Andrew McDonald, Connecticut State Government, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Republicans, State Legislature, Stefan Pryor Democrats, Malloy, Republicans, State Legislature, Stefan Pryor
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.
Campaign Finance, Democratic Legislators, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy Campaign Finance, Democratic Legislature, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy
Following the Rowland scandal, the Connecticut General Assembly passed and Governor Rell signed into law the most comprehensive state-level campaign finance reform initiative in the country.
Since then, incumbents have been chipping away at the law.
This year, Governor Malloy and the Democrats in the legislature made their most dramatic and audacious effort, to date, to undermine the law.
And they succeeded…with Malloy signing the new bill into law yesterday.
At a time when the public understands that campaign money plays too much of a role in American politics, Malloy and the Democrats took significant steps to reverse earlier limitations on campaign donations and spending.
As a result of the new law, significantly more money will be spilling into Connecticut campaigns.
Among other things, the law doubles the amount campaign donors may contribute to political parties and actually removes the cap on how much political parties can spend on publicly-financed candidates.
The most incredible new development is that the law now allows a candidate to help raise money for a political action committee that will later spend that money to support the very candidate who helped raise it.
As reported here at Wait, What? and elsewhere, Governor Malloy has held at least 15 fundraisers for a political action committee called Prosperity for Connecticut. Under the old law, there were severe limitations on how that committee could spend its money, ensuring that its primary purpose was not to support any affiliated candidates.
The new law changes that system completely.
Malloy can now help a Super PAC raise unlimited amounts of money and that PAC can then spend that money to support Malloy.
The effort to water-down Connecticut’s campaign finance law even brought former Governor Jodi Rell back to the public arena. In a written statement, the former governor said, “After a dark period in our state’s history, Connecticut became a role model for the nation with … our campaign finance reform…How sad that the Democrat governor, Democrat legislators and the Democrat Party are so greedy for campaign cash that they would willingly destroy what we so proudly enacted just a few short years ago.”
Malloy and legislators are quick to point out that Connecticut’s new law also includes a provision that requires groups making independent expenditures to disclose their campaign donors. This is certainly a worthy requirement, but they could have easily stopped there without using that positive development to cover up their ongoing effort to remove limits on their own fundraising and spending.
As usual, Governor Malloy explained away his actions yesterday with a slew of half-truths and deceptions saying, “The bill I’m signing today requires a level of disclosure that few if any other states require. No bill is perfect, but this bill makes Connecticut a national leader in requiring disclosure and transparency.”
Now that is an Orwellian description of a piece of legislation if there ever was one.
You can read more about the successful effort to undermine Connecticut’s public financing system on the following links; http://www.courant.com/news/breaking/hc-campaign-finance-changes-20130611,0,7166515.story and http://www.ctmirror.org/story/malloy-signs-campaign-finance-law-loosens-restrictions.
Connecticut General Assembly, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, State Debt Connecticut General Asembly, Democratic Legislature, Malloy, State Budget, State Debt
The 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly ended with the adoption of record amounts of additional state borrowing.
They adopted $750 million in state bonds to pay a portion of the cost associated with moving Connecticut to Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles (GAAP). Then there was the $1.6 billion for Malloy’s UConn initiative “to overhaul the state’s flagship university over the next decade,” this coming after the state’s $2.3 billion UConn 2000 program. And then, of course there are hundreds of millions more in bonding for programs and services that should be funded out of the State’s General Fund rather than state borrowing, such as Malloy’s massive corporate welfare program and the state’s Stem Cell Research Program.
The fact is that the FY14-FY15 state budget relies heavily on record borrowing.
And this is occurring in a state that already has record amounts of debt.
Even before this latest bonding spree, the balance on Connecticut’s state credit card was more than $19.3 billion.
Referred to as “bonded indebtedness,” it is the amount of outstanding debt that Connecticut’s taxpayers must pay back, with interest, over the next 20 years.
