And to date, only the Republican legislators have stood up to say they will fight to put an end to Malloy’s proposal.

BNE Energy, Wind Farms, Occhiogrosso: A lesson on how modern government really works.

Despite claiming he had no specific plans for work following his resignation as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor, spokesperson and ultra-ego, Roy Occhiogrosso is returning to become the Managing Director for Global Strategy Group’s Hartford Office.

Global Strategy Group is a campaign management and public relations company that specializes in helping companies and organizations push their legislative and political agendas.  Occhiogrosso and the Global Strategy Group served as lead consultants in candidate Dan Malloy’s 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial campaigns. Occhiogrosso and other staff then moved to join the Malloy administration when Governor Malloy was inaugurated in January 2011.

The move is a classic reminder of how government really works and the not-so-clean anti-revolving door policies that are supposed to prevent public officials from personally and financially capitalizing on their public service.

Returning to Global Strategy Group will provide Occhiogrosso (and the company’s clients) with unique access to the development of government policy.

Take, for example, the case study of BNE Energy, which became a client of Global Strategy Group before Occhiogrosso left and has remained one of their primary clients throughout Malloy’s first two years in office.

BNE Energy, incorporated in Delaware, but owned by two Connecticut residents, has been trying to develop commercial wind projects in Prospect and Colebrook Connecticut.  The firm is owned by Greg Zupkus, who serves as President and CEO and Paul Corey, who serves as the company’s Chairman of the Board.

Paul J. Corey is well known in Connecticut politics and government.  During the Rowland years, Corey served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, the organization that plays such a significant role in the development of energy policy in Connecticut.  Corey also served as the Chairman of the Board of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation from January 2000 to December 2004.

Corey’s wife, Christine, was a high-ranking personal assistant to former Governor John Rowland.  Together they gave Rowland the famous hot-tub that helped lead to the impeachment hearings and Rowland’s subsequent resignation and trip to federal prison.

After leaving public service, Corey joined the law firm of Brown, Rudnick to work in their Public Utility Practice Group.

In addition to the two corporate executives, BNE Energy operation is assisted by the law firm of Pullman & Comley, where former State Senator Andrew McDonald worked before becoming Malloy’s Chief Counsel.  (Malloy has recently nominated McDonald to a seat on the State Supreme Court).  Pullman & Comley was retained to help BNE get approval from the Connecticut Siting Council.

Meanwhile, lobbying and permitting tasks for the wind farms were given to the law firm of Brown Rudnick, LLP.    The lead individual from Brown, Rudnick is Thomas Ritter, the former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Finally, Occhiogrosso’s Global Strategy Group continued to assist with public relations and grassroots lobbying services.

In the last 24 months, Ritter and Global Strategy Group have received over $200,000 in fees from BNE.

Among the backers of the BNE project is Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, a public entity created to “help ensure Connecticut’s energy security and community prosperity by realizing its environmental and economic opportunities through clean, energy finance and investments.”  The authority is chaired by Catherine Smith, the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).  Another Board member is Daniel C. Esty, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

According to public documents, the Finance and Investment Authority has given BNE Energy at least $500,000 in public funds.

In what could be described as an interesting coincidence, on June 21, 2012, BNE’s CEO Zupkus and the company’s president Corey both donated to Democratic Congressional candidate Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Commissioner Dan Esty.

According to BNE Energy, the project faced, “Fierce NIMBY opposition and a tumultuous regulatory environment…as well as heavy legislative scrutiny—particularly after a bill was introduced to place a moratorium on all wind projects in the state. In addition, opposition groups were well-funded and highly vocal, and the press was unsympathetic to the developers.”

BNE’s proposal for a project in Prospect was rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council by a vote of 6-2, but BNE’s plan for a wind farm in Colebrook was approved.  Governor Malloy appoints the members of the Connecticut Siting Council, but the agency’s activities and budget report up through Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) which is part of Commissioner Esty’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

In response to the developments with BNE Energy and the Connecticut Siting Council, at the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session, Democrat State Representative Vicki Orsini Nardello, the House Chair of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology committee, along with State Senator Joan Hartley acted on their concern that the State of Connecticut had never adopted appropriate regulations to manage the development of wind energy in the state.  The legislators introduced legislation suspending the development of further wind power projects until state regulations were established.

