Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Healthcare, Human Services, Malloy, Mental Health Services, State Budget, State Deficit Budget cuts, Economic Development, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Pick up any newspaper and you are bound to see at least one story about the impact of budget cuts and another about how state governments are giving money away to private companies in an attempt to convince them to create or retain jobs.
It is quite a commentary about our times. A lack of adequate funding means people who work for schools, hospitals and nonprofit providers of human services are or will be losing their jobs, while taxpayer continue to provide the money that is being used to try and persuade businesses to pledge that they will create or keep private sector jobs.
True, it may not be the notoriety that we want, but you certainly can’t say that Connecticut hasn’t become the epitome of this paradox.
For example, earlier this week, Wait What? readers were provided an opportunity to read two posts, one entitled Has it come to this…? and another entitled And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery.
The first post reported on a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece by a father lamenting Governor Malloy’s cut to essential programs that help Connecticut’s developmentally disabled residents while the second was about the Governor’s visit to a brew pub in Stamford to celebrate a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant that the Malloy Administration was giving to help the brew pub expand.
The two stories served to enlighten readers about the reality of our times or the juxtaposition between an era where we are cutting vital services while providing private companies with what some would call economic development incentives and what others would refer to as corporate welfare.
What I failed to report was that, in addition to the brew pub, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Catherine Smith, were actually visiting three other companies around the state that day. All four of the companies were receiving funds thanks to the State’s Small Business Express Program (EXP).
Over the past eighteen months, the Small Business Express Program has given out more than $80 million. According to state officials, the program has helped “create and retain more than 7,600 jobs.” The Legislature will soon be voting to give the Governor an additional $60 million for this program.
In addition to Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, Malloy was visiting Atlantic Canvas and Awning (a company that received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000); Automotive Core Recycling (a company that recycles and sells catalytic converters and other auto parts and received a $250,000 loan) and Katalina’s (a cup cake bakery that received a loan of $30,000 to add equipment and furnishings to their new retail shop).
According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, the $50,000 loan and $10,000 grant “support the creation of three new jobs and retained four,” the $250,000 loan translated into one new position and retained 8 jobs, while the $30,000 loan to the bakery “created one full time job and retained two full time and two part time jobs.”
The Governor’s press release that day announced that the Small Business Express Program has already created or retained more than 1400 jobs in 2013.
Meanwhile that distraught and frustrated father, along with the others who care for Connecticut’s developmentally disabled, try to cope with Governor Malloy’s $6 million cut to employment and day service programs.
Actually, that $6 million cut was part of a much bigger list of cuts Governor Malloy ordered last November 28, 2012. That day, back in November, Governor Malloy announced $170 million in budget rescissions.
The press release didn’t actually quote Governor Malloy. Instead the task of explaining the cuts was left to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director. Barnes wrote, “Many of these cuts are very difficult to make, especially now when so many residents continue to struggle in a tough economy, But as painful as they are, cuts are necessary to keep this year’s budget in balance. State government needs to live within its means.”
The November list included a wide variety of reductions including a $53,000 cut to the Division of Criminal Justice’s Shooting Task Force; a $200,000 cut to the Jobs First Employment Service Program, a $488,000 cut to the state’s Environmental Quality Program; a $335,000 cut to the Department of Health’s Community Health Services Program and $41,000 cut to their Genetic Diseases Program; a $433,000 cut to the state’s Community Mental Health Centers, a $2.3 million cut to home care services that keep people out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals and the list goes on and on.
More recently, the state budget plan that Governor Malloy proposed a month ago continued those cuts. In fact, his new budget makes even deeper cuts to a variety of vital and essential services.
So how is it possible that a Governor would be instituting record budget cuts while giving away record amounts of taxpayer funds to private businesses?
Truth be told, it is the difference between how the State operating budget works compared to the way the State Capital or Bond budget functions.
Even in the desperate times, the Capital budget continues to pump out cash.
The State’s operating budget is paid for with tax dollars. The State’s Capital Budget is funded via the state’s credit card.
