Both Trump and Connecticut Democrats propose drastic cuts that would undermine higher education

While it should come as no surprise, President Donald Trump’s new federal budget proposal targets higher education for what would be unparalleled budget cuts.  Over the next ten years Trump’s budget plan would eliminate more than $143 billion in financial aid and federal support for students seeking a college education.

Trump’s budget ends the effective Perkins Loan program, eliminates the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, makes record cuts to Pell Grants, dumps the program to forgive student loan debts if a student works for at least 10 years in selected public sector jobs and ends a program that covers interest payments for low income students while they are enrolled in school.

But at the same time, in what can only be described as an incredibly insulting attack, Democratic legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly have proposed equally appalling budget cuts aimed at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

In February, Governor Dannel Malloy targeted Connecticut’s public colleges and universities for nearