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
Budget Cuts, Connecticut State Government, Democratic Legislators, Healthcare, Higher Education, Human Services, Malloy, Republicans, State Budget, State Deficit Mallloy, State Budget, State Deficit
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.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, State Budget, State Legislature Malloy, State Budget
Keith Phaneuf’s CTMirror article yesterday, entitled “Revenues plunge, state deficit widens, forcing Malloy to close big gap,” touched on one of the more recent and “unique” attempts at bringing fiscal accountability to Connecticut State Government.
Back around 2009, Governor Jodi Rell and her Office of Policy and Management had a tendency to misrepresent the state’s revenue and expenditure data in order to make it appear that the state budget was more balanced than it actually was. Some recall this was the time period when Rell allowed the Democratic Legislature’s budget to become state law without her signature, while claiming that she opposed the budget. Rell even went so far as to attempt to illegally use her line item veto authority to remove certain expenditures, but alas, the court ruled that she could have only used that authority if she had actually signed the budget, not simply allowed it to go into law without her signature.
In any case, in revenge for refusing to be honest about revenue estimates, and in a fit of dedication to fiscal accountability, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1162, AN ACT REQUIRING CONSENSUS REVENUE ESTIMATES. Public Act 214 required the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and the Legislature’s independent Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) to meet and provide state policymakers with “consensus revenue estimates” by October 15 each year, and revisions to those estimates, if needed, in January and April of each year.
If the two entities can’t agree, the responsibility for issuing the consensus would fall to the State Comptroller.
This fail safe solution would force Governor Rell, or any Governor, to be more honest with the General Assembly, the public and the media.
It certainly seemed like a good system, but as the more politically astute among you may note, there was only one problem – and it was a problem of potentially catastrophic proportions
Knowing that the budget is out of balance is arguably a good thing, no matter which political party controls the Executive or Legislative Branches, but if you are the incumbent party, the very last thing you want is for that information to come out on October 15th of an election year.
Imagine all the media reports and potential public outcry that would occur, just two weeks before the election, if voters were to learn that the budget that had adopted was out of balance and that budget cuts and/or tax increases would soon be needed.
So, to rectify the problem, on June 22 of this year, during the Legislature’s short special session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 501.
The bill, which became Public Act 12-2, made a minor change in the consensus revenue estimate law.
Whereas section 2-36c of the Connecticut State Statutes required that consensus revenue estimates be released not later than October fifteenth of each year, the new law deleted the words October fifteen and replaced them with the words November tenth.
Ta-dah! Problem solved.
The day before the election, the projected state deficit was $60 million.
Three days after the election, it turns out that the state deficit is more like $300 to $350 million.
Say what you want about elected officials, but it was a pretty brilliant maneuver.
For a rather “humorous” look at the issue, read Keith Phaneuf’s story from October 18th where he writes about the Republican’s concern that the Office of Fiscal Analysis is projecting a state deficit that is significantly higher than the Malloy Administration is claiming.
Malloy’s chief spokesman responded, “The closer we get to Election Day, the more desperate the Republicans become. The more desperate they become, the more heated their rhetoric becomes. The more heated the rhetoric, the more they play fast and loose with the facts. They should probably just take a deep breath and begin coming up with the excuses they’ll need to explain away another failed campaign season.” – Roy Occhiogrosso 10/18/12
And Malloy’s budget office added, “While we always monitor revenue and spending, we’re in the process of doing our own analyses and it would be premature to comment either way” – OPM’s Gian-Carl Casa 10/18/12
You can read Phaneuf’s October story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/17789/gop-says-slowing-revenue-growth-must-be-recognized-now-not-after-election and his story from yesterday here:http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18167/state-budget-deficit-explodes-governor-expected-prepare-deficit-mitigation-plan
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Campaign Finance, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, State Legislature, State Politics, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst Achievement First, ConnAD, ConnCAN, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
Official reports indicate that Connecticut’s primary “education reform” group was part of Rhee’s attempt to influence the outcome of this week’s Democratic Primary
It turns out that when Michelle Rhee dumped tens of thousands into this week’s re-vote to select the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, she wasn’t acting alone.
Initial media reports pointed out that the money being spent by the Greater New England Public School Alliance, Rhee’s front group, in support of Brendan McGee and against Leo Canty came from Rhee’s national organization, StudentsFirst, as well as from, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Perry, the head of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.
But the media missed the fourth key donor to the Greater New England Public School Alliance’s massive spending effort. According to those same reports, the fourth major donor was none-other-than ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., the sister organization of ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.
Both organizations are directed by Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN’s CEO, and both organizations were created by the very same people who created and have been funding Achievement First, Inc., the Charter School Management company that was actually co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
ConnAD and ConnCAN’s effort to influence public policy is extensive. Even before Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill was proposed, these two organizations spent more than half a million dollars lobbying on behalf of charter schools.