Because we are borrowing the money and then paying the amount (plus interest) back over twenty years, the argument is that cutting the Capital Budget won’t help to balance this year’s operating budget. This year’s operating budget is still facing a $135 million plus deficit despite the terrible cuts instituted by the Governor and the additional cuts approved by the General Assembly.
Although Connecticut already has the highest per capita debt burden in the nation, since the word “deficit” applies to the operating budget and not the Capital Budget, we end up with a situation in which vital services are cut at the same time money is being handed out.
In fact, if Governor Malloy gets his way, we’ll see more cuts to essential services and more layoffs of hospital and human service workers in the coming months, and at the same time, the General Assembly will be allocating even more money for the Governor to hand out to the private sector.
Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes Budget cuts, General Assembly, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes
Over the weekend, there was a heart-wrenching commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that was written by the father of a 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter.
His daughter’s name is Katie and he wrote, “She lives at home with my wife, Donna and me. She is the love of our lives and we embrace the gifts she brings to us and to all who know her.”
His piece was entitled, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”
Katie’s father reported that “Last November, the governor exercised his rescission authority and, without notice, reduced funding for people with disabilities who receive residential and day services. Making these cuts permanent, as proposed, delivers a body blow to vital assistance Katie receives from the Department of Developmental Services through organizations such as HARC. The latter is a long-respected family organization that provides critical services for people like Katie. It was founded by parents like me as a self-help group, at a time when institutionalization was the only choice for help. The splendid people at both these agencies are a blessed lifeline for my daughter and others.”
While every Connecticut resident, and especially every elected official should read the full article, it is easy to understand his core message.
There are useful state services, there are important state services, there are vital state services and then there are essential state services.
The services that Katie and her family receive are truly essential.
These services are essential, not only because we hold ourselves out to be a humane and caring society, but because the cost of respite and day services allow thousands of our fellow citizens to live at home rather than in far more costly institutions.
These are services that government provides because it is the right thing to do.
There are also services that when cut define the notion of being pennywise and pound foolish.
No governor, Democrat or Republican should have cut those services, but Governor Malloy did.
No Legislature, Democrat or Republican should have allowed those cuts to go forward, but Connecticut’s legislature did.
Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions and debates about appropriate levels of taxes and services, but a stunning large number of the cuts in Governor Malloy’s rescission package and the deficit mitigation package that he proposed and the legislature passed with bi-partisan support were not reasonable.
Those cuts passed because few legislators took the time to study the package and fewer still had the courage to stand up and say no to this governor.
Over the next 90 days the Connecticut General Assembly will be reviewing Malloy’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.
There is truly no excuse for aspects of what Malloy has proposed and even fewer excuses for the legislature to accept them.
Take a moment to read this father’s piece and know that it is just one example of budget cuts that have been made or are being contemplated that leave some of our most vulnerable fellow residents without the help and support they so deeply need and deserve.
Government officials will only respond when they know that their constituents will hold them accountable for their actions.
It is essential that our elected officials understand that that is exactly what we are going to do.
You can read the commentary piece at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-duffy-who-will-care-for-katie-0303-20130301,0,7996231.story
Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Malloy, State Budget, State Debt, State Deficit
UPDATED: This morning’s blog identified today as Connecticut Budget Day, the day Governor Malloy goes before a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly to present his proposed budget for the next two fiscal years. Malloy’s speech is actually on February 6, 2012.
Apologies for jumping the gun. I meant to suggest that today’s announcement about a new fund of borrowed money is a perfect snap shot of how the Malloy Administration will be approaching the next budget cycle. The underlying story was covered in a CTNewsjunkie news article that was posted late last night.
Governor To Announce New Nonprofit Funding Initiative
“Less than 24 hours before the state’s nonprofit community providers were to rally Wednesday morning to draw attention to an “already frayed safety net,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a new plan to help fund their efforts.
According to sources, Malloy plans to join them at the rally to announce plans to establish a new state bond pool specifically designated for nonprofit community-based providers. The $20 million pool is expected to enhance opportunities by allowing nonprofits to invest in capital projects that will lower administrative costs and improve the delivery of services.”