Among those supporting Nardello’s bill was U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and a significant number of residents from northwestern Connecticut.

However, BNE CEO Zupkus was highly critical of the bill, saying, “It’s just a way the anti-wind is crowd trying to stop wind projects.”

The moratorium bill was eventually passed, but with effective lobbying from former Speaker Ritter the BNE project was exempted.

Meanwhile, in October 2012, a Connecticut Superior Court ruled that the Connecticut Siting Council’s approval of a Colebrook wind farm project was legal and BNE could move forward with construction. However, the judge did make clear that Connecticut’s wind farm siting system was “deeply flawed” and needed to be enhanced.

Meanwhile, as the 2012 legislative campaigns heated up, Lezlye Zupkus, Gregory Zupkus’ wife, announced that she was going to run against Democrat State Representative Vicki Orsini Nardello.

On Election Day, Representative Nardello was one of the only incumbents to lose.  At the time, Nardello explained, “When you take on strong corporate interests, you make enemies.”

Although both Nardello and Zupkus abided by the state’s public financing laws, a new outside group, funded by a right-wing Greenwich billionaire engaged in a series of “independent” expenditures aimed at defeating some Democrats that the group claimed were not sufficiently pro-business.  Nardello was one of those targeted by Voters for Good Government.  The PAC spent over a quarter of a million dollars to try and defeat these candidates.

Voters for Good Government, a new “super-PAC” funded by Greenwich billionaire Thomas Peterffy also took in funds from the Roger Sherman Liberty Center, Americans for Job Security and the American Justice Partnership.  According to a story in the Hartford Courant, Peterffy “hates socialism because he grew up in communist Hungary before coming to America and making his fortune in discount brokerage.”

For more on Voters for Good Government read the Wait, What?  blog post: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/10/26/anti-socialist-greenwich-billionaire-targeting-democratic-connecticut-state-senators/

Of course, it is unclear if Malloy or Occhiogrosso were involved in any of the developments related to BNE Energy, but one thing is clear.  Occiogrosso’s Global Strategies was involved with BNE Energy before he joined Governor Malloy’s operation and he is now returning to Global Strategies on January 14, 2013.

For more on the interconnections and intrigue surrounding this issue, see the following:




Equally important Must Read by Wendy Lecker: Leaping to reform without first looking

And for those following the “education reform” debate, here is another important – must read – piece from Wendy Lecker.  This one published in the Hearst Newspapers on December 14, 2012

Wendy Lecker: Leaping to reform without first looking:

Read the full piece at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Leaping-to-reform-without-first-4119584.php#ixzz2H7vELpou

“Show your work,” is a familiar admonishment students hear. Teachers want to ensure that students did not just pick or copy an answer but rather that they analyzed a question and understand the steps supporting their conclusion. Perhaps this rule should apply to our state officials, who too often seem to push policies without first assessing whether or not they are viable.

In her New York Times series, “United States of Subsidies,” Louise Story wrote about the widespread practice of states giving financial incentives to corporations to locate there. She discovered that many corporations keep these profits for themselves rather than do something to benefit the state giving them the break, for example paying local workers higher wages. Moreover, as states shell out over $80 billion in breaks, they are simultaneously drastically cutting public services, like school budgets.

Story examined how well or poorly states keep track of money they expend to give corporations tax breaks and other “incentives.” Connecticut appeared to be the poster child for the absence of oversight. According to Story’s research, Connecticut, which exempts insurance companies, hedge funds and some other finance companies from income tax, incredibly does not account for the money lost to these tax breaks. Do these uncounted “tax expenditures” lead to extra job creation or economic growth that would outweigh the cost? State officials cannot know whether these breaks are economically beneficial to the state or are merely corporate welfare.

