A reminder about Malloy’s definition of “Shared Sacrifice”. The $24 million in new municipal revenue

A total of $15 million for the ten wealthiest towns, $1.6 million for the ten poorest towns

As the 2011 session of the Connecticut General Assembly comes to an end this coming Wednesday the Malloy Administration will remind us that the phrase that best describes this year’s session is “Shared Sacrifice”

Beginning with the ten times he used the word “sacrifice” in his February budget address, Governor Malloy has been pushing the concept that this budget is all about shared sacrifice. His point, over and over again, has been that we are balancing the Connecticut budget by asking everyone to sacrifice.

And there are a lot of sacrifices in this budget…

But lost in the rhetoric are some stunning examples of just how this Governor defines sacrifice.

First there was income tax proposal in which those making over $2 million a year are asked to pay just .02 percent more a year while the rest of us faced far greater percentage increases. This when the data shows that the wealthiest in Connecticut pay about 4.9% of their income in state and local taxes while those in the middle pay at least 10% of their income in state and local taxes.

Then there is the extraordinary example of Malloy’s plan to help Connecticut’s cities and towns.

While cutting deeply into a variety of programs, Governor Malloy not only maintained the level of municipal aid but proposed doubling the size of the municipal real estate conveyance tax as a way to provide cities and towns with a revenue stream that was separate and above what they received from their local property taxes and state grants.

The budget adopted by the Democrats in the General Assembly included this expanded tax.

While requiring those who sell their property to pay .5 percent of the sales price to their local municipality doesn’t immediately seem unfair, the truth becomes evident when you look at who actually benefits from Malloy’s proposal.

Starting July 1, 2011 – thanks to Governor Malloy and the Legislature’s Democrats – Connecticut’s ten wealthiest towns will share $15 million in new revenue from the expanded real estate conveyance tax.

The state’s ten poorest towns will share $1.6 million.

The benefit per person from Malloy’s plan?

The 203,000 people in the ten wealthiest towns will receive a benefit of $73 per person. All new money to help expand local services or allow the town to cut their local property tax rate.

Meanwhile, the 653,000 people who live in the ten poorest towns will receive a benefit of $2.45 per person providing those communities with no meaningful help in preserving services or cutting taxes.

The Governor and the Democrats could have increased the state portion of the real estate conveyance tax which would have raised a similar amount of money but would have distributed those funds based on need.

Instead, the rich got a break on their income taxes while Connecticut’s wealthiest towns will get an unlooked-for windfall.

Yes, the 2011 Legislative Session may have been about sacrifice but it certainly wasn’t a definition of shared sacrifice that most of us would recognize.

Ode to SustiNet: Yet Another Wait, What? Moment…

(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

CTNewsjunkie posted another must-read story last night about the Democratic efforts to ease concerns that the Malloy/SEBAC agreement is somehow related to Connecticut’s comprehensive healthcare reform law.  (see Wyman Seeks to Clarify SustiNet Rumors)

Rumors have been circulating that SustiNet (Connecticut healthcare reform) and the union agreement are related.  State employees even received an email from a fake state employee making that statement.

As has been noted on this blog and in many other places, people can come up with reasons to vote against SustiNet or against the SEBAC agreement; but saying they are connected is not one of them.

In any case, the Malloy Administration and the Legislative Democrats joined the effort yesterday to persuade state employees that, in fact, the truth is the truth and SustiNet does not pave the way for the concession agreement and the concession agreement does not pave the way for SustiNet.

Part I of their effort came in the form of an email from Nancy Wyman to all state employees re-stating the fact that the two issues are not connected.

Part II was quite a bit more bizarre.

Think of the child who says to his or her parents “If you don’t buy me that IPod I will hold my breath until I turn blue.”

Or the bank robber who walks into the bank, puts the gun to his or her own head and says “If anybody moves I will pull the trigger.”

As CTNewsjunkie reports, “In what is a rare move the General Assembly recommitted the SustiNet bill in order to send a message to those trying to use it to defeat the $1.6 billion union concession package…”   Recommitting a bill sends it back to committee and prevents that particular bill from being considered again during the legislative session.

According to the story, Democratic leaders “didn’t want anything they were doing to interfere with the decision 45,000 union members will be asked to make about their health care and pension benefits.”

The irony being that SustiNet was and is a very important piece of legislation.  Advocates for healthcare reform have been working for years to ensure Connecticut is at the forefront of the effort to reform our of control health care insurance system.  However, rather than trust state employees to understand that the state employee agreement is not related to SustiNet, they just voted to kill SustiNet, throwing away the opportunity to actually do something about the rising costs of healthcare insurance.  (Go figure.)

Meanwhile, in a more direct effort to explain the situation to state employees, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman sent an email to the employees explaining the facts.

Wyman wrote, “the proposed changes to our healthcare coverage are not in any way related to SustiNet, or to the federal healthcare reform that became law last year…Our benefits will continue to be provided by Anthem or Oxford under the plan we selected during open enrollment.”

So when all is said and done, the truth is the truth…SustiNet and the SEBAC agreement are not related.

In case people missed the point – SustiNet and the SEBAC agreement ARE NOT related!

Oh, and meanwhile, for those who are shocked to see the SustiNet legislation go up in smoke, it is important to note  that (1) as a result of Governor Malloy’s surprising opposition to the very concepts he had previously supported during the campaign, the present SustiNet bill has been so watered-down that it is but a shadow of its once impressive initiative and (2) the Malloy Administration already developed an Executive Order on
SustiNet back in the first week of April. The order, which only covers the minimal items that Malloy will support can then be issued once the Malloy/SEBAC agreement is resolved.  In that way, Malloy is not only able to subvert the SustiNet healthcare legislation, but can come out on top claiming that he and he alone has been able to keep the healthcare reform process going.  It is what is called a “win/win” move.