This amount does not include the taxpayer funds that must also be paid to fund the state’s various unfunded liabilities such as the state and teachers’ pensions, health and other post-employment benefits. That amount adds another $40 billion plus to the state’s fiscal ledger.
The $19.3 billion is only the existing bonds that must be paid…
When it comes to the level of state debt, no other state in the nation comes close to the level of official indebtedness facing Connecticut and its citizens.
The average per capita debt burden among the 50 states is $1,408. That is, every man, woman and child in the average state is “on the hook” for $1,408.
In Connecticut, the per capita debt burden is $5,096.
But that’s not all.
When it comes to facing the ramifications of the growing debt, Connecticut’s elected officials actually took a giant step backwards this year.
Not only did Malloy and the legislature add record amounts of debt, they ducked debt payments that were supposed to be made during this upcoming budget cycle, thereby pushing the burden until after the next gubernatorial election.
Back in Fiscal Year 2009, Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled legislature addressed a massive state deficit by approving a series of special, short-term bonds called Economic Recovery Notes. Each year the state is supposed to be paying off a portion of those notes.
However, the two year budget just passed by the General Assembly delayed $196 million in Economic Recovery Note payments next year and the year after. The additional interest cost to Connecticut taxpayers for this “restructuring” will be about $45 million
Ironically, when you strip away all the political spin, that amount is about what Malloy and his administration added to education spending in Connecticut…and the gall to claim it was a “historic” investment in education.
During the last gubernatorial campaign candidate Dan Malloy called these types of budget gimmicks, “kicking the can down the road,” and promised never to do it.
Now Governor Dannel Malloy is making these gimmicks a regular approach to his budget plans.
Democratic Legislators, Malloy, State Budget Democratic Legislature, Malloy, State Budget
Late word is that Governor Malloy and Legislative Democrats have reached a budget “deal,” as the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly heads toward its closing date next week.
Putting aside the controversy surrounding Connecticut’s faulty spending cap, the one claim that is being spun, above and beyond all others, is that the budget contains no new taxes.
Or, as Governor Malloy put it yesterday,
“The bottom line is we will not increase taxes or create any new taxes. The budget will be in balance and will be GAAP-compliant.”
Of course, none of that is true
Connecticut’s state budget is far from GAAP-complaint and some of the revenue estimates are so optimistic that few believe the budget will be balanced when we come to the end of Fiscal Year 2015 or Fiscal Year 2016.
As for the notion that there are “no new taxes,” Malloy himself was forced to add, that it was “entirely possible” that the budget for FY15-FY16 would “extend taxes that were scheduled to expire like the tax on electric generators.”
In fact, even that statement skips over the fact that the budget deal between Malloy and the Democrats includes the largest gas tax increase in history, a tax increase that will go into effect on July 1.
It also appears that the legislature will continue the wholesale tax on energy production, which pushes up Connecticut’s electricity prices by more than $152 million.
Meanwhile, at last check, the hands of the lobbyists were clearly visible, in that the budget plan appears to exempt yachts from the luxury tax (a loss of $140,000 in state revenue) and exempts short-term boat storage from the sales tax (a loss of $4 million in state revenue).
The apparent deal between Malloy and the legislative Democrats also includes a number of other controversial or dubious proposals including;
• Extending the “temporary” 20% surcharge on the corporation business tax which will bring in $118.4 million in revenue.
• Reducing the state’s earned income tax credit (EITC) from 30% to 25% which will cost Connecticut’s lowest paid working families $32.1 million.
• Transferring a one-time $30 million from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.
• Cutting the famed Stem Cell Research Program by $28 million.
• Continuing Malloy’s plan to auction off the right to offer electric ratepayers lower standard offer pricing.
• And extending the temporary cap on tax credits against the insurance premiums tax, but the legislature now predicts doing so will generate $54 million, rather than $38 million.
