Malloy must take responsibility for many of the these hospital layoffs

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When Governor Malloy proposed his bait and switch “provider tax” strategy he promised hospitals that they would be “held harmless.”  The goal he said was simply to maximize federal reimbursement rates.

But two years later, the impact of Malloy’s decision to renege on that promise is leading to massive layoffs and undermining many of Connecticut’s hospitals.

The news headlines have been shocking;

“The state’s 30 acute care hospitals have shed 1,400 jobs in the past year”

“Hartford HealthCare is eliminating 350 jobs”

“Nearly 70 positions at The William W. Backus and Windham hospitals will be eliminated”

“List shows 176 Connecticut layoff notices so far (Norwalk Hour)”

“116 positions will be eliminated as a result of state budget cuts (Danbury News-Times)”

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is reducing the staff at its pediatric and adolescent clinic

“The layoffs announced Monday are the second round in the last seven months.  In November, Hartford HealthCare laid off 179 employees, including 10 each at Backus and Windham.”

So why are people being thrown out of their jobs when access to quality healthcare is more important than ever?

Malloy’s “provider tax” budget gimmick is a major factor.

When Malloy proposed his $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011, the plan also included an additional $350 million “provider tax” on hospitals.  Malloy claimed it wasn’t really a tax because the hospitals would get all the money back and the federal government would reimburse the state for a portion of that money.

Of course, to the self-pay patient, it was a tax.

And to the health insurance company it was yet another cost to be passed on to the people who pay for health insurance.

But the General Assembly approved Malloy’s plan anyway.

As part of his state budget coverage, CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf wrote last year,

“And then there’s really bad news: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would cut their state funding by one-fifth over the next two years.

Put it all together, hospitals say, and at best, they will cut jobs and services. At worst, some will shut their doors. And facilities in the state’s poor northeastern corner say they are particularly at risk.”

The fact is that while the Malloy administration did pay the hospitals back the first year, his budget REDUCED the amount Connecticut hospitals received by about $27 million in the second year, $134 million the third year and $269 million in this year’s budget.

Overall, as a result of Governor Malloy’s budget strategies, while hospitals are being paid for additional Medicaid services, the State of Connecticut has reduced funding for its 32 chronic care hospitals by about $400 million dollars in the last two years alone.

The massive number of layoffs are proof that the “chickens are coming home to roost.”

And, none of this is a surprise to Malloy and the legislature.

As the Vice President of the Connecticut Hospital Association said,

“In short, what started 18 months ago as a scheme to help balance the state budget … has been converted to an unadulterated tax on hospitals…It’s one thing not to help hospitals, it’s something completely different when you harm hospitals.  “Taking patient care revenue to balance the state budget is just plain wrong.”

The state cuts to hospitals garnered some notoriety last spring when Malloy lost his temper on the WNPR radio show, “Where We Live,”

The CT Mirror reported at the time,

When Malloy appeared on May 6 on WNPR’s public affairs show “Where We Live,” he responded quickly when host John Dankosky asked about the hospital funding reductions the governor’s own budget staff wrote about in his budget.

“Let me stop you right there,” Malloy told Dankosky about four minutes into the program. “There aren’t cuts to hospitals.”

The administration insists that while the hospitals lose $400 million in tax reimbursements, they will make it back. But to do so, hospitals will have to treat thousands more poor patients covered through Medicaid.

“It is time for people to trim their sails, to find ways to deliver great service at less expense,” the governor said, adding that all hospital-related state spending should be $1.7 billion next fiscal year, just as it is this year. “We’re not cutting, we’re funding.”

What Malloy forgot was the evidence of the cuts was part of his own budget documents.

Again quoting the CT Mirror,

When the administration unveiled its latest budget plan in February, it initially referred to those changes in hospital reimbursements as spending cuts.

“The decision to reduce hospital funding was not an easy one,” the governor’s budget introduction states.

While the overall policy is rather complex, the impact has been pretty simple.  The way Malloy has handled the state budget is a primary factor behind the hospital layoffs that are taking place across the state.