Finally, the piece de résistance of the last day of maneuvering is how Lt. Governor Wyman ended her email to state employees.  Wyman’s final line to Connecticut’s state employees reads “thank you for the good work you do every day. Governor Malloy and I are grateful for your service.”

This, coming less than 24 hours after Malloy once again threatened Connecticut’s state employees, saying, “We will lay people off on a large scale for which I will not feel responsible,” and noted that the layoffs will include employees with far greater than 10 years of state service.

It reminds me of the school bully who beats up a kid every day for their lunch money and then says “by the way, I’m grateful that you come to school every day.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oh…Remember When Democratic Leaders were for Campaign Finance Reform

(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Democrats Complete the Task of Undermining the State’s Public Finance Law

“Senate Democrats gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a budget bill that cuts the staffs of the three biggest watchdogs by about one-third and ends mandatory audits of publicly financed legislative campaigns.”

Mark Pazniokas, of the CTMirror, reports on the successful effort by the Democrats to undermine Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance law.

Karen Hobert Flynn of Common Cause responds, saying “For a minute amount of money to be saved out of the state budget, in the end I fear we have made the watchdogs far weaker and made it much harder for them to do their job.”

The new state budget actually cuts the staff at the State Elections Enforcement Commission by a larger percentage than any other agency, and the budget implementation bill goes on to target the public financing program with a number of changes that will undermine the campaign finance program’s ability to function.

The attack was led by people who have consistently claimed to be the program’s biggest supporters.

Oh remember the days…

Back on January 27th, 2010, when then-candidate Dan Malloy spoke out after a Zogby public opinion survey found that 79 percent of Connecticut voters supported public financing and the Citizens’ Elections Program.

Malloy said, “In my view, this poll should serve as proof of just how strongly Connecticut voters feel about campaign finance reform, and as a warning for those candidates who think they can brush aside the Citizens’ Election Program…”

And Speaker of the House Chris Donovan was so pleased with the passage of the landmark campaign finance bill back in November of 2005 that he wrote “Almost 230 years ago, the founding fathers took a huge risk when they signed the Declaration of Independence and set the wheels in motion for the world’s greatest democracy. Today, this historic campaign finance reform legislation reaffirms that this is a government for the people, not special interests. This campaign finance reform bill is our declaration of independence. We can look our constituents in the eye and say we created the strongest campaign laws in the United States.”

Even now, Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams’ official biography reads, “Since his election as Senate President, Senator Williams has been a leading advocate for cleaning up government. He authored legislation to reform the State Ethics Commission and supported sweeping changes to the campaign finance system and the state contracting process. With the creation of a publicly funded campaign finance system in 2005, Connecticut now has the strongest reform laws in the nation.”

But the legislation that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday May 31, 2011, and then the State Senate yesterday, severely limits the oversight of the program by mandating that the State Election Enforcement Commission cannot audit more than 50% of the State House and State Senate campaigns that utilize the public financing program.

Furthermore, it also places extraordinary term limits on those who serve on the State Elections Enforcement Commission, reducing their terms from five to three years; and bars them from serving consecutive terms.  The law will ensure that no commissioner has the historic perspective to properly monitor the program.

State Senator Gayle Slossberg, the only Democrat to vote against the anti-public financing proposal was quoted as saying, “I just think that the proposal in front of us undermines the independence and the integrity of the watchdog agencies,”

Although the Malloy Administration said the cuts to the State Elections Enforcement Commission were necessary to balance the upcoming state budget, Pazniokas’ story notes the irony that only a few days ago Malloy and the Democratic leaders were able to “find” the money to eliminate the $400 budget deficit in next year’s budget thanks to the use of surplus state revenues.  In fact, the growing revenues have allowed Malloy to propose using cash instead of borrowing over $600 million dollars for this budget.

A new billion dollars in revenue; but the massive changes to the public financing program were still needed…

At least, that is the situation according to Malloy’s primary advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, who said “There are difficult decisions. There are difficult spending cuts. There are difficult tax increases…That’s what happens when you have a $3.5 billion deficit.”

But Occiogrosso added that the changes would make government “more efficient and cost effective.”

For the CT Mirror story, go to: http://ctmirror.org/story/12781/election-cops-take-biggest-hit-consolidation

5:30 pm Update on the Democratic effort to undermine Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance law

Senate Democrats are racing to pass the budget implementation bill that passed the Connecticut House of Representatives last night.

The legislation;

(1) severely damages Connecticut’s open government agencies including the State Elections Enforcement Commission,

(2) undermines Connecticut’s community college system by merging it into a new mega agency where the Commissioner of Higher Education has
already said he wants to change the direction of the community colleges and

(3) allows Governor Malloy to further back off his pledge on moving the State to GAAP accounting.

The debate on the bill continues but earlier this afternoon, Senator  Toni Harp, defending the bill merging Connecticut’s watch-dog agencies, said  “Each agency will maintain their current, independent authority…”

But what Senator Harp failed to point out is that the Democrat’s budget eliminates the majority of SEEC inspectors and auditors, mandates that the SEEC cannot auditor more than 50% of the legislative races and places term limits on the SEEC commissioners that will make it impossible for there to be any continuity in policy on the oversight commission.

Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance law was years in the making and was hailed as the most important effort any state has made in trying to get special interest big money out of politics.

Nearly all of the Democratic legislators voting in favor of these changes actually claimed credit for the law in their recent political campaigns adding it to their list of accomplishments and actually putting it in their campaign brochures.

With the House Democrats passing this bill late last night and the Senate Democrats working to pass the bill this afternoon, Democratic legislators will have done more damage to this vital law than the Republicans have been able to do in four years.