Over the past two years, Governor Malloy has made deep and historic cuts to Connecticut’s human service infrastructure. Vital services have been reduced for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens. The cuts have been far, far in excess of $20 million dollars, but a promise for a small pot of bonding funds turns a protest into a rally of support.
Meanwhile, those making more than $1 million a year saw no increase in their income tax rate, despite a $1.5 billion tax package that disproportionately hit Connecticut’s middle-income families.
With more cuts coming in the proposed FY14 -FY15 budget, Malloy’s plan is apparently to borrow more, including the small pot of money for Connecticut’s non-profit human service providers.
With a projected deficit for the next fiscal year in excess of $1.2 billion, the greater American motto can already be heard ringing through the Capitol – Keep taxes down; shift the cost to our children.
Connecticut already ranks #1 in nation in state debt with a debt amount of over $5,200 per person compared to a national state average of $1,404 per person.
More details about how Governor Malloy plans to produce a balanced budget without major new taxes will be forthcoming on the day of his budget presentation, which is scheduled for February 6, 2013 at noon.
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
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, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Ben Barnes, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
On December 19, 2012, the 2011-2012 Connecticut General Assembly will meet one more time, this time for a special session to deal with Connecticut’s growing budget deficit.
Call it the Holiday Special Session, or perhaps more aptly, it should be called the, “let’s cut vital human services the week before Christmas” Special Session.
In addition to the $123 million the Governor already cut from this year’s budget using his rescission authority, Malloy has now proposed an additional $220 million in cuts. These cuts, however, would require legislative approval.
The hardest hit agencies are the social services provided by the Department of Social Services, the Department of Children and Families and services aimed at helping those with developmental disabilities or mental illness.
In total, the Governor is seeking to balance the $365 to $415 million deficit with well over $250 million in cuts to what would commonly be called essential social services.
Sheila Amdur, the state’s leading mental health advocate, who presently serves as the interim CEO of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, told the CTMirror that Malloy’s cuts disproportionately hurt those who are not in a position to care for themselves.
Amdur told the CTMirror, “It’s so unconscionable that I’m almost speechless.”
In addition, because the federal government reimburses Connecticut for 50% of its Medicaid social services and health care related expenditures, Malloy’s cuts will actually cost that state over $58 million in lost federal revenue.
On the revenue side, Malloy’s plan includes an additional $22 million in tax revenue, although the Malloy administration was quick to claim that the plan doesn’t call for new taxes.
Malloy’s plan also takes out the state’s credit card and borrows $10 million to pay this year’s installment in the $100 million, 10-year Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative.
By putting the stem cell research on the state’s credit card, rather than paying for it out of the traditional budget, the state can take the $10 million in revenue that was coming from the State’s Tobacco Lawsuit Suit Settlement Fund for stem cell research and put it in the General Fund where it can help cover this year’s deficit.
Considering the state’s credit card already has $19.3 billion on it, another $10 million doesn’t even move the scale, but it is certainly ironic, considering candidate Malloy ran on a platform of never using the state’s credit card for on-going state expenses. (Although to be accurate, this year’s budget already puts tens of millions of on-going expenses on the state credit card).
Even before this latest proposal, Connecticut already ranked #1 in the nation when it comes to state debt per person. While the average state debt per person, across the 50 states, is $1,408 per person, Connecticut’s debt is $5,096 per person and growing.
Finally, Malloy’s budget roadmap “raids” a fund intended for environmental conservation and plans that Connecticut will get nearly $9 million in extra tax money this year as a result of a new “get tough on taxpayers program.”
The Governor’s proposed “roadmap” can be found here: http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/lib/malloy/2012.12.07_deficit_mitigation_roadmap.pdf
Here is the latest from the CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/18395/malloy-seeks-more-social-service-cuts-and-extra-tax-dollars-businesses-shrink-deficit and http://ctmirror.org/story/18410/malloy-defends-his-plan-collect-more-tax-dollars-businesses
And click here for CTNewsjunkie’s article on the roadmap: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_issues_deficit_reduction_framework_calls_for_special_session/
Board of Regents, Human Services, Public Employees, SEBAC Board of Regents, Higher Education, Malloy, Mike Meotti
The latest development in the “Regent-gate” situation was the press conference yesterday afternoon in which the Democratic and Republican leaders of the General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee demanded the resignation of Robert Kennedy, the President of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.
