Dems slash education funding, sneak special 10% admission tax for Hartford and gag future information on deficits

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Beware fellow citizens…

The disastrous state budget plan developed by Governor Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly is getting worse by the minute.

Having managed to hide key budget details from the public until the day of the vote, Democratic legislators are now being instructed to approve a budget implementation bill that includes numerous outrageous provisions that would never pass if they stood on their own.

Traditionally referred to as “rats,” select legislators, lobbyists and special interests use what is called “back of the budget” language to circumvent the traditional legislative process.

A prime example of this tactic can be found in Section 188 of the new state budget bill.

Connecticut residents may remember how Governor Malloy and other state leaders endorsed the construction of the new baseball stadium in Hartford, falsely stating that not only would the facility be a win-win for the Capitol City, but that Connecticut taxpayers would not be on the hook for subsidizing the project.

Of course, such was not the case.

Legislative language hidden deep inside today’s budget bill exempts events at the Dunkin Donut stadium from having to collect Connecticut’s 10 percent Admission Tax and, instead, sets up a new law that allows Hartford to add its own 10 percent surcharge on all tickets sold at the “Home of the Yard Goats.”

The money from this extra tax would flow straight to Hartford City Hall…. Providing the boondoggle with a much-needed public subsidy from Connecticut taxpayers

To sweeten the deal, the Malloy/Democratic leadership budget also adds a provision that a group of other cities could put on their own admission tax in their particular venues, but the others could only collect up to 5% of the cost of a ticket.

Meanwhile, the same outrageous implementation budget bill includes unprecedented language that allows cities and towns to simply cut their local public school budgets by the amount of any reduction in state aid those schools.

This means that while a number of cities and towns will be getting a major pot of cash dumped on the non-education side of the budget, they won’t even have to maintain their efforts to fund their schools.

And if those two sections weren’t telling enough, any member of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives who votes in favor of this bill will be taking the truly unprecedented step of adopting a law that would literally PROHIBIT the non-partisan office of Fiscal Analysis from reporting on future budget expenditures and possible deficits that are the result of the annual increases that go with maintaining current services.

THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!

With no public hearing, no public input and no public notice, Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly have including language in this year’s budget implementation bill that intentionally prevents the media and the public from knowing the true ongoing costs of state government.

The CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains this incredible development in his latest article;

Future state deficit forecasts are likely to shrink significantly under a method imposed in the new state budget plan that disregards billions of dollars in annual expenditures not fixed by contract or federal mandate.

The language, proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is included in an omnibus policy bill to help implement the proposed $19.76 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, blasted the measure — which was released only a few hours before the Senate was expected to debate it Wednesday morning — as a means to hide Connecticut’s fiscal woes from the public.

Malloy and his budget director, Benjamin Barnes, have been critical for several years of the deficit-forecasting methodology used by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

OFA generally tries to assess both the current and future costs of all programs, staffing, grants and other expenditures, whether fixed by contract or federal requirement, or simply set by state law.

The new methodology would disregard cost increases in most state programs, excepting debt service, retirement benefits and federal entitlement programs.

“Moving away from ‘current services’ will help us ensure that government does not continue to increase spending on autopilot,” the governor said Wednesday.  “As part the budget agreement, the state will change how it does business, and give residents and businesses the predictability they seek as government works to live within its means.”

The language is nothing but a blatant effort by Malloy and the Democratic legislature to hide the true costs of maintaining state services and preventing voters from understanding the ramifications of taxes and spending.

Dismissing the most fundamental notions of open government and democracy, Malloy and the Democratic leaders are engaged in a new political strategy based on keeping the citizens ignorant about how their government functions and how it spends their money.

No real Democrat would vote for such a measure.

Today’s original Wait, What? post is even more relevant than when it was first posted.

Any CT legislator who votes for the proposed State Budget deserves to lose in November

Corporate Education Reform Industry – Just too important to follow the ethics laws

Watch the bouncing ball… as the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Families for Excellent Schools, the Coalition for Every Child, Governor Malloy’s former press secretary Andrew Doba, Achievement First Inc. and the other charter school lobby groups try to divert even more public funds away from Connecticut’s public schools and into the coffers of charter school companies…

This weekend’s CTNewsJunkie features an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism written by fellow public education advocate Sarah Darer Littman.

Entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Littman provides readers with a detailed look at some of the recent lobbying activities of the corporate funded charter school advocacy group known as Families for Excellence Schools.

Her article comes on the heels of the Wait, What? blog post entitled, Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting which described the unprecedented lobbying effort behind Governor Malloy’s anti-public education, anti-teacher, pro-privatization “education reform” agenda.

While the Wait, What? article focuses on the outlandish amount of corporate money that has been spent to corrupt Connecticut’s public education policies, Sarah Darer Littman’s piece is a shocking reminder that the nearly $7 million that has been spent in support of Malloy’s policies are merely the tip of the iceberg because some of the key players and organizations that make up the corporate education reform industry simply refuse to follow Connecticut law when it comes to disclosure of their lobbying expenses.