This lack of analysis seems to be prevalent in Connecticut policy-making, especially as it relates to education. Many states now base their school funding systems on education adequacy studies that assess the cost of education, including those factors that affect the cost, such as: state mandates and standards, services for students with additional needs, and geographic differences in cost. Thus the money these states spend on public schools is directly related to the actual cost of services those schools provide. By contrast, Connecticut has never analyzed the cost of education. Therefore, the state has no idea whether the amount it allocates to municipalities is sufficient. Nor has the state ever examined whether schools in the state actually have basic resources essential to an adequate education. Do schools have enough teachers, books, facilities, computers, services for at-risk children, AP classes, music, art, etc. to give each child the education she deserves? Connecticut has never conducted such an audit.


Finish reading the piece at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Leaping-to-reform-without-first-4119584.php#ixzz2H7vypIMF

Hello? Anybody home?

Governor Malloy issued a call for a Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly to deal with the growing state deficit.

That Session is taking place today.

The State Senate and State House or Representatives convened at 10:00 am and then recessed until 4:30 pm so that elected officials could attend funerals and memorial services resulting from the Newtown Elementary School Massacre.

When they reconvene at 4:30 pm, a joint session of the Legislature will be held so Governor Malloy and Legislators can hold their own memorial service in honor of those who lost their lives in Newtown.

And then the legislature is scheduled to debate and vote on a plan to resolve Connecticut’s $415 million budget deficit.

Governor Malloy has already made $123 million in cuts, mostly to social services and Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.  The cuts to UConn, Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges come on top of Malloy’s previous cuts to our public institutions of higher education, which were already the deepest in Connecticut history.

As the Hartford Courant noted in today’s edition,” Legislative leaders declined Tuesday to discuss the specifics of the budget deal, which was hammered out in a series of meetings last week

However, as the CTMirror is reporting, the non-partisan Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, located at the University of Connecticut, has issues a report today noting that balancing the state budget exclusively with spending cuts could be the final straw that breaks Connecticut’s economic back, pushing it back into recession.

In a report about next year’s $1.2 billion deficit, the economists said that an “all-cut” budget could “trigger as many as 25,000 annual job losses between the public and private sectors combined.”

So, when our elected officials vote tonight, what type of budget reduction plan will they be voting on?  Will it be all cuts or a combination of cuts and taxes?  What programs are being cut and what taxes are being increased?

Will our legislators be voting to cut essential social services?

Will our legislators be voting to ensure that the wealthy finally start paying their fair share in state income taxes?

Will our legislators be voting to borrow money to pay for current expenses?

Will our legislators be voting on a plan that will mean higher local property taxes?

There have been no public hearings on this plan.

The discussions have been held behind closed doors.

According to the House Republican leader, Representative Cafero, the “tentative” agreement, is “truly a compromise.”

After speaking with legislators, the CTNewsjunkie explained that the compromise “means Democrats and Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted as they attempted to reach a deal on how to close the budget deficit estimated at $365 million to $415 million.”

“It relies more heavily on spending cuts than we would have liked,” the Speaker of the House told reporters as he left the closed-door caucus where Democratic legislators were briefed on this secret plan.

The Hartford Courant added, “Lawmakers are set to vote today on a plan to close a state budget deficit by scrapping longevity bonuses for nonunion state workers in favor of a new compensation formula and cutting payments to hospitals, among other measures.”

The state does provide hospitals with funds to help off-set care that the hospitals provide to non-insured people.  However, massive cuts to hospitals would definitely threaten the level of services at some hospitals and lead to a major shift in costs from those state grants to those who are insured.  That cost shift will translate into higher health insurance premiums for those of us who have insurance.    So is the legislature’s vote going to push our health insurance premiums higher?  Is that fair?

And cutting out longevity bonuses for non-union workers is certainly understandable, but it solves about 1% of the $400 plus million state budget deficit.

So where are cuts coming from?

While action is definitely needed to bring Connecticut’s budget deficit under control, passing a “plan” that has never seen the light of day is not only incredibly inappropriate, but it is down-right unfair and undemocratic.

This plan, if it looks like the “road-map” proposed by Governor Malloy, will cut deeply into some of the most vital and essential services the state of Connecticut provides our most vulnerable citizens.

Malloy’s budget road map looked like something that would be put out by a Republican governor, not a solution based on the values and ideals of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps the secret plan will be fantastic.

