An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker

1 Comment

Editors Note:  Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the podium to declare victory in November, Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education – including the appointee representing the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut Chapter – voted to request funding to open eight more charter schools in Connecticut.  The vote was unanimous, with absolutely no discussion of how to make existing charter schools accountable for their activities or the fact that Connecticut’s public schools are underfunded and additional funding will not be forthcoming anytime soon since Malloy’s fiscal strategies have left the state facing a large budget deficit this year and a massive $1.4 billion budget shortfall next year.

With that as background, fellow education blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has written another “MUST READ” piece about the Malloy administration’s utter failure to oversee Connecticut’s charter schools.  Wendy Lecker’s piece appears in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.  The entire commentary piece can be found here: An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools

One aspect of the Common Core regime imposed on Connecticut schools by our political leaders is an emphasis, some say over-emphasis, on informational texts, based on the claim that reading more non-fiction will somehow make students “college and career ready.” While our leaders force children to read more non-fiction, it appears that they are the ones with trouble facing facts.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.

The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.

Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.

Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”

Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.

Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.

These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner school into the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.

After this inexcusable negligence by the board, one would hope that the board become more responsible stewards, calling for a moratorium on charters and turning their focus to devising sorely needed accountability for charter schools before any more public money is wasted and any more children’s lives are affected.

Yet, after the revelations about Sharpe’s crimes and lies, the board rushed through the charter application for Booker T. Washington school, originally intended for FUSE, without any investigation into the dubious record of the new leader or the questionable ties between the school and its contractor. In November, the State Board unanimously voted to open eight new charter schools, without any regard to whether there are state funds to support these schools.

And now Gov. Dannel Malloy approved $5 million dollars in taxpayer funds to be paid to “assist charter schools with capital expenses,” including helping privately run charters pay down debt on buildings they own. In the aftermath of the misuse of public funds by a charter for real estate shenanigans, the first thing Malloy does is give charters more money for real estate?

This administration and State Board of Education have an unacceptable “anything goes” approach to charter schools. This willful blindness must stop. Anything short of a moratorium on charters and specific, new clear and strict rules on charter approval and oversight is a continuation of the board’s dereliction of its duty to Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

Governor Dan “Transparency” Malloy announces negative news late on Friday – again

3 Comments

Dannel Malloy ran on a promise that he would make Connecticut State Government “open and transparent.”

But that claim has become a joke over the past four years.

Time and time again, Malloy and his administration have released information they deem negative on Friday afternoons or leading up to holidays.

In the night before the night before Christmas, the Malloy administration announced up to 12 percent pay raises for his top aides, and even then, failed to reveal that Malloy has signed an order guaranteeing his political appointees automatic raises in the future.

Now comes the news of a second round of budget cuts that begins to address the large state budget deficit that Malloy claimed did not exist until ten days after Election Day.

In this case, as the CT Mirror reports, “Connecticut’s public colleges and universities – a frequent target of governors’ emergency cuts in the past because of the large operating grants they receive in the state budget – sustained a $6.2 million cut on Friday. And that’s after losing $6.5 million during the first round of emergency cuts Malloy ordered in mid-November.”

CT Newsjunkie highlights the latest round of cuts noting, “Second Round Budget Cuts Hits Disabled Hardest.”

The largest cut of all, “was aimed at the Department of Developmental Services, which lost $8.4 million.  And more than half those funds came from employment and other support programs for people with disabilities, or from volunteer services.”

Yup, when in doubt go after the most vulnerable people in our society.

Oh, and why drop the news late Friday afternoon?

As CT Newsjunkie noted,

“In his statement, Barnes said the administration held off on releasing the list of cuts to reporters until Friday afternoon in order to meet with a Republican legislative leader during a public, mid-day lunch.

“We waited to release this until after meeting with the Republican leadership, in anticipation of their suggestions,” Barnes said.”

You can read more at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/second_round_of_2015_budget_cuts_hits_disabled_hardest/  and http://ctmirror.org/2015/01/23/governors-budget-cuts-again-hit-social-services-universities-and-courts/

Will Malloy decouple Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair Common Core SBAC Test?

No Comments

Last January, facing a tough re-election campaign, Governor Dannel Malloy and his pro-corporate education reform industry allies threw teachers a bone by postponing – for one year –the requirement that towns use the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test results as part of the state’s mandatory teacher evaluation program.

Malloy’s 2014 announcement maintained the requirement that the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test results be counted for nearly a quarter of each teacher’s evaluation, but he agreed to postpone the requirement that the test results be used as part of a teacher’s evaluation until the 2015-16 school year.

However, as was reported at the time, Malloy went out of his way to make sure that everyone understood that he was not “backing off his support for the teacher evaluation system or the Common Core.”

Those supporting Malloy’s education reform initiative were quick to add that the delay in using the corrupt Common Core standardized tests scores shouldn’t be for more than a year.

Jeffrey Villar, the executive director of the corporate-funded Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) was quoted by the Hartford Courant saying that standardized test scores needed to be part of any program that measured teacher performance starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

Villar explained, “Moving backward would be detrimental to our students and we want to make sure that we are globally competitive…”

Malloy’s action also received praise from the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions who heralded the move as an important step in the right direction.

In fact, the press release issued by the State Department of Education announcing the one year delay even included quotes from CEA President Sheila Cohen and AFT-CT President Melodie Peters.

CEA President Cohen was quoted as saying, “Today’s PEAC changes will foster a new climate that moves away from the rigidity and moves toward the healthy flexibility that our schools communities sorely need…,” while AFT-CT President Peters added, “With PEAC’s approval of new flexibility options, our state’s children will be the primary beneficiaries of this course correction.”