Of course, overarching the entire debate is the fact that while taxes continue to climb for middle-class families, those making over $1 million a year are still benefiting from the reality that they – and they alone – faced no increases in their income tax rates in Malloy’s $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011.
The most significant statistic remains the same. While lower-income families pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes and middle-income families pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the highest income earners pay about 6% of their income in state and local taxes.
You can read the latest coverage at: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/malloy-defends-budget-deal-jabs-gop and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_defends_spending_cap_changes_draft_budget_agreement/ and http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-budget-deal-0529-20130528,0,6889217.story
Budget Cuts, Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut State Government, Democratic Legislators, Ethics, Freedom of Information, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, Republicans, State Elections Enforcement Commission Ethics, Freedom of Information Commission, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, State Elections Enforcement Commission
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.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Ben Barnes, Budget cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Last Wednesday’s blog post was entitled, “Wait,What? OPM Secretary Barnes says state budget deficit at $64.4 million.”
The article sought to remind readers that back in December, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced that the state deficit was exceed $415 million, but rather than accept the word of the Constitutional Officer responsible for determining the deficit, Governor Malloy and administration decided to claim the Comptroller was wrong, or as they put it, wrong again.
Readers may recall, immediately after Lembo released his official certification that the deficit would $415 million and not $365 million as Malloy’s budget chief had announced, Roy Occhiogrosso, sent an email to reporters that read; “We disagree with the number the comptroller is using today… The deficit mitigation plan the governor will propose within the next couple of weeks will, based on the best available data at the time, bring the current-year budget into balance.”
The Governor, himself, got in on the act, mocking Lembo’s prediction and saying, “These numbers are going to go up and down…We’re moving forward with our package, which addresses a set of numbers…The comptroller thinks we will spend more money than we did — he may be right…I was told similar predictions were made last year and they didn’t turn out to be right, so we’re dealing with the numbers we believe currently represent that challenge.”
It is worth repeating that Malloy summarized his position by saying, “We’re going to continue going down the path of dealing with it in a forthright, fair, and transparent manner.”
And thus the Malloy Administration and the Legislature enacted budget cuts and revenue “enhancements to eliminate a $365 million deficit.
What prompted the Wait, What? post in the first place was the announcement by Malloy’s budget chief that – even after the Governor’s budget mitigation actions – the state budget deficit now stood at $64 million.
Well, now we learn that the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the nonpartisan fiscal analysts who report to the Connecticut General Assembly, has determined that the deficit is not $64 million but $140 million.
As Keith Phaneuf reports in the CTMirror, “The state budget deficit is more than twice the size Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration reported this week, according to a new analysis released Friday by nonpartisan legislative analysts.”
The full explanation can be found in Phaneuf’s story, but suffice to say the Malloy Administration failed to reveal all of the excess spending that it taking place and misreported some revenue related information.
Read Phaneuf’s report here: http://ctmirror.org/story/18895/nonpartisan-analysts-say-state-budget-deficit-approaches-140m
Soon we’ll receive the even more shocking and disturbing news of what this larger deficit means for next year’s budget.
While the Malloy Administration may seek to minimize the projected gap when he releases his proposed state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the latest numbers from the Office of Fiscal Analysis suggest that next year’s budget shortfall is not the $1 billion the Governor’s Office has hinted at but closer to $1.4 billion or more. Traditionally, OFA should be announcing their FY14 projection soon. I’m sure CTMirror will have the details the moment the numbers become available.
But what is clear is that assuming Connecticut seeks to continue to maintain its present level of diminished services, the gap between revenue and expenditures could be in the range of $1.4 billion or more for the coming budget year – almost the size of the tax increase that was adopted just two years ago.
Budget Cuts, Democratic Legislators, Human Services, Malloy, Mental Health Services, Public Health, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes
A couple of hours ago, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that he was creating the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a committee of 15 members who will “explore relevant issues of gun control, school security and mental health.”
The governor named Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson to lead the committee and instructed him that an initial round of recommendations are expected no later than March 15, which would give the Governor and the General Assembly about three months to decide whether to turn any of the ideas into law before the end of the 2013 legislative session.