Perhaps the secret plan will be a disaster.

But voting on the plan without telling the media and the people what is in it is bad news for Connecticut.

The people of our state deserve better.

More on Commissioner Pryor’s new communications person…only making $82k

Last Wednesday, a Wait, What? blog post began with the reminder that, “Today’s double barreled lesson; (1) There is always room for one more Director of Communications on the ship of state, even in the face of a billion dollar deficit, and (2) there are simply no qualified PR people in Connecticut.”

The piece reported that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, was bringing in yet another out-of-state person to help him run Connecticut’s Department of Education.

This time it was a new public relations person, the third he has had since becoming Commissioner about a year ago.

On Friday night, the CT Mirror got word that Donnelly’s salary will be a paltry $82,000, not the six figure income I had reported, although that’s still well over $100,000 with benefits.

CTMirror wrote,

“Three. That’s the number of spokespeople the Connecticut Department of Education has had in the last year following the death of the longtime spokesman Tom Murphy, who was well-respected for his exceptional knowledge about education policy in the state.

First came Mark Linabury, who now heads the Bureau of Choice Programs at the department. Then came Jim Polites, a former teacher and previous spokesman for Democratic legislators. On Friday, the education department announced Polites would be moving to Linabury’s department to “direct community affairs.”

The new spokeswoman, who started Friday, is Kelly Ann Donnelly, whose background is largely in communications for political campaigns in New York and New Jersey. Donnelly’s salary is $82,000 a year.”

 Donnelly will field questions from the media as the state education department works to implement Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reforms.”

As noted on last Wednesday, although Donnelly has absolutely no background in public education or education policy, she is an experienced political operative, having worked on numerous political campaigns in New Jersey and New York.

Apologies to Ms. Donnelly, considering I mistakenly reported that her salary was over $100,000.

Since becoming Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor has hired a series of new, out-of-state, senior managers and consultants, almost all of whom have worked for or with him in his previous jobs.  Most recently, Pryor hired a “Chief Turnaround Officer,” who had previously worked in New York City, where she was widely known as the person in charge of closing down public schools.  She had also previously served as a consultant for the Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District in New Orleans.

Another day, another six figure state job goes to an out-of-state PR person

Today’s double barreled lesson; (1) There is always room for one more Director of Communications on the ship of state, even in the face of a billion dollar deficit, and (2) there are simply no qualified PR people in Connecticut.

Last week came the news that UConn President Herbst had to go all the way to Iowa to get her $227,000 PR person.

Today comes news that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, is bringing in yet another out-of-state person to help him run Connecticut’s Department of Education.

This time it is a new Communications Director, the third he has had since becoming Commissioner about a year ago.  The first was filling in on a temporary basis and has since returned to his job in the Department of Education.  The second has been transferred to a new task at the Education agency and now Kelly Donnelly will be coming on board at the end of this week.

Although Donnelly apparently has absolutely no background in public education or education policy, she is an experienced political operative, having worked on numerous political campaigns in New Jersey and New York.

Since 2007, the 2002 graduate of Notre Dame worked as a campaign manager for a state assembly race in New Jersey, a city council candidate in Brooklyn, New York, a congressional candidate on Long Island and as a field organizer in Jim Keane’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey.

According to the social networking site, LinkedIn, her most recent job was a six month stint as the Deputy Communications Director for The New Jersey Democratic Legislative Majority, which was a political committee formed by the New Jersey Senate Democratic Majority and the New Jersey Democratic Assembly Campaign Committees.

From 2009 to 2011, Donnelly served as project manager for a California solar energy company where she oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations.

The salary level for the new State Department of Education’s Director of Communication was not immediately available, so check back for that number at a later date.

Unemployment in Connecticut climbs again – back to 9 percent.

The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Labor reveals that the state is making little progress when it comes to re-bounding from the Great Recession.

According to the more conservative unemployment measurement, 171,100 Connecticut residents are presently unemployed.  However, using the federal government’s U-6 rate, which measures both the unemployed and those who are in a part-time job but actively looking for full-time employment, more than 15% of Connecticut’s workforce is without the jobs they need.