But the one year delay is quickly coming to an end and the unfairness of the Common Core SBAC test has become even clearer with the disturbing news that the Malloy administration supported setting the Common Core SBAC test “goal level,” at a point that is designed to ensure that approximately 70 percent of students fail to reach goal.

If the Governor or legislature do not move quickly to eliminate the expensive Common Core SBAC testing scam or decouple the use of the SBAC results from the state’s teacher evaluation system, Connecticut’s public schools will be forced to give the inappropriate Common Core SBAC test this spring and towns will be mandated to use the results from that unfair test to measure the “effectiveness” of their teachers.

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

24 Comments

Teachers, Parents, Public School Advocates, it is probably best to sit down for this one….

That bizarre and disturbing statement was the headline in a piece recently posted by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) following this week’s meeting of a Connecticut State Department of Education Working Group.

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

“Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.”

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

The Common Core Standardized Testing Scam, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium (SBAC), is actually designed to ensure that about 70 percent of Connecticut students fail. [Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! and Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster and A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker]

Not only is the Common Core testing system created to generate the false impression that Connecticut and the nation’s public education system is failing, but by tying the Common Core SBAC test results to the new inept, illogical and counter-productive Connecticut Teacher Evaluation System, the incredibly expensive “golden nugget” of the corporate education reform industry aims to denigrate teachers and blow apart what is left of the teaching profession.

But despite this truth, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration remain wedded to the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core standardized testing program and a teacher evaluation process based on the results of those tests.

As the CEA’s January 21 2014 blog post explains,

“Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May.

[…]

This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.”

The CEA goes on to report that at this week’s Working Group Meeting,

“Members of the working group [said they] are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.”

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

It was Governor Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education who joined the other state education chiefs who voted to set the “cut score” so that 70 percent of Connecticut’s public school students would be deemed failures.

It was Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education that remain committed to linking the unfair test to the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

And it is because Malloy’s complete unwillingness to de-couple the Common Core SBAC test results from the teacher evaluation system that teachers across Connecticut are being coerced to teach to the very Common Cores Standardized SBAC test that their students will fail – and those failing scores will be used to “evaluate” the teachers.

The CEA article adds,

“Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.”

The article also noted that Joseph Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and one the most vocal supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiative, said the results from the Common Core SBAC tests could, “scare the hell out of parents.” He apparently added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

“The new testing program is still in “the developmental stage”???

“A level of precision that it does not have”????

These two individuals and everyone else involved in the discussions surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing debacle know perfectly well that the SBAC test is designed to fail 70 percent of the students and that the SBAC test will be used as a significant factor in determining which Connecticut teachers are deemed to be “good’ and which will be deemed “not good.”

Instead of raising these “concerns” at a State Department of Education Working Group, the CEA, AFT and the other Connecticut organization purportedly committed to Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools – such as CABE and CAPSS – should be demanding that the Common Core be halted, the Common Core Tests eliminated that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system should be fully de-coupled from the SBAC test or any other standardized tests.

As if all of this wasn’t clear enough, in what is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and shocking comments to come out of the Malloy administration yet, the representative of the State Department of Education told the SDE working group,  “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

OMG, What the____?????

Malloy, with the support of the Connecticut legislature is the one that MANDATED the expensive and wasteful Common Core SBAC tests be given and MANDATED that the Common Core SBAC test scores be used to evaluate teachers.

As the CEA post adds,

“Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores)…”

The real problem is that the Common Core Standards were developed without the proper participation of educators and experts in child development.

Furthermore, as has been widely reported, some of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and the foundation of the Common Cores Standards are demanding that students immediately perform at a level that is at least two grade levels above what students have been learning.

The Common Core Test (SBAC) also discriminates against English Language Learners and students who require special education services…not to mention, as noted, that the absurd and warped system is actually designed with a pass/fail rate that will ensure that nearly 7 in 10 students fail.

The real problem with the entire situation lies with the Common Core itself and the way in which the Common Core standardized tests have been designed to undermine the stability of public education in America.

The solution is that the leadership of the two major teacher unions, and all of the others committed to public education, should be retreating from their support of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Yet even now, while the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers raise concerns and call for action, their fundamental position of support for the Common Core remains intact.

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

“NEA believes the Common Core State Standards have the potential to provide access to a complete and challenging education for all children. Broad range cooperation in developing these voluntary standards provides educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”

At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers says,

That if implemented carefully and with the needed supports and resources, these new standards will help improve education for all students.  At last July’s  AFT Convention, “AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. “

But the Common Core Standards are inappropriate, unfair, and discriminatory.  The Common Core standardized tests are inexorably linked to those Common Core Standards, and until we set aside the Common Core and the Common Core testing, our nation’s children, teachers and our entire system of public education system will remain the primary target for those who seek to destroy public education for their own financial and political gain.

And when it comes to the relationship between the Common Core, Common Core testing and the teacher evaluation systems, those who are responsible for speaking up for our children, our teachers and our schools simply say enough is enough and corporate education reform initiatives need to be dismissed and real action taken to reduce the barriers to academic success – poverty, language barriers, and unmet special education needs to name a few.

Perhaps the leaders of the CEA, AFT, CABE and CAPSS should also read or re-read the commentary piece published last year by Wendy Lecker, one of the state’s leading public education advocates.

Wendy Lecker’s piece entitled, “Solution to failed tests is not more tests,” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, and she wrote;

Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”

Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.