To fully appreciate what is happening here in Connecticut the first step is to review a Crain’s New York Business article that was published one year ago.  The New York articles explains,

“In early March, charter school supporters held a huge rally at the state Capitol featuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo and hundreds of students it had bused to Albany for the protest. But the nonprofit that organized the charter rally is declining to disclose any of its spending on the event, maintaining none of it was actually lobbying.

The undisclosed spending is one omission from a lobbying disclosure by Families For Excellent Schools that sheds little light into the group’s millions of dollars in recent outlays.

[…]

The rally came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio nixed plans to co-locate three charter schools with traditional public schools, and more broadly, amid plans to charge rent to some charters occupying city school buildings. The rally, which dwarfed a long-planned de Blasio event to push for his prekindergarten plan, helped swing momentum to the charter supporters.”

And why didn’t Families for Excellent Schools report the fact that they were spending millions of dollars to push their pro-charter schools agenda?

Because their Spokesperson, Stu Loeser, simply claimed that their activities weren’t lobbying.

But according to Billy Easton, the executive director of the pro-public education Alliance for Quality Education, the charter group’s spending was exactly the type of expenditure that needed to be reported.

Easton told the newspaper, “It’s outrageous and unacceptable that these charter lobbyists refuse to disclose all the money they have spent on a lobbying campaign in the past month.”

After repeatedly ducking New York’s ethics laws, Loeser and his Families For Excellent Schools eventually reported that they also spent more than $4 million on a television advertising campaign to promote their pro-charter school agenda in New York.

And surprise – Families For Excellent Schools and Stu Loeser have now arrived in Connecticut.

One of the initial actions was to hire Governor Malloy’s out-going press secretary, Andrew Doba, to be their Connecticut point person.

Families for Excellent Schools also put up the money to pay for a multi-million dollar pro-charter school television advertising campaign here in Connecticut.

The only problem…Families For Excellent Schools failed to report their expenditure.

Enter Sarah Darer Littman who writes,

Earlier this week, a pro charter school organization called Coalition for Every Child sent a letter to Connecticut legislators complaining that the $20 million increase in funding for charter schools over the next two years in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget isn’t enough and that charter students are being treated like “second class citizens.”

Meanwhile, the Educational Cost Sharing Grant for public school districts is flat funded, which means that in real terms public school funding is being cut.

When I clicked on the link on the Coalition for Every Child website to read the letter, I was curious that its url started with www.familiesforexcellentschools.org. Curiosity led to further research.

If you haven’t heard of Coalition for Every Child, that’s because it appeared out of nowhere last December for a pro-charter rally on New Haven Green and then immediately announced a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign to highlight “an education inequality crisis barring 40,000 Connecticut children from good schools.”

According to the press release for the ad campaign, “The ads, which come on the heels of a major rally in New Haven last Wednesday with 6,000 people calling for ‘excellent schools for every child,’ urge viewers to ‘take a stand for Connecticut kids’ by joining the push to fix the crisis.”

That sounds like lobbying, doesn’t it? Yet the Coalition for Every Child isn’t registered with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics.

And the story only gets better…

To truly understand the magnitude of the corporate education reform Industry’s attack on public education in Connecticut go read Sarah Darer Littman’s MUST READ piece.

You can find it at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_are_charter_advocacy_groups_skirting_ct_ethics_laws/

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece will undoubtedly lead to ethics complaints being filed against these corporate education reform advocacy groups and those, in turn, should lead to fines being levied against the groups by Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics.

And last but not least, guess who is one of the corporations funding Families for Excellent Schools?

None other than Achievement First Inc, the charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor…

The very same Achievement First Inc. that is presently lobbying to get more Connecticut taxpayer funds for their charter schools, while using the funds that they have to help an charter school front group that won’t even follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

Corruption takes down another Governor – this time a Democrat in Oregon

Living the good life, gorging at the public trough, offering a ride on the gravy-train to all their friends attitude among elected officials on both sides of the political aisle has brought down another governor.

Just in from the Associated Press,  Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber Resigning

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is resigning from office Friday amid allegations of corruption, the Associated Press and The Oregonian report.

Last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced that the governor and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, were under investigation over whether Hayes had used her relationship with Kitzhaber to benefit her consulting business.

“Recent allegations relating to Gov. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes are very serious — and troubling,” Rosenblum said. “My office is considering all of our legal options to ensure that we are best serving the state.”

Kitzhaber, who was elected to a fourth term as governor in November, reportedly waffled over whether to step down. According to the Oregonian, Kitzhaber had decided to resign on Tuesday, but changed his mind and announced Wednesday that he would remain in office. However, as KOIN reported Friday, the governor ultimately decided to step down after the state’s top Democrats said they could no longer support him.

Next in line to succeed Kitzhaber is Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D), who would be the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history.