The families that are being devastated by these hospital layoffs and the communities being impacted by reduced levels of services should tell Governor Malloy that at the very least, he must take responsibility for the actions he took that are now leading to many healthcare workers losing their jobs.

You can read the CT Mirror’s coverage of this issue here:  http://ctmirror.org/hospitals-warn-budget-cuts-will-cut-jobs-and-services-maybe-close-doors/ and here http://ctmirror.org/semantics-malloys-no-tax-pledge/

When it comes to our state’s economy, our elected officials are our own worst enemies…

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With a state-economy ranked 50th in the nation, one would think that Governor Malloy and our elected officials who drop their economic development strategy that relies on corporate welfare to lure hedge fund companies and other corporate giants to move or stay in Connecticut.

But in the legislative session that just ended, Malloy and the majority decided to stay the course and, in the process, throw Connecticut’s hospitals under the bus.  Despite the rhetoric from the Malloy Administration that the massive cut to hospitals would have no impact, policymakers knew the consequences and turned a blind eye to the fact that the new state budget would lead to the loss of hundreds of Connecticut jobs.

The CT Mirror summarized the situations when they listed Connecticut’s hospitals as one of the biggest “losers” during the recent session.  The CT Mirror wrote:

“Hospitals: Hospital officials decried the governor’s proposal to cut more than $500 million in funding from hospitals, saying it will lead to job cuts and hurt patient care. But their pleas went largely unanswered. The next two-year budget slashes payments hospitals receive to compensate them for treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and money they currently receive as reimbursement for a provider tax they pay. The Malloy administration says the hospitals will still receive more money because more people will have health insurance, but hospitals counter that the funds will only come from treating thousands more poor patients…”

The impact of the Malloy administration’s approach started to be seen earlier this week when, according to the Connecticut Post, St. Vincent’s Medical Center “eliminated 100 positions and laid off nearly 50 employees this week, including some nurses and doctors. The cuts are expected to save the hospital about $10 million.”

As hospital’s vice president for health services explained, “This is a case of trying to look forward and protecting the direction and mission of our organization as the ground shifts beneath us.”

There is no question that many senior hospital administrators are overpaid and are diverting scarce resources away from patient care, but rather than confront that controversy head on, Malloy and the legislature simply slashed the amount of state funds going to hospitals and left the overcompensation issue unaddressed.

According to the Connecticut Post article, “Layoffs began Monday and continued Tuesday. The cuts were across all levels of the hospital, and included some nurse and doctor positions…Of the positions cut, 48 were filled and resulted in layoffs.”

As the Connecticut Hospital Association warned during the legislative session, “A state budget that cuts hospitals by $550 million will result in job loss and the loss of programs and services…”

There is simply no question that most hospitals around the state will be laying off employees as a result of the new state budget.

And for the record, these aren’t mythical six figure jobs that companies are supposed to be creating over the next ten years; these are the very real jobs of the very real residents in communities across Connecticut.

Adding to the disaster is the fact that not only will Connecticut residents be losing their jobs, but access to quality health care in our local hospitals will be undermined.

You can read more about the St. Vincent’s Medical Center layoffs here:  http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/St-Vincent-s-to-eliminate-100-jobs-4593474.php

Unemployment in Connecticut climbs again – back to 9 percent.

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The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Labor reveals that the state is making little progress when it comes to re-bounding from the Great Recession.

According to the more conservative unemployment measurement, 171,100 Connecticut residents are presently unemployed.  However, using the federal government’s U-6 rate, which measures both the unemployed and those who are in a part-time job but actively looking for full-time employment, more than 15% of Connecticut’s workforce is without the jobs they need.

In addition, of the 117,500 jobs lost since the “recessionary downturn” began, Connecticut has only recovered about 30,000 jobs (25% of all jobs lost).

Despite the claim that the recovery began in February 2010, Connecticut’s government, financial, construction and manufacturing sectors have yet to even begin regaining jobs.