However, there is an even larger issue at play. Will the addition of more tests in a teacher’s evaluation help us measure whether a teacher is effective?

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Connecticut’s public schools must prepare children “to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

Thus, we want our children to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in college and in life. We want teachers who will help our children develop these skills.

Standardized tests have no bearing on college success. Moreover, although standardized tests are supposed to measure cognitive skills, research from MIT has shown that increasing test scores does not increase cognitive skills.

Even more striking is that cognitive skills, while important, are not the most important skills in determining success either in college or in life after college. Research has shown again and again that non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, taking responsibility, and listening skills are more critical.

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than two percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under ten percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.

Jackson also found that a teacher’s supposed effect on test scores is not related to how well that teacher can improve non-cognitive skills.

Moreover, a new statement by the American Statistical Association reminds us that ranking teachers based on test scores does not even work for measuring their effect on cognitive skills.

ASA notes that teachers account for 1-14 percent of the variability in student standardized test scores. The majority of variability in test scores results from “system-level conditions”; meaning everything affecting a student outside the teacher’s control: the child’s socio-economic status, parental background, language barriers, medical issues, student mobility, etc. Rating systems cannot eliminate the “noise” caused by these other factors.

ASA further states that test scores at best “predict only performance on the test.” This conclusion confirms Jackson’s results, i.e that tests cannot predict how well a student will succeed in school or life.

In the context of this evidence, what does the PEAC change mean?

By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.

Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school.

Meaningful evaluations systems can be developed, but relying on faulty measures is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

YES!  Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

Just how deceitful can Malloy be on Connecticut’s budget deficit – here’s how!

8 Comments

For those who want a snap-shot about how political power has corrupted Connecticut’s budget process – this is the post.  It is a lengthy article but it provides readers with an extremely important understanding of the level of deceit surrounding Connecticut’s fiscal health.

The CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf is the state’s leading reporter when it comes to the Connecticut State Budget.  His article in last night’s CT Mirror is entitled, “Malloy to order a 2nd round of emergency cuts as deficit swells.”  Christine Stuart, of the CT Newsjunkie, also covers the latest news in a piece entitled, “Second Round of 2015 Budget Cuts On The Way.”

As Keith Phaneuf explains;

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will order his second round of emergency spending cuts in two months as the current fiscal year’s budget deficit reached a new high Tuesday, approaching $121 million.

Eroding tax receipts and other revenues – first outlined in a report last week – added $39 million to a deficit that stood at $32 million on Jan. 1.

But the governor’s budget agency, the Office of Policy and Management, also disclosed Tuesday in its monthly budget report to the comptroller that “deficiencies” — likely cost overruns in various agencies — have grown by another $50 million. And most overspending, by far, involves Medicaid.”

So, immediately after the election, the Malloy administration announced that a state budget deficit of approximately $100 million had suddenly appeared.  In response to the news, Governor Malloy identified well in excess of $50 million in cuts to various programs.

Now, a month later, and despite those cuts, Connecticut’s budget deficit has jumped to over $120 million.

In order to fully understand the scheme that was instituted by Governor Malloy and his operation, you must carefully follow the bouncing ball…

Connecticut State Law (Section 4-85 of the Connecticut State Statutes) requires that if the State Budget Deficit exceeds one percent of the appropriated budget, the Governor MUST submit a deficit-mitigation plan to the Connecticut General Assembly.  Any proposed cuts in excess of what the Governor is allowed to implement on his own (that is cuts in excess of three per cent of the total appropriation from any fund or more than five per cent of any individual line-item appropriation) requires the approval of the General Assembly.

In order to ensure that there is some degree of honest oversight, it is the State Comptroller and NOT the Governor or the Office of Policy and Management who has the legal duty to determine if a shortfall exists and whether it is in excess of one percent of the general fund appropriation.

To facilitate the Comptroller’s responsibilities, on the 20th of each month, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (Ben Barnes) provides the State Comptroller (Kevin Lembo) with a letter summarizing all the issues related to state revenue and expenditures.  The OPM Secretary has the legal obligation to accurately report whether state revenues are up or down from the previous month and whether any state agency is over-spending its budget allotment.

The Comptroller has his own budget experts and both OPM and the Comptroller are also supposed to look at the information provided by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis to guide their assessments.

Throughout the recent gubernatorial campaign, Governor Malloy constantly and consistently declared that there was no state deficit, nor would there be a state deficit this year (or next year).

Two weeks before Election Day, OPM Secretary Barnes issued his mandatory monthly letter (October 20, 2014) informing State Comptroller Lembo that revenues where on track and that no state agency was spending or would be spending more than their budget.

Although Lembo used his “Letter of the First” to warn about the problems that lay ahead, he certified on November 1, 2014 – five days before the Election – that there was no state budget deficit.

However, the notion that in a General Fund Budget of $17.5 billion, every single line-item was perfect and there would be no overspending in any area was beyond absurd.  Traditionally state budget overspending is in the range of $100-$200 million or more.

But with Election Day approaching, Malloy and his operatives stuck by their claim that there was absolutely no state deficit.

However, on October 31, 2014 Keith Phaneuf reported, “Nonpartisan analysts tracking $84M in potential cost overruns in state budget.”

Phaneuf wrote, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration isn’t projecting any troubles for the current state budget, but the legislature’s nonpartisan analysts have identified almost $84 million in potential problems. The Office of Fiscal Analysis reported “deficiencies” or potential cost-overruns in five areas. Nearly half of the deficiencies, about $40 million, are in the Department of Social Services. Another $27 million involve health care for state employees and retirees. Comptroller Kevin Lembo warned last May that a shortfall in this area was likely because of a projected surge in retirements among state prison guards.”