According to a story posted on the CTMirror website, “No other commission members were identified, but Malloy said they will include experts in education, mental health, law enforcement and emergency response. All are outside state government, but Michael Lawlor, the governor’s adviser on criminal justice issues, will staff the panel…Lawlor said the governor’s office has identified and invited the other commission members, but it is awaiting acceptances by the entire group.”
Meanwhile, yesterday, Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri released a comprehensive report on access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services in Connecticut.
The 60 page report, entitled, “Findings and Recommendations: Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Services” began with the observation that;
“Eight years after the Report of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health, residents of Connecticut still face significant barriers to access to preventive and treatment services for mental health and substance use disorder in Connecticut. The tragedy of the mass shootings in Newtown, CT. on December 14, 2012, brings the need for such an effort into sharp relief. Health insurance coverage is not a promise of coverage. Multiple state agencies with varying eligibility requirements provide services and/or oversight for residents struggling with mental health and substance use disorders, but these efforts are not well understood or coordinated as part of an overall vision for the state.”
Let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with a Governor bringing together a group of “experts” to “explore relevant issues of gun control, school security and mental health.”
But the juxtaposition between yesterday and today could not have been starker.
Last year, as part of Governor Malloy’s $1.5 billion tax package, income tax rates went up for Connecticut’s middle-income families, but they were frozen and did not go up for those making more than $1 million dollars – despite the huge windfall the wealthy had been receiving for a decade as a result of the Bush-Obama tax cuts.
The state’s overall lack of sufficient revenues translated into a $415 million budget deficit in this year’s budget.
As part of his effort to balance the state budget in November, Governor Malloy made the maximum allowable budget rescissions (cuts) to a number of Connecticut’s important mental health programs including Mental Health Center (a cut of $433,286), Grants for Substance Abuse Services (a cut of $1,246,477), grants for Mental Health Services (a cut of $3,823,794) and funding for Employment Opportunities for those with mental illness or substance abuse problems (a cut of $523,504).
Then a few weeks later, Malloy’s budget deficit mitigation bill, that passed the State House and State Senate, cut an additional $578,387 in funding for staff at the Department of Mental Health and Abdication Services, cut $739,682 for housing programs for clients served by the mental health agency and cut 846,304 in other managed services for those with mental health or addiction problems.
And that doesn’t even count the nearly $3 million in cuts to housing and care for children in foster care, for children in residential facilities and for individualized support programs for families with troubled children.
Had Malloy and the Democrats simply stopped coddling the super-rich and, in turn, required them to start paying their fair share in income taxes starting January 1, 2013, none of those cuts would have been necessary.
But here we are, first came cuts to vital services and now the announcement of a new Sandy Hook Commission.
Let’s reiterate the point. Any and all efforts to develop and promote better public policies are a good idea, but the report that Connecticut’s Health Care Advocate released yesterday reiterated that there experts already know that there are proven strategies to increase support for persons with mental illness but that this governor (and previous governors) have failed to implement those vital programs.
As reported in yesterday’s CTNewsjunkie story about the report, parents at a recent public hearing on access to mental health issues “told heartbreaking stories…about their attempts to get services for their children. Their testimony showed that the state ‘has a fractured and fragmented method of delivering care that needs to be coordinated and more data driven in terms of cost effectiveness.’”
In fact, the Connecticut Healthcare Advocate’s report included eight major recommendations about techniques to improve Connecticut’s mental health and substance use systems. Those recommendations include;
1. Connecticut should adopt an overall vision for health that integrates and coordinates access to effective, timely, high quality and affordable mental health and substance use prevention and treatment services into overall healthcare
2. Connecticut’s mental health and substance use delivery system should be synchronized by n coordinating entity
3. Prevention, awareness and screening programs must be enhanced
4. Residents covered by self-funded and fully-insured plans should have access to community-based services
5. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity must be enforced
6. The recommendations of the 12/18/12 Program Review and Investigation Committee report should be adopted in full
7. State programs must be evaluated for cost effectiveness, and should be streamlined
8. Cost shifting to the state should be evaluated and minimized.
As Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate Veltri explained, “Now, more than ever, action is required to address the obstacles to access to treatment for and prevention of mental health and substance use conditions. Connecticut lacks an overall vision of delivery services to all of our residents.”