Still on the downside, Connecticut’s government sector remains down 11,100 jobs, while the number in the financial sector is down 4,200 positions, construction and mining is down 1,200 jobs and manufacturing is down 800 jobs.

Since much of the federal Stimulus Funds were not used to supplement government activity, but instead were used to substitute for existing spending, elected officials have failed to help those who lost their jobs in two of the sectors that leaders could actually have had an impact over – government and construction.

Since Governor Malloy took office, government positions have been further eliminated and despite his predilection for the Financial Sector, his First Five Corporate Welfare Program has yet to have any impact.  Although considering those favored business need only create 200 jobs, and have five to ten years to do so, whatever impact the corporate welfare program does have will be limited in nature.

A related problem for Connecticut businesses is that as a result of the lengthy recession, the State of Connecticut has already borrowed more than $635 million from the Federal Government to help pay unemployment benefits.  Borrowing was necessary because the amount of funds collected from employee unemployment taxes wasn’t enough to cover the costs associated with payments to the unemployed.  Since these funds will need to be paid back, Connecticut businesses will be facing high unemployment taxes on an ongoing basis.

Unemployment: The Art of Political Spin

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On Thursday, Connecticut’s Department of Labor released their monthly report on the state of the economy.  The data revealed that the percent of unemployed had risen from 8.1 percent in June to 8.5 percent in July.  In response, Governor Malloy said he was “skeptical” of the report’s accuracy.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Obama Administration released a report showing that at least 300,000 teaching jobs have been lost in the last three years. Obama called for new investment in education spending.

The nation’s “official” unemployment rate stands at about 8.3 percent.  That means that the true unemployment rate in the United States is at least 15 percent.

Although the media traditionally reports on what is called the “U-3” unemployment rate, a far better measure is one called the “U-6” rate.  The “U-6” unemployment rate, which is released at the same time as the lower number, includes the traditional definition of the “unemployed,” but also adds-in those people who are employed in part-time jobs, despite the fact that they are actively looking for full-time work.

While having a part-time job helps some families make ends meet, an honest definition of being unemployed must include those who can’t find the full-time job they need and, instead, are forced to fall back on some type of part-time employment.

Since Connecticut’s numbers are similar to the national numbers, we can safely assume that at least 15% of Connecticut residents continue to find themselves without the work they want and need.

If the truth be told, the notion that the “official” unemployment rate is 8.1 percent or 8.5 percent is, quite frankly, irrelevant.

The very real impact federal, state and local budget cuts have on the economy and our education system becomes clear when we understand that since President Obama took office, the number of Connecticut residents employed in federal, state and local government jobs has dropped from 251,200 to 235,000.

This means that in just the last four years, there are 16,000 few jobs in schools and other government positions around the state.

Of that number, the overwhelming majority, 10,000 jobs, have been lost just since Malloy became Connecticut’s governor.

Last month, President Obama said, “think about what that means for our country. At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America, these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country.”

Today, the President used his weekly address to talk about the loss of teaching jobs, while reiterating his pledge to invest an additional $25 billion to prevent layoffs and strengthen public education around the country.

The sad truth is that regardless of whether the President is calling for more of an investment in education or the Governor is skeptical that the unemployment is going up when “feels” it should be going down, the fact is, Connecticut’s children are returning to school in a couple of weeks with far few teachers and support staff.

That is bad news for unemployed teachers, our children and our entire society.

I said what? …No, no that was during the campaign, this is now.

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

Saying “It’s not a decision I wanted to make”, Governor Dan Malloy ordered the layoff of 56 state troopers despite the state having spent more than $4 million dollars to train the new class.

Malloy was quick to “insist” that the public would not be impacted by the trooper layoffs, but his Commissioner of Public Safety told reporters that “investigative functions would be weakened and certain response times slowed down.”

Furthermore, as a result of having to use overtime to cover the lost troopers much, if not all of the of the saving that would have been achieved by laying off the troopers in the first place will be lost.

However, putting aside the real world impact of the layoffs, the “best” part of this story is the contradiction between what Candidate Malloy said versus what Governor Malloy is doing.