Meanwhile Kennedy continued to apologize and claim that he had mistakenly authorized pay raises for 21 members of the Board of Regent’s executive staff, despite the fact that the new law creating the Board of Regent system is absolutely clear that only the full Board has the authority to approve compensation issues.
Governor Malloy, who recruited Mr. Kennedy, also blasted him at various points yesterday, but did not demand that he be fired, nor did he call for his resignation.
The Board of Regents has a previously scheduled board meeting at 2:30 p.m. today where one would expect that issue to be added to the agenda.
While the bi-partisan call was only targeted at Mr. Kennedy, Republican leader John McKinney also demanded the resignation of Michael Meotti, the Executive Vice President for the Board of Regents.
A week ago, the CTMirror broke the news that Meotti had received a $49,000 pay raise this year, despite a prohibition on any pay raises as part of the Malloy-SEBAC state employee agreement.
This week the controversy spread dramatically when it was discovered that a total of 21 employees of the Board of Regents had received pay raises totally about $300,000 a year.
To date, State Representative Roberta Willis is the only Democratic leader to demand that the Board of Regents also, “look at Meotti and his role” in the decision to hand out the raises.
Considering that a number of senior administrators at the Board of Regents are experienced in Connecticut law, it is inconceivable that Mr. Kennedy could have made the decision without the input and advice of his leadership team.
Considering Meotti was a popular former Democratic State Senator and a close ally and friend of both Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman, it’s not surprising that most Democrats would be hesitant to publicly demand the investigation be expanded to include people beyond Mr. Kennedy.
As the Courant article noted, as late as Wednesday night, it appeared that Governor Malloy and the Chairman of the Board of Regents were positioning themselves to accept Kennedy’s apology, but stand by him.
However, the unexpected and particularly strong statements coming from the Higher Education Committee, and the growing recognition that the law related to pay raises for employees of the Board of Regents was very clear, the overall tone on Thursday changed and it has become increasingly clear that Kennedy’s level of support is quickly eroding.
One of the strangest developments, to date, was the attempt by Andrew McDonald; the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, to claim that the decision as to whether Kennedy should stay or go was really out of the Governor’s hands and that Governor Malloy could only recommend the Board of Regents investigate and take action if appropriate.
Apparently Attorney McDonald was not asked or reminded that Governor Malloy did not only recruit Mr. Kennedy, but he appointed 9 of the 15 members of the Board of Regents. In addition, there are five ex-officio members of the Board, all of whom serve as Malloy’s commissioners to various state agencies.
Those who enjoy betting on the odds might do well to put their money on an announcement later today that Mr. Kennedy has decided to resign, so that, “the powers that be,” can focus all of their attention on protecting the other senior employees at the Board of Regents, including Mr. Meotti.
Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Employees D-SNAP, Malloy
Last September, following Hurricane Irene’s landfall in Connecticut, President Obama released significant resources to help people, including the availability of emergency food aid (called D-SNAP.)
The Department of Social Services, the state agency that oversees the regular food stamp program (which is called SNAP) ramped up for what it expected to be 2,000 applicants. Over the next few days, 30,000 Connecticut residents stood in line to receive an emergency food card for $250 or more. The amount a family received depended on their losses and their available resources. In the end, a total of about 75,000 Connecticut residents, in nearly 24,000 families, received federal aid.
In December, with Governor Malloy leaving for a meeting on the West Coast, his press operation called reporters into the executive offices for an “unprecedented” Sunday afternoon press conference. After discovering that some state employees may have received emergency food aid when they shouldn’t have qualified, the Governor’s press event was to order a full-scale investigation. Malloy spoke of a “Culture of Corruption” that he believed permeated state service.
Over the next six months, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Social Services and the state’s labor relations operation spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars “investigating” whether some state employees inappropriately collected D-SNAP emergency food aid.