When one looks back over the past two days, it seems the single most important observation and recommendation went unsaid.
While a Sandy Hook Commission may make political sense and can even add to the policy debate, the sad truth is that Governor Malloy and the Legislature failed to put action behind their words when they made mental health services a target for deep and debilitating cuts.
For more background on this issue, the Connecticut Health Care Advocate’s Report can be found here: http://www.ct.gov/oha/lib/oha/documents/publications/report_of_findings_and_recs_on_oha_hearing_1-2-13.pdf
CTNewsjunkie’s article on the report here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/report_calls_for_action_on_fractured_mental_health_system/
And the latest from the Governor on his new Sandy Hook Commission is up on CTMirror, here: http://ctmirror.org/story/18620/malloy-outlines-broad-approach-newtown-shooting
Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Republicans, State Budget, State Deficit Connecticut Legislature, Deficit Mitigation, Malloy
It was created in 2007 as a way to fund education technology programs in Connecticut public schools and help develop public oriented local and state cable programming.
Its short-form name was the State Account for Community Access and Educational Technology. In fact, its official title was the “public, educational and governmental programming and education technology investment account.”
The account and its programs are funded by one of the taxes on your cable bill, and each year, the funds are legally deposited into a separate, non-lapsing account.
In fact, there is an extra 0. 25 percent gross earnings tax on your cable or satellite service bill.
Connecticut’s public utility regulators are required to put the funds into the separate account. Then they must distribute half of the funds to local boards of education or other public education entities to fund educational technology programs, while giving the other half to “local cable TV and video advisory councils; state-wide cable TV and video advisory councils; public, educational and governmental programmers and public, educational and governmental studio operators.”
Then came Section 29 of this week’s Deficit Mitigation legislation and the $3,600,000 that was in the “public, educational and government programming and education technology investment account” was slid over the Connecticut General Fund.
The problem with these types of provisions is that you have to actually look up what program is being hit. For example, Section 29 of this week’s bill actually read, “(Effective from passage) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 16-331cc of the general statutes, the sum of $3,600,000 shall be transferred from the public, educational and governmental programming and education technology investment account and credited to the resources of the General Fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.”
In English, this means that $3.6 million is moved from its home in the separate, targeted fund and put into the General Fund for this fiscal year.
If you didn’t know what the account was actually used for, you might not fully appreciate what you were voting to cut.
Perhaps even more importantly, since the bill doesn’t identify how much money is actually available in the account, you wouldn’t know that, in this case, as in the case of the seat belt fund discussed yesterday, the Governor and Legislature took ALL THE FUNDS available in the account.
One wonders whether schools even know that an important source of education technology programming just disappeared.
The same could be said about the people in charge of local cable TV programming. Do they realize their share of the $3.6 million is gone?
Democratic Legislators, Ethics, Malloy, Republicans, State Budget, State Deficit
Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? Aka: No that was then, this is now…
Following the tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford in January 2010 that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools, the legislature kicked into action.
On May 1 of that year the General Assembly passed what was to become Public Act 10-83.
The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to administer a program to use the funds in the account to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.
To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.
Fast forward two and a half years…and the fund now has $4.7 million.
Yesterday, the Legislature’s deficit mitigation bill including language overriding the previous law and transferring the $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt account into the General Fund to help eliminate this year’s $415 million deficit.
Gone is the money for school seat belts.
That tragedy was yesterday’s news.
And besides, who would remember that the account in question grew out of the concern elected officials had for the safety of our children.