Way back in last  year’s campaign when Malloy was trying to get the State Police Union’s endorsement
and win over swing-voters Malloy promised to hire 55 additional troopers and released a major policy paper on the importance of public safety and the State Police.

Malloy’s “White Paper” led with “Our state and municipal police forces have become increasingly understaffed and the number of state troopers is currently 55 short of the 1,248 mandated level. We must
re-invest in the state’s commitment to community policing and ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorly required state police staffing levels.”

Yesterday, when asked about the state statute requiring that the state have 1,248 troopers, Malloy told reporters that he hadn’t read the particular statute but he did go on to say that “what I believe is that under optimum times the legislature thought that was the number that was required. Suffice it to say that these are not optimum times any longer…”

His observation about the Legislature’s intent may be correct but the times were hardly optimum last year when he felt comfortable promising – in print – to bring the state up to 1,248 statutory number.

Personally I don’t know whether public safety will jeopardized or not but any financial saving will be limited at best.

Perhaps more to the point, reasonable people can certainly disagree about whether state troopers should be “rewarded” or “punished” for voting against the concession package.

But one thing is for certain.  If candidates are not held accountable for what they say and promise during campaigns then they are liable to say or do anything in order to get elected – even when they have no intention of following through…

Oh wait…Never mind.

News Flash: Connecticut’s Consumer Utility Hotline Saved

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

Word this morning is that Dan Esty, the Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has reversed his earlier decision to end Connecticut’s popular consumer utility hotline.

Layoff notices to the hotline’s staff have apparently been rescinded – just a week before the hotline was scheduled to be eliminated.

Although the hotline is paid for by a surcharge on the utility companies, the Malloy Administration had decided to layoff the 14 employees who worked on the hotline.

The proposed cut was NOT part of Governor Malloy’s Plan B Budget (the plan that he was implementing in response to the initial failure of the Malloy/SEBAC Concession Agreement). Rather it was a budget cut made in response to the Legislature’s decision to support Malloy’s merger and cut to what were the energy and environment departments.

Opposition to the decision to eliminate the hotline included strong statements from the co-chairs of the General Assembly’s energy committee.  State Senator John Fonfara and State Representative Vickie Nardello wrote to the Malloy Administration “asking that the decision be scrapped and the unit be allowed to continue to do its good work.”

State Consumer Counsel Mary Healey also weighed in telling the Hartford Courant “elimination of
the entire consumer services unit is a concern for me as a ratepayer advocate because I am not clear as to who [consumers] will be directed to when they are directed on their utility bills to a number that sends them to the consumer service unit.”

Last year 45,000 consumer calls and complaints were handled by the consumer hotline.

If the news is accurate, it is good news for Connecticut’s utility consumers.

Updated on Consumer Utility Hotline: Deafening Silence

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

As reported early here and elsewhere, when faced with a cut in state funds to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Commissioner Daniel Esty decided to end the popular consumer utility hotline that logged 45,000 calls last year.

Although the hotline is paid for by a surcharge on the utility companies, the Malloy Administration sent out layoff notices to the 14 employees who work on the hotline.

Their last day of work is just two weeks away.

At a press conference following news reports that Esty was ending the program, State Senator John Fonfara, co-chairman of the legislature’s energy committee, called the move “a lousy idea.”

Rep. Vickie Nardello, the House co-chair of the committee joined Fonfara in a letter “asking that the decision be scrapped and the unit be allowed to continue to do its good work.”

State Consumer Counsel Mary Healey told the Hartford Courant “elimination of the entire consumer services unit is a concern for me as a ratepayer advocate because I am not clear as to who [consumers] will be directed to when they are directed on their utility bills to a number that sends them to the consumer service unit.”

More recently Senator Fonfara told WCBS radio that the Malloy Administration told him that the utility hotline will continue in “some presence” but didn’t elaborate.

Meanwhile, from the state agency been “deafening silence” and time is running out for this key program that has helped thousands and thousands of Connecticut citizens with their utility problems.