In addition, of the 117,500 jobs lost since the “recessionary downturn” began, Connecticut has only recovered about 30,000 jobs (25% of all jobs lost).

Despite the claim that the recovery began in February 2010, Connecticut’s government, financial, construction and manufacturing sectors have yet to even begin regaining jobs.

Still on the downside, Connecticut’s government sector remains down 11,100 jobs, while the number in the financial sector is down 4,200 positions, construction and mining is down 1,200 jobs and manufacturing is down 800 jobs.

Since much of the federal Stimulus Funds were not used to supplement government activity, but instead were used to substitute for existing spending, elected officials have failed to help those who lost their jobs in two of the sectors that leaders could actually have had an impact over – government and construction.

Since Governor Malloy took office, government positions have been further eliminated and despite his predilection for the Financial Sector, his First Five Corporate Welfare Program has yet to have any impact.  Although considering those favored business need only create 200 jobs, and have five to ten years to do so, whatever impact the corporate welfare program does have will be limited in nature.

A related problem for Connecticut businesses is that as a result of the lengthy recession, the State of Connecticut has already borrowed more than $635 million from the Federal Government to help pay unemployment benefits.  Borrowing was necessary because the amount of funds collected from employee unemployment taxes wasn’t enough to cover the costs associated with payments to the unemployed.  Since these funds will need to be paid back, Connecticut businesses will be facing high unemployment taxes on an ongoing basis.

Are we winning yet? No, actually we’re failing Connecticut’s children.

You want a campaign issue for the 2012 election?  Here is one…

A recent report by Connecticut Voices for Child, the state’s premier research and child advocacy organization, revealed that the number of Connecticut residents living below the Federal Poverty Level has increased from 10.1 percent in 2010 to 10.9 percent in 2011.

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the country.  If we were our own country, we would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  Yet about 375,000 Connecticut residents, more than 1 in 10 live in abject poverty.

The extent of poverty is even greater among Connecticut’s children, and the situation is getting worse at a faster pace.

As of 2011, 118,809 Connecticut children, under the age of 18, lived in households with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level.  That is a breathtaking 14.9 percent of all children.

And we aren’t talking about people who simply don’t have that much money.  We are talking about children and families that are among the poorest in the entire nation.  The Federal Poverty Level for a two-parent household, with two children, is $22,811 a year.

The most shocking fact of all is that the rate of poverty in Connecticut is getting significantly worse.

A decade ago, in 2001, 7.3 percent of Connecticut’s residents lived below the poverty line.  That was about 242,000 people.  Ten years later, in 2011, the number of residents living in poverty has increased to almost 378,000.  That means the poverty rate in Connecticut has jumped from 7.9 percent to 10.9 percent.

The numbers are even more disturbing and disgusting when it comes to what has happened to our state’s children.  In 2001, about 82,000 or 10.2 percent of Connecticut’s children lived in households below the poverty line.

In 2011, that number had increased to almost 119,000, a stunning 14.9 percent of all children.

The number of children living in poverty in some of Connecticut’s cities rival that of some developing nations;

In Hartford, 47.9 percent of the children now grow up in households trying to make it on an income that places them below the federal poverty level.

In New Haven the child poverty rate is 41.4%, Bridgeport (39.9%), New Britain (35.7%), and Waterbury (34.5%). Danbury (17.9%) and Stamford (17.5%)

In 2004, the Connecticut General Assembly, and Connecticut’s Governor, created the Connecticut Child Poverty Council.  Our state became the first state in the nation to set a goal of reducing poverty in half by 2014.

At the time, with just over 10 of Connecticut’s children living in poverty, the state pledged to reduce the child poverty rate to 5% by 2014.

However instead of cutting that rate in half, as of now, we have seen an increase of over 50 percent.

Next time you hear an elected official or a candidate talk about their record of accomplishments or their plan for the future, ask them explain how they rationalize the fact that child poverty is skyrocketing in our state and demand that they explain, in detail, what they will actually do to save Connecticut’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

For the CT Voices report, go to: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12censuspovertyacs.pdf