Budget Cuts, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Republicans, State Budget, State Deficit, State Legislature Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
With little debate, and even less awareness of the ramifications of passing the bill, the State House of Representatives voted 140 to 3 and the State Senate voted 31 to 3 to pass a deficit mitigation bill that included a record breaking set of cuts to social services and education programs.
Considering the bill wasn’t even available to review until just before the vote, legislators would be hard-pressed to claim that they knew the magnitude of the cuts or how those cuts would impact their constituents AND some of the most vulnerable people in our state.
Ending partisan gridlock is a grand thing, and creating bi-partisan cooperation has plenty of benefits, but one would hope that political expediency wouldn’t take the place of good public policy. Looking at the list of cuts, its pretty clear political expediency won out.
In this case, led by a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature, along with the support of nearly every single Republican, Connecticut’s elected officials chose to spare millionaires from having to pay their fair share in income taxes and instead cut just over $250 million in funding for state services, on top of the $120 million Governor Malloy cut last month.
As reported in the CTMirror, “Connecticut’s hospitals took the single-largest hit in the package adopted Wednesday, losing nearly $90 million.” With Malloy’s rescissions last month, Connecticut’s hospitals have now lost a total of $103 million. These were funds that hospitals received to cover the costs of uninsured patients and help to make up for the below-cost reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients.
In the short-term, the funding cuts to hospitals will lead to additional layoffs at many Connecticut hospitals, and in the longer term, the cuts will produce higher health insurance premiums, as costs are shifted even more quickly to those who have health insurance.
The massive cut to the 29 acute-care hospitals did produce some of the no votes.
As CTNewsjunkie reported, “Johnson Memorial Hospital is just emerging from bankruptcy and can’t handle a $608,000 cut, Bacchiochi said. It’s also the largest employer in her mostly rural district and she’s concerned it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Guglielmo [the State Senator from Stafford] cited Johnson Memorial Hospital as one of the reasons he voted against the bill.”
In addition to hospitals, significant cuts were made to a wide variety of community-based health, mental health and social service programs including autism services, mental health housing programs, re-entry programs for ex-offenders, after school programs and many of the state’s arts and culture grants.
In addition to the actual cuts, by reducing state funding for Medicaid programs, Connecticut lose about $60 million in funding from the Federal government, since Washington reimburses Connecticut 50 cents for every dollar the state spends on those programs.
Beyond the cuts, the deficit mitigation bill also increased revenue by $30 million by limiting a couple of business tax credit programs, including a relatively minor change to the film tax credit and the expansion of an element of the tax on electricity generation.
The budget mitigation plan also swept up $11 million in one-time funds that had been reserved and devoted to specific targeted programs (such as energy conservation) and shifted the state’s $10 million stem cell research program to the state’s credit card.
Finally, the plan collects and extra $9.5 million, as CTMirror explains, “by intensifying efforts to identify and prevent state income tax fraud.”
There was a fair amount of discussion about eliminating longevity payments for non-union employees. Completely eliminating the longevity payments, those being the twice a year payments that employee with more than ten years of state service receive, would save $6 million a year.
Under the plan that passed last night, the 3,200 non-union state employees will get their longevity payments one last time in April AND those last payments will be added to each employee’s base pay. However, after that, longevity payments for the non-union employees will be eliminated.
A variety of education programs also got cut, “saving” the state budget about $11 million. The UConn Health Center was also cut an additional $4 million. The higher education cuts come on top Malloy’s recent $10 million cut to UConn and $14 million cut to the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges. Malloy also made a multi-million dollar cut to student financial aid for lower-income Connecticut students attending public colleges in the state, money students had been promised next month.
Additional coverage of the budget document can be found at CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/18530/state-house-passed-budget-deficit-mitigation-bill-bipartisan-fashion, CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/general_assembly_erases_deficit_with_bipartisan_support/ and the Courant http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-special-session-20121219,0,3466632.story