Update on Respite Care Centers: Another essential service “saved” as Malloy steps back

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

CTnewsjunkie has a must read article today – Respite Center Employees Get Reprieve http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/respite_center_employees_get_reprieve/

Last month Governor Malloy’s Administration sent layoff notices to all the employees who staff Connecticut’s eight respite care centers as part of his Plan B budget.

These centers provide respite care for developmentally disabled children and adults.

They are some of the most vital and essential support services that Connecticut state government funds.

Now the Malloy Administration has announced that those layoffs have been put on indefinite hold.

Although they claim that the delay is not related to the ongoing second union vote, the delay does allow these vital services to continue – for the time being.

Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes told CTNewsjunkie that while he didn’t know the details behind the decision to delay the respite care layoffs, he did say that the Malloy Administration was delaying a number of cuts and layoffs pending the outcome of the second union vote.

Over the last couple of weeks the Malloy Administration has announced that it would delay closing DMV regional offices, would not be ending the vo-tech high school athletic programs and would also hold off laying off the staff that runs the ferry boats that cross back and forth on the Connecticut River.

The underlying problem is that the Governor and Legislature had the moral and legal obligation to pass a balanced budget.

However, instead of hold off passing a budget until AFTER the state employee agreement was reached and approved, Malloy and the Democrats adopted and signed a budget into law that contained an unachievable $2 billion dollar concession package.

When the original SEBAC/Malloy proposed agreement failed to get the required 80 percent, instead of returning to the bargaining table and developing an agreement that could pass, the Governor decided to move forward with his Plan B budget.

Weeks later it still isn’t clear whether the Malloy Administration took this action because it wanted to “scare” the state employees or whether they actually thought Plan B was an acceptable alternative.

With the Administration delaying some of the cuts and the unions voting on a revised agreement there is a growing sense of hope that a reasonable conclusion can be achieved.

But then, just when there is some light at the end of the tunnel, OPM Secretary Ben Barns tells the CTNewsjunkie “We’re not backing down. We are fully prepared in the event that it’s not ratified to go through with the entirety of our plan.”

Go through with your entire Plan B budget?

Really?

Hasn’t this process taught you anything?

Shredding the safety net and cutting services to some of the most vulnerable people in our state is not an acceptable approach to governance.

Closing the respite centers was not only an inhumane proposal, but if even 10% of the families who utilize those services throw in the towel and move their loved ones into publicly funded group homes, the cost to taxpayers will be far greater.

The fact is – NO Democrat – especially the first Democrat to hold the Governor’s Office in 20 years should ever – ever – have proposed to close the Connecticut’s respite centers. (And no Democratic legislator should have allowed such a plan to go forward).

In the end a Plan B budget may not be needed, but if it is, the Democrats have a lot of work to do to improve the plan that is now on the table – and they all know – that there is a variety of alternatives to choose from including requiring the super rich to pay their fair share, closing corporate tax loop-holes that have been left in place, reducing municipal aid to the state’s wealthiest town, utilizing the surplus that is built into this budget or actually finding cuts that are less harmful.

Monday – Even with layoffs, “shared sacrifice” a joke as political establishment remains untouched…

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

Hundreds are no longer employed and the list of those who have lost their jobs and their health insurance is growing.  While the overall list of those receiving layoff notices is now over 3,000, the Governor’s Office has been extremely quiet about the far more sinister list of those whose layoff notice period is over and are now on the unemployment line.

Monday’s list will include some of the most dedicated state employees in Connecticut, people who helped design and implement the state’s successful “Birth to Three” programs that helps thousands of Connecticut infants and toddlers facing developmental issues.

Touted by politicians as a tremendous success, some of the very employees who made that success story a
reality now find themselves severed from their life’s work.

Meanwhile, not a single employee in the Legislative Branch of Government has even received a layoff notice let alone are waking up to unemployment.  A $70 million dollar legislative budget with over 400 full-time employees and rather than notify and lay off employees, legislative leaders decided to wait to see if the unions approved the clarified Malloy/SEBAC concession package.