But with Election Day so close, and the election hanging in the balance, Malloy and his campaign utterly rejected the notion that the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis was correct and they were wrong.

But day’s after Malloy won re-election, the Malloy administration began to divulge the truth.

Eight days after Election Day, Phaneuf reported, “Malloy to order emergency cuts, restrict hires to counter impending deficit” writing,

“To reverse an impending state budget deficit, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has told agencies it will order emergency spending cuts and freeze all-but-critical hiring…In a memo sent late Wednesday to all agency heads, the governor’s budget director, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes also reinforced existing caps on overtime work.”

Nine days after Election Day, Phaneuf reported, “It’s official: CT’s budget is $89 million to $100 million in the red,”adding,

“The state budget received its first official deficit reports Friday when nonpartisan legislative analysts and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration projected shortfalls ranging from $89 million to just under $100 million.

“And while the administration issued the larger of the two deficit forecasts — $99.5 million — budget director Benjamin Barnes, insisted it quickly would be closed, and reasserted Malloy’s insistence that tax hikes are not an option.

“This is consistent with what the administration has been saying,” Barnes said, “that no matter what the projections are, we will manage and administer the budget so that there will be no deficit. It is important to remember that this is a prediction of what would happen now and in the future should we do nothing — and doing nothing is not an option.”

The whole situation revealed the grim political gamesmanship in which Malloy and his advisers were engaged.

Before Election Day – On October 20, 2014 – the Malloy administration’s official letter to Comptroller Lembo said there was no state deficit.

After the election – On November 20, 2014 – the Malloy administration’s official letter to Comptroller Lembo admitted that there was a $100 million state deficit.

And the deceit continued…

On December 20, 2014 OPM Secretary Barnes bragged that the $70 million in cuts instituted by the Malloy administration meant that the State deficit was down below $40 million.  According to Keith Phaneuf’s report at the time, “Malloy’s budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, also warned in his last forecast on Dec. 20 that no major growth in state revenues was anticipated at this time. But Barnes also did not project any decline in the state tax revenues and, equally important, Barnes did not identify any additional areas of overspending.

And yet thirty days later – On January 20, 2014 – comes the “stunning” news that revenue has declined and “new” areas of overspending have suddenly been identified.

Now the Malloy’s administration suddenly admits the state deficit has jumped from less than $40 million to almost $121 million, despite the $70 million in cuts – because state revenue is actually down an additional $39 million and state agencies have spent $50  million more than authorized (mostly in the area of Medicaid).

Before the Election – no state deficit.

Within sixty days after the election – that overall problem has grown by nearly $200 million.

The fact is that every state agency has professional staff monitoring their budget on a daily basis.

The Office of Policy and Management has an entire office of professional staff monitoring the state budget.

It is beyond inconceivable that Governor Malloy and his team suddenly discovered the sudden decline in revenue and yet another significant and growing problem with overspending.

But instead of telling the truth, Governor Malloy, his administration and his campaign decided that their best strategy was to lie about the existence of the state deficit and the magnitude of that deficit.

Was their rationale due exclusively to the fact that they wanted to make it seem like Governor Malloy was a good fiscal administrator?

No, the real issue is more complex.

Recall that this blog post begins with the statement,

Connecticut State Law (Section 4-85 of the Connecticut State Statutes) requires that if the State Budget Deficit exceeds 1% of the appropriated budget, the Governor MUST submit a deficit-mitigation plan to the Connecticut General Assembly.  Any proposed cuts in excess of what the Governor is allowed to implement on his own (that is cuts in excess of three per cent of the total appropriation from any fund or more than five per cent of any individual line-item appropriation) requires the approval of the General Assembly.

The fundamental problem facing Governor Malloy and his political spin operation was more than simply the truth that a state deficit existed.

The problem was that if they had told the truth – the whole truth – it would have been clear that the size of the budget deficit was greater than $170 million and that put it in excess of the one percent trigger that would have, in turn, required Malloy to develop a public Deficit Mitigation Plan laying out where all the cuts would be taken to eliminate the entire deficit.

While Malloy was proclaiming that if he was re-elected, there would be no tax increases, no cuts in vital programs and no need to approach the state employee unions about concessions, the last thing Malloy and his political team could afford was not only revealing that there was a deficit, but actually detailing where the cuts would take place.

The key constituencies that Malloy needed to win are those that are most likely to be alienated by the type of cuts Malloy was going to implement to balance the budget.

Keeping the fact that there was a state deficit secret was important to Malloy’s campaign strategy, but even more importantly, the Malloy campaign needed to make sure that under no circumstance did anyone discover that the projected deficit actually exceeded one percent of the general fund.

Had that been known, Malloy would have to have laid out an entire plan – a plan that would have been seen as devastating to the very people Malloy needed to win, so it was necessary to stay silent in order to trick them into casting their vote for him.

For that very reason, even when the news of the deficit started to be released (safely after the election), Malloy had to ensure that that it was revealed slowly… in phases… so that it never exceeded that $170 million trigger.

First came the news of a $100 million deficit, which he claimed he “knocked” down with a round of cuts.

Now comes the news of a larger deficit…which he says will bring along a second round of cuts

But holding the news until after the election, and then manipulating when the truth was revealed, Malloy not only made it through Election Day, but has managed to avoid having to produce the required Deficit Mitigation Plan altogether.