At one point, an agency official in the Malloy Administration sent out an inappropriate, and probably illegal, memo instructing state employees not to speak with Richard Rochlin, the lawyer representing a number of the state employees who were being accused of violating the law. In another situation, Rochlin was forced to step in to stop state actions that amounted to “flagrant” violations of employee’s privacy rights and the state’s illegal attempt to prevent terminated workers form collecting unemployment benefits.
When the dust settled, about 100 state employees who received emergency food assistance were terminated or forced to resign by the Malloy Administration.
Then in June, when the process finally made it to a neutral review, an arbitrator ordered that 40 of the state employees be reinstated because there was no evidence that they “committed intentional fraud.”
Throughout the process Governor Malloy insisted that there was no evidence that the Department of Social Services made any mistakes or failed to comply with federal guidelines.
But, of course, we now know that there were significant mistakes and that doesn’t even count the fact that there has been no comprehensive investigation into the vast majority of the applicants (who were not state employees.)
In fact, the problems go well beyond the emergency food aid program. According to at least two different lawsuits, Connecticut’s Department of Social Services is the “second worst offender among other states in the nation for mistakes in its oversight of the regular food stamp program (SNAP).”
The state’s failure to provide sufficient staff at the Department of Social Services, combined with the lack of leadership at the top of the agency, means services aren’t being provided correctly and that Connecticut is not prepared to respond appropriately when something like the emergency food aid program is needed.
Equally disturbing is that instead of a measured response and a focus on fixing the underlying problem, the Governor’s Office was more interested in engaging in an inappropriate and overzealous investigation and condemnation of Connecticut’s state employees.
Nothing excuses a person’s illegal activities, and public employees should be held to the highest standards. However, for those who watched the administration’s handling of this case, and especially the way the Governor’s Office responded to the issues brought forward by Attorney Rochlin, it is absolutely clear that the overall goal was not to fix the problem, but to garner media attention, even at the cost of people’s rights.
Thanks to the review process, 40 Connecticut state employees who unfairly lost their jobs, now have them back.
But the cost of the political attack on state employees was significant and Connecticut taxpayers still don’t have a Department of Social Services that can get the job done right.
So the question remains…now that the Malloy Administration knows that there are problems at the Department of Social Services, what are they going to do about it?
Education Reform, Human Services Birth to Three, Budget cuts
Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)
Under the cover of night (or in this case under the cover of the recent state employee layoffs) it now appears that the state of Connecticut is going to eliminate the extraordinarily successful Early Connections Program.
Early Connections is the “primary source of intervention and care for infants and toddlers with special needs, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, providing essential support services to about 250 children and their families in up to 100 communities around the state.
While there are a number of community based non-profit agencies that provide birth to three services, the Early Connections program plays a fundamental and unique role in serving some of the most vulnerable young children in our state.
Early Connections is both nationally acclaimed for its level of service and has been at the forefront of developing successful interventions and curriculum that provide young children and their parents with the support they need to become more successful and productive students in later years.
Parents have said that the Early Connections Program has been the single most important factor in the development of their developmentally challenged children.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that the State Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has attempted to end the Early Connections program. Following the Rell/SEBAC deal and the massive number of early retirements that took place in 2009, DDS tried to end the program by prohibiting new admissions to Early Connections.
After a significant out-cry from across the state, DDS reversed itself and re-opened the admission process and preserved this stellar program. But rather than make this program the priority that it needed to be – neither Governor Rell nor Governor Malloy have invested the resources necessary to expand the present program.
Ending admissions and phasing out the Early Connections program was part of Governor Malloy’s Plan B budget.
Upon approval of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement all layoff notices were supposed to be rescinded and existing programs maintained.
However, according to sources close to the Early Connections program, staff and parents with children in the program are being told or will be told that no new admissions will be allowed and Early Connections will cease to be when the existing infants and toddlers graduate out of the program over the next three years.
While the state agency has the legal authority to end admissions, acting without the full review and approval of the Connecticut General Assembly is particularly troubling.
More than two years ago, Jonathan Kantrowitz, who writes a blog for the Connecticut Post, Stamford Advocate and other Hearst papers wrote a great piece about the need to properly fund this vital program. See: http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2009/10/27/fully-funding-early-connections-vital-to-connectcut-school-districts/