And, as reported, the number of people working in the governor’s office has grown from 20 under Rell to 30 under Malloy and salaries for Malloy’s staff is up $661,429, or 41 percent, from before he took office.

In fact, three of his staff make as much or more than the Governor himself who makes $150,000.

Among his highest paid staff are the following;

Chief of Staff $150,000

Chief Advisor $160,000

Press Secretary $98,000

Chief Counsel: $160,000

Legal: $110,000

Legal:  $85,000

Leg. Liaison:   $85,000

Leg. Liaison:  $85,000

Policy Dir:      $98,000

Operations Dir:           $92,000

DC Office Dir:  $110,000

And down the street in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management, Malloy’s Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, Ben Barnes, is getting $187,000 a year. Barnes, with far less experience than his predecessor and a Masters Degree instead of a Juris Doctorate is paid $23,000 more.

Malloy’s other political appointees at OPM (the deputy and three assistant secretaries) make a combined $575,000 or $36,000 more than their four predecessors.

And here too political appointees are being completely spared from the nightmare that is facing so many other state employees and their families.

According to the latest state employee layoff report;

Governor’s Office:                  No layoffs

Lt. Governor’s Office             No layoffs

Attorney General                    No political appointees on layoff list, 4 clerical, two staff

Comptroller                             No political appointees on layoff list, 2 clerical, five staff

Secretary of the State           No political appointees on layoff list, 6 clerical, four staff

Treasurer                                 No Layoffs

Not all generals fight from the back…but many do.

Even the bully says bring in your lunch money OR I will beat you up…

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

Not, I will beat you up until you bring in your lunch money.

I’ve read some crazy stuff over the past six months as Connecticut meanders towards a budget resolution but the Hartford Courant takes the cake with their recent editorial entitled “State Employee Pink Slips Can’t Stop” and applauds the Governor’s decision to “continue with layoffs till unions vote.”

I actually had to read the commentary piece a few times before I could bring myself to believe what they were saying.

According to the Courant’s editorial,” If Mr. Malloy rescinded the layoffs now, the unions would have little incentive to vote on the agreement with dispatch” adding “ Mr. Malloy has to keep the pressure on by continuing apace with the layoffs plan.”

Wait, let me get this right.

If the Governor puts the layoffs on hold union members would be more likely to vote against the agreement?

The Courant’s editorial writers have no concept of how the collective bargaining process works and worse, are either ignorant or uncaring about the impact layoffs have on the families receiving those notices.

As a result of the Governor’s approach, another 600 Connecticut families (and maybe far more) will face the daunting challenge of becoming unemployed.

Gone will be their bi-weekly check that many use to pay their mortgage or day to day expenses.

Instead these families will have to turn to an overburdened Connecticut unemployment system.

Also gone is their health care insurance.

Beyond the incredible amount of wasted time and lowered productivity as both the state and the laid off employee spend their time filling out paperwork, these families – like thousands of other laid off Connecticut workers – will now be preparing for the school year by reducing their purchasing which in turn hurts Connecticut’s already weak economy.

But even putting all of that aside, the Courant editorial is disgustingly insulting.

We aren’t talking about telling a child that they must get their grades up before they can use their Xbox.

We are talking about hard working adults, who are trying to put food on the table, pay their bills, raise their families and remain productive citizens.

I’m not sure if Governor Malloy is writing editorials for the Hartford Courant or the Hartford Courant is writing speeches for Governor Malloy but their approach is cruel, mean-spirited and unnecessary.

Yes, everyone, including Connecticut’s state employees understands that if the Malloy/SEBAC deal fails – thousands of state employees will lose their jobs. In fact, 57 percent of those who cast their votes in round #1 voted yes and there is no reason to believe that the state employees won’t vote in favor again, now that some issues have been “clarified”.

There is simply no excuse for hurting hundreds, perhaps thousands of Connecticut residents.

Let’s face it. If the population being impacted was deemed a “valued” one, worthy of being treated with humanity, neither the Governor nor the Courant would be say “whatever you do, don’t stop punching them until they hand over their money.”

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