Next month Malloy will be announcing his proposed budget for Fiscal Years 2016-2017, but right now he is doing the “happy dance,” knowing that he successfully manipulated the law, and thus was able to trick the people of Connecticut … BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER ELECTION DAY.

And that is why these past two months are a case study about how political power has corrupted Connecticut’s budget process.

Where’s the praise for Connecticut’s public education?

2 Comments

James Mulholland is a longtime Hartford teacher and public education advocate. The following commentary piece was first published in the CT Mirror.  You can read the full piece at: http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-wheres-the-praise-for-connecticuts-public-education/

Where’s the praise for Connecticut’s public education? by James Mulholland;

Connecticut’s economy is booming with a job base that has not seen such growth in 17 years.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for the 10th straight month, U.S. payrolls grew by more than 200,000, the longest streak in nearly 20 years.  Many factors contribute to the recovering economy, but one factor is conspicuously absent from media reports and political discourse: public schools and the dedicated teachers who work in them.

Why the oversight?  Maintaining a competitive workforce has often been a primary reason for school reform for decades.

In 1983, A Nation at Risk stated, “The public understands the primary importance of education as the foundation for a satisfying life, an enlightened and civil society, a strong economy, and a secure nation.”  In 2006, President Bush announced the creation of the American Competitiveness Initiative.  The initiative asserted, “The bedrock of America’s competitiveness is a well-educated and skilled workforce.”

More recently, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced his 2012 agenda for education legislation by stating in a press release, schools “that are missing the mark are causing serious damage to Connecticut’s next generation workforce — and our overall economic competitiveness.”

School reformers who assert that failing public schools are the cause of economic deterioration tell this narrative time and time again, but it’s a false narrative supported primarily by standardized tests scores, the validity of which has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism.

One yardstick for measuring our economic health against that of other nations is, curiously, not an economic one, it’s PISA: the Program of International Student Assessment.

PISA is an international assessment given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries every three years.  The most recent assessment was in 2012 and the next cycle of PISA will take place in 2015. The scores of the United States on this assessment are never very good and are often used to convince the American public that its public school system is failing.

For example, in 2012, the U.S. average score in mathematics literacy was lower than the average for the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and lower than 29 other education systems. (Connecticut’s rankings are better than those of the United States overall.) The countries of Japan, Vietnam and the Slovak Republic all scored higher than the United States.

Reporting of the scores is often accompanied by a lot of hand wringing that PISA scores reflect our national economic health; like an oracle, mediocre scores are thought to predict our nation’s economic demise.  Even the New York Times chimed in: “The lessons from those high-performing countries can no longer be ignored by the United States if it hopes to remain competitive.” (New York Times, “Why Other Countries Teach Better”, Dec.17, 2013)

With such poor student outcomes that supposedly reveal a failing education system, one would think the U.S. would have subsequent poor rankings on economic measures, but this is not the case.

Each year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index ranks approximately 140 countries for their overall competitiveness.  In 2012-13, the United States was ranked seventh, ahead of Japan, the Slovak Republic and Vietnam, which were ranked 10th, 71st and 75th respectively.

However, when we look at the 2012 PISA mathematics scores, Vietnam ranked just behind Germany.  With those PISA scores, one would think that Vietnam would have a much higher competitiveness ranking than 75th. In 2013-2014, the United States ranked fifth on the Competitive Index and, in 2014-2015, the United States ranked third, ahead of Finland and Germany.  Only Switzerland and Singapore had a higher ranking.

School reform advocates often conflate PISA scores, and standardized tests scores in general, with economic prosperity and security.  However, the scores are unrelated and do not indicate the strength of our economy.

Standardized test scores are too often used as part of a marketing campaign to mislead the public and discredit the public schools. Those who use them in this way like to remind us of the important role schools play in the economy, but praising schools when the economy is thriving does not fit their narrative of failing schools.

The silence is deafening.

Greenwich Yalie prepares to Save Hartford?

1 Comment

Although Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra has been one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s biggest supporters and communities of color make up 85% of the population of Connecticut’s Capital City, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Greenwich raised, Yale and Oxford educated General Counsel, Luke Bronin, recently resigned his position as Malloy’s top lawyer to announce that he was “strongly considering” a run against Segarra in this year’s Hartford mayoral election.

What makes Bronin’s move so bizarre is that, as CTLatinoNews recently observed, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Governor Dannel Malloy are considered to be “longtime allies.”

Mayor Segarra has been particularly supportive of Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative and the Latino Mayor of Hartford has been at Malloy’s side throughout the Governor’s first term, including during Malloy’s competitive re-election campaign this past fall.

While Malloy calls Luke Bronin, “one of my closest advisers,” Bronin only arrived in Hartford in 2013 when he was appointed by Malloy to serve as General Counsel in the Governor’s Office.  It was at that time that Bronin, his wife and children moved from Washington D.C. to Hartford.

To say the Latino community is surprised and concerned by Bronin’s move would be an understatement.  Writing for CTLatinoNews, Bill Sarno recently reported,

For Latino leaders around the state, the announcement that the governor’s former top legal aide Luke Bronin is challenging incumbent Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra for the Democratic nomination is raising red flags as to where the governor’s loyalty lies.  Not because of Bronin they say, but because of Governor  Malloy’s current stance of not getting involved in this race, which is being viewed as a quiet nod to his friend and as a betrayal to the state’s Latinos.”

The CT Hispanic Democratic Caucus is challenging the governor’s silence on the matter and it seems the gloves are off.  Its chair, Joseph Rodriguez, said, “We just had a tough statewide election and were successful because we rallied behind the governor, as did the mayor.  It will be unfortunate and a slap in the face to Mayor Segarra, if the Governor chooses not to partake in this primary.”

According to the CTLatinoNews article,

“[A]attempts to clarify Malloy’s position were referred by the governor’s staff to state party leaders who said that it is too early to comment on a possible primary that it is nine months away.  ‘At this time, the governor is focused on governing Connecticut. And when the time comes, the State Party will support the Democratic candidate for mayor,’ said Michael Mandell, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party.”

When Bronin announced that he was leaving his post as Malloy’s top attorney he told the Hartford Courant, “Many fellow Hartford residents have reached out and encouraged me to run for mayor and I’m strongly considering it.”

In addition to graduating with a philosophy degree from Yale University and a Law Degree from Yale Law School, Bronin, who is 35, is a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford University in England.  Bronin is also “an accomplished singer and songwriter” and was the lead singer for a country band called Old No. 7.

Before joining the Malloy administration, Bronin worked for the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2009 to 2013, finishing up as an assistant secretary of the treasury where his duties included managing policies related to terrorist financing.

According to his on-line LinkedIn biography, for nine months of the time he worked for the Treasury Department (from late 2010 through early 2011), Bronin was located at “ISAF HQ” in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The oblique reference to ISAF is apparently related to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a “NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan,” whose mission was reportedly to train members of the Afghan National Security Force, assist with the rebuilding of the Afghan government and engage various insurgent groups.

Before his time in the Middle East, Bronin spent seven months as an International Affairs Fellow in India for the Council on Foreign Relations and previous to that, after graduating from Yale Law School, Bronin worked as the Chief of Staff to the President & COO of the Hartford Insurance Company.

While Bronin contemplates a run for Mayor of Hartford, he has landed a job at the law firm of Hinckley Allen, a firm originally out of Providence, Rhode Island but with offices in New York City, Albany, Boston and in other New England cities.  Less than two years ago, the law firm of Levy &  Droney merged into Hinkley Allen.

As for the issue of running for Mayor while holding down his new job, Bronin told the Courant that, “The firm … has made clear that they support my commitment to public service and the Hartford community.”

Bronin, and his wife, Sara Bronin, who is also a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of the Yale Law School, moved to Hartford in 2013 and renovated a brownstone behind the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

Sara Bronin, an architect and lawyer, teaches at the University of Connecticut law school and is the managing principal of Voladizo LLC, a Connecticut consulting firm she founded in 2012.   Her biography explains that, “Sara Bronin is one of the country’s leading experts in the areas of sustainable design, renewable energy, urban development, and historic preservation.

Sara Bronin was appointed to the Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission in 2013 by Mayor Segarra and became the Commission’s Chair in August 2014, where she is playing a leadership role in the development of the controversial Hartford stadium project.

Meanwhile, back in Connecticut politics, the CTLatinoNews article reported that Democratic Latino leaders are angry that Malloy’s political operatives are claiming that Malloy “can’t support a candidate at this time.”

The CTLatinoNews article adds,

“The notion that the governor can’t support a  candidate at this time is ‘simply untrue’ [CT Hispanic Democratic Caucus Chair] Rodriguez said.   Adding, ‘He gets involved when it benefits him.   Recently, he supported William Tong, his good friend who had not been endorsed for the nomination, but was a Democratic candidate in the primary.’   Malloy also supported then, Senator Harp before the primary.   While she was the party’s nominee, there were three other democrats vying for that seat.  This tells me the governor picks and chooses the municipal Democratic elections he wants to become involved in.’”

Hartford State Representative Minnie Gonzalez has also weighed in on the issue, telling CTLatinoNews, “Segarra was out there for him (Malloy) but it seems the governor is not supporting our mayor…It was Latinos that got him elected four years ago and again last year.”

The politics behind the politics of the situation in Hartford will undoubtedly become clearer in the months ahead as Luke Bronin moves forward with his possible run for mayor in Hartford.

You can read the complete CTLatinoNews article at: http://ctlatinonews.com/2015/01/18/latino-democratic-leaders-challenge-malloy-on-his-silence-in-supporting-segarra/

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

8 Comments

Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

OMG!  You mean Connecticut really does face a budget crisis?

7 Comments

Keith Phaneuf’s lead article in yesterday’s CT Mirror reads, “Malloy doesn’t get predicted revenue boost, big deficits remain.”

The news…

“A new analysts’ report Thursday found tax receipts and other revenues still likely to grow as originally anticipated last summer – when major deficits were projected for the next two fiscal years.

That means the governor — who has called those earlier estimates “extremely conservative” – still must close shortfalls topping $1.3 billion next fiscal year and $1.4 billion in 2016-17. Malloy, whose budget plan is due to legislators on Feb. 18, repeatedly has ruled out tax hikes.”

A political campaign dedicated to lying to Connecticut’s voters is in the past, and with the release of the “Consensus Revenue estimates,” Malloy’s Budget Director, Ben Barnes, announced “The revenue estimates for the biennium will be the basis for the Governor’s budget proposal.”

So despite a year of constantly denying the very real looming deficit, the Malloy administration finally admits that the dire “predictions” produced by the Independent Office of Fiscal Analysis are true.

Throughout his re-election campaign, Malloy claimed that not only would tax receipts grow by about seven percent during the next two years, but as the CT Mirror recalls, “Connecticut could expect more, according to the governor. And the revenue from that extra growth would make the deficit relatively easy to manage, provided municipal aid was kept flat and agencies did not receive inflationary spending increases.”