The two organizations ramped up their lobbying after Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor introduced Malloy’s “education reform” bill. Although their ethics reports appear to be filled out incorrectly, in violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws, it appears that ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., spent nearly $825,000 in their effort to pressure legislators to support Malloy’s bill.
At the same time, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., appears to have spent another $230,000 lobbying Malloy’s bill, bringing the total expenditures by the two Connecticut based groups to over $1,000,000. That doesn’t even count the historic lobbying expenditure by Michelle Rhee.
What these latest State Election Enforcement Commission reveal is that Patrick Riccards, ConnAD and ConnCAN have now moved past their efforts to influence policy through their lobbying and have begun to directly campaign for and against individual candidates.
However, due to the way ConnAD was set up, it doesn’t need to disclose where it gets its funding. This loophole means that Connecticut citizens don’t know who actually paid for last spring’s historic lobbying effort or who is presently behind the effort to impact the outcome of these Democratic primaries.
At this point, the only piece that is known is that Michelle Rhee, with the help of Connecticut education reformers got deeply involved in this week’s Democratic primary.
After an initial primary, two recounts and a judicial order for a re-vote, the voters of Hartford and Windsor choose Brandon McGee over Leo Canty, to be the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, on Tuesday.
While the battle was mostly a local one, Michelle Rhee’s effort to influence the outcome garnered national attention. As noted, Michelle Rhee’s Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent an unprecedented amount in support of McGee and against Canty.
So why would one of the country’s leading “education reformers,” along with ConnAD and ConnCAN, target a particular candidate in a Democratic primary, when that house seat is just one of 187 house and senate seats in Connecticut?
The reason seems to be due to the fact that Leo Canty serves as a leader in the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
The fact that Michelle Rhee would leave the national stage to target a particular candidate in a Connecticut legislative primary is surprising enough. The revelation that Connecticut’s primary education reform group would actually help fund such a campaign effort, is, quite frankly, unbelievable.
ConnAD and ConnCAN have been closely aligned with Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor. In fact, Commissioner Pryor has publicly credited ConnCAN for their help in passing Malloy’s bill.
With ConnAD and ConnCAN now funding an independent campaign to defeat an individual Democratic candidate because they belong to a teacher’s union raises some extraordinarily serious questions about who was involved in these decisions and whose money was actually being used.
The initial press reports were that the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent about $32,000 in their independent campaign to influence the outcome of the primary. However, additional reports were submitted in the final days of the primary indicating that other expenditures were made. It should be noted though that the reports are so poorly completed that it is difficult to determine exactly how much Rhee’s group spent.
The following amounts were submitted to the State Elections Enforcement Commission:
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance (amended report)
Charter Schools, Democratic Legislators, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Hartford, Jumoke, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
This afternoon, Congressman John Larson announced that the Jumoke Academy will be getting a $100,000 grant to support the charter school’s efforts to take over the Milner School, one of Hartford’s public schools.
Along with the press release, Congressman Larson said, “I know this funding will go towards helping our younger generations receive the education they deserve.”
Thanks to the Malloy Administration and the leadership of the City of Hartford, the public school that was once known to the neighborhood as the Milner School, is now called the Jumoke Academy at Milner.
After financially starving the Milner School for years, the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut have suddenly “come up” with $2 million for renovations and up to $1.5 million in additional state funding to implement a “turnaround plan” for the school. Today we learn that the federal government is adding an additional $100,000 on top of that.
But, of course, the financial extravaganza overlooks the most important facts of all.
Although 25 percent of Milner’s students are not fluent in English and 40 percent come from homes where English is not the spoken language; the Jumoke Academy has NEVER accepted any Latino students and HAS NO experience with bilingual education or working with parents who aren’t fluent in English.
Furthermore, while more than 10 percent of Milner’s students have disabilities that require special education services, Jumoke has only 10 individual students with any special needs, or about 2 percent of their student body.
When the data is analyzed, it is impossible to conceive that Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, and Christina Kishimoto; Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, could have identified a more inappropriate entity to run the Milner School.
And adding insult on top of insult, Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Dr. Michael Sharpe, recently said that he plans to prevent any new students from enrolling at the Jumoke Academy at Milner after yesterday, (October 1, 2012).
However, Connecticut’s new “education reform” law specifically requires, “the management organization to continue the enrollment policies and practices in effect at the school before it entered the commissioner’s network.”
We aren’t even a five weeks into the new school year and Jumoke Academy officials are already trying to break the law.
There is no question that Hartford’s Milner School has needed help, but it is a terrible commentary on the politics of education policy that when additional support and funds were needed, City and State leaders turned their backs.
Now, when the Milner School has been handed over to a private entity, Connecticut’s elected officials, from Hartford, from the State, and now from the federal government celebrate by giving away public funds to an entity that doesn’t report to a public board of education and has no experience with the very population that Milner serves.