Is the news a surprising development?  Hardly…

Here are just a handful of the budget related posts on Wait, What? over the past year;

10-24-14: Can we have a little honesty about Connecticut’s state budget problems?

No, because – That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!  

Rather than honestly confront the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget and the shortfall of more than $4.8 billion over the next three years, the two major party candidates for governor have decided to simply lie their way to Election Day in the hopes that voters will not discover the magnitude of the fiscal problems Connecticut will face over the next few years.

10-1-14: Forgive them, for they know not what they do – Not!

Both Malloy and Foley say that, if elected, they will not raise taxes, not cut vital services not reduce the state workforce and will not need to negotiate contract changes with state employees.

The notion that such campaign promises could be met is not only laughable but it is a sad commentary on how far from the truth Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates will stray in their ongoing efforts to get elected.

8-13-14: State Deficit?  What State Deficit?”

In a recent interview with the CT Mirror, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy said,

“We really don’t have a deficit.”

However, if the truth be told, according to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the State of Connecticut continues to face a monumental fiscal crisis.  In fact, here are the projections from the experts for the fiscal years following this November’s election;

Fiscal Year 2016:  A $1.4 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Fiscal Year 2017:  A $1.6 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Fiscal Year 2018:  A $1.8 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Malloy says the Office of Fiscal Analysis is wrong, although he uses their numbers when he complains that he inherited a $3.7 billion state budget deficit from former Governor Rell.

[…]

Meanwhile, the cornerstone of Malloy’s campaign is his claim that he won’t propose or accept any tax increases during the next four years, he won’t need to renege on his deal with the state employee unions nor will he have to ask for further concessions from state employees and he won’t cut vital services here in Connecticut.

8-5-14 All is well in the Land of Oz

“We really don’t have a deficit…I know that’s hard to believe.” (Dan Malloy)

Malloy tells the CT Mirror;

  • Connecticut doesn’t have a deficit
  • There will be no cuts to key services
  • There is no need to discuss concessions with state employees
  • He will not propose or accept any tax increase during his four years as governor – even to shift the tax burden by making the wealthy pay their fair share so Connecticut can reduce the disproportionate pressure on the middle class.

And how is Malloy going to achieve this incredible feat of having more services, no additional taxes and no deficits? As the CT Mirror explains, 

“The governor said he’s confident that both the nation’s and Connecticut’s economy are on the cusp of a major surge.”

7-14-14:  Connecticut deserves a government that will tell its citizens the truth

As the CT Mirror explains in the series on where the candidates stand of the state budget, Pelto: State budget deficit reveals a broken fiscal system; 

“Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto doesn’t have any trouble standing out from the rest of the 2014 gubernatorial candidates. For Pelto, a $1.4 billion shortfall – more than four years after the last recession ended – typifies a broken fiscal system that threatens Connecticut’s schools, state workers’ pensions, and middle class families.”

6-6-14:  Look there goes a flying pig!

The truth is that Connecticut is facing a projected state budget deficit of at least $1.3 billion dollars for the fiscal year that begins after this year’s gubernatorial election.

But today Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy boldly announced… “We don’t face a deficit.”

In a late afternoon CT Newsjunkie story entitled, Malloy Dismisses Deficit Projections, Won’t Ask for More Concessions, the Governor not only explained that the deficit was going to disappear but he took the opportunity to repeat his iron-clad pledge that he will not propose or accept any new taxes in a second term.

As Malloy explained, “There will not be a tax increase.”

And to top things off, Malloy said that he was ruling out asking state workers for more concessions should he be re-elected as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer.

While the Governor’s hyperbole is impressive, there is not a state employee, retirees, public school teacher or retired teacher, let alone a public official or taxpayer who believes that Malloy’s portrayal of reality is accurate.

Hearing about Malloy’s remarks, one can’t help but dwell on that classic idiom about pigs flying or the one about Hell freezing over.

5-6-14:  Malloy’s “NO TAX” pledge will send Connecticut into the abyss

As a result of Governor Malloy’s gimmick ridden state budget, the candidate who wins the 2014 gubernatorial election will take office facing a projected state budget deficit of $1.3 billion or more.

By using one-time revenues for on-going expenses, purposefully under-funding various government programs and utilizing a series of budget gimmicks, the new 2014-2015 state budget is just about as irresponsible as they come.

The moment Malloy signs it into law he will be creating a budget deficit for this year and a catastrophe in the budget that will follow.

But as irresponsible as Malloy’s latest budget is, nothing compares to the damage that will come with his recent “NO TAX” pledge should he be elected to a second term.  Malloy sealed his fate when he recently told reporters that he would, “neither seek nor accept any further tax increases” in a second term.

Pandering to phantom voters, Malloy has engaged in a George Bush “read my lips” moment.

By making an “ironclad” NO TAX increase pledge, Malloy joins the Republican candidates in assuring that the people of Connecticut must live with a tax system that crushes the middle class while coddling the rich.

4-30-14:  Post-election state budget deficit projected to be an incredible $1.4 billion

As Wait, What? readers have been reading for months, the Malloy administration has been painting a rosy picture of Connecticut’s state budget situation thanks to the unparalleled use of budget gimmicks and inflated revenue estimates.

Readers have been repeatedly informed that Malloy’s irresponsible approach to budgeting would leave Connecticut with a $1 billion state budget deficit in each of the three years following the November election.

Based on the latest revenue projects, yesterday’s Wait, What? post increased that projected budget deficit to at least $1.2 billion and this afternoon, the Malloy administration, along with the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, announced that the person who is elected to be governor in November will face a budget deficit of close to “$1.4 billion or 7.4 percent of annual operating costs.”

And the list of articles warning about the fiscal realities facing the state goes on and on and on.

Whether you read Keith Phaneuf’s pieces in the CT Mirror or the news analysis and commentary pieces here at Wait, What?, the message has been the same….Governor Malloy and his administration have been lying to the votes of Connecticut.

And now, months after the campaign is over and just weeks before Malloy presents his 2015 state budget proposal, the governor’s budget office finally admits – Connecticut is facing a budget crisis well in excess of $1 billion.

Go Figure…

State Contractors can’t make political donations – oh – except to benefit Malloy

4 Comments

The driving force behind Connecticut’s successful effort to reform its campaign finance system ten years ago was the revelation that disgraced Governor John Rowland had used his position to solicit gifts and campaign donations from state contractors and others who directly benefited from the expenditure of taxpayer funds.

Following its passage in 2005, Connecticut’s new campaign finance law was heralded as one of the strongest in the nation.

Putting aside the way the new law unfairly treated third party candidates, Connecticut’s lawmakers passed, and Governor Jodi Rell signed, a sweeping piece of legislation that systematically outlawed state contractors from making campaign donations to benefit a political candidate.

Whereas John Rowland’s campaign finance reports were filled with the names of major state contractors such as the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company and the Manafort Brothers, as a direct result of Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform legislation, every governor and gubernatorial candidate after Rowland would be prohibited from accessing state contractor money.

However, as the final round of campaign finance reports are submitted for Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign, it is becoming increasingly clear that when it came the prohibition on state contractor donations, Governor Dannel Malloy and his political operation fundamentally violated the spirit of Connecticut’s campaign finance law and, quite possibly, the letter of the law as well.

As has been widely reported, in addition to collecting the $6.5 million taxpayer funded check from the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Malloy campaign funneled at least $5.1 million into the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee’s “Federal Account,” where a significant portion of those funds were used for the exclusive benefit of Malloy’s campaign for re-election.

A review of the list of those who donated that $5.1 million includes dozens of state contractors including the some of the very companies associated with John Rowland’s downfall, including the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company, the Manafort Brothers and others whose campaign donations tarnished Connecticut’s reputation and sent a sitting governor to prison.

The role state contractor donations played in the Malloy campaign has received a fair amount of media coverage, such as Jon Lender’s investigative series in the Hartford Courant’s reporting on how top executives at Northeast Utilities donated more than $50,000 to benefit Malloy’s campaign.  The head of NU instructed subordinates that they could support Malloy by making their checks out to the Connecticut Democrat’s “Federal Account.”  (See details about the NU story via NU Chief Asks Subordinates To Support Malloy By Giving To Democratic Party and Election Agency Probes Legality Of NU Chief’s Solicitation For Malloy.)  The latest campaign reports indicate that NU officials helped Malloy by donating at least $56,750 to that Democratic account, as instructed.

But the full extent of the Malloy campaign unethical use of state contractor donations goes well beyond the Northeast Utilities example.

HAKS Engineering of New York collected more than $18 million from the State of Connecticut since Dannel Malloy took office.  Some of their work was part of a new contract to inspect overhead power lines on the New Haven Line of Metro North.  A May 2014 article in the CT Mirror reported that executives of HAKS Engineering had donated $45,000 to the account the Malloy campaign was using to sidestep Connecticut’s law prohibiting state contractors from giving funds to benefit Connecticut candidates.

In fact, by the end of the 2014 campaign cycle, HAKS executives and their families, along with their related companies, had actually donated about $80,000 the Democrat’s “Federal Account,” including $32,000 from Hasam Ahmad and his wife, $10,000 from Shahida Akhtar, $10,000 from Elliot Gene Sander, and donations in the range of $5,000 or more from other HAKS employees including Franco Balassone, Mahmood Mohammed, Louis Torelli and Mubbashir Rahman.

Another example of the Malloy campaign collecting campaign donations from those who have directly benefited from the Malloy administrations actions is Winstanley Enterprises, the lead developer of New Haven’s Downtown Crossing.  The publicly funded project is now home to Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the company that received a $51 million corporate welfare package from the Malloy administration to move to that property.  Adam and Carter Winstanley each donated to $20,000 to the Democrat’s Malloy oriented “Federal Account,” while David Winstanley pitched in $10,000 for a total of at least $50,000 from the Winstanley family.

Another key source of campaign funds for the Malloy operation was the law firm of Pullman & Comley whose attorney provided more than $45,000 during the recent campaign.  The Bridgeport based law firm has snagged a series of extremely lucrative contract with various state agencies including the Attorney General’s Office, the State Treasurer’s Office, the University of Connecticut, the State Airport Authority and the Department of Transportation.  Since Malloy became governor, the firm has collected in excess of $2.7 million and that doesn’t even count the money billed in this fiscal year.

Yet another example is the one the CT Mirror noted in their May 2014 article where they wrote, “The Simon Konover Company, which the state pays $4.7 million annually to rent 55 Elm St. in Hartford, is up to $51,000 in donations, with $30,000 from three executives last month on top of $21,000 last year. Its tenants include the attorney general, treasurer and controller.” As the Malloy’s re-election campaign came to a close, the total raised from those directly associated with the Simon Konover Company reached $71,000.

And what about those big construction companies that were so generous to John Rowland.  The Malloy operation also managed to collect donations from officials the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company and the Manafort Brothers Company.   The Manafort Brothers Company led the pack with $22,000 in donations.

Check back tomorrow for even more examples of the role state contractors inappropriately played in Malloy’s re-election effort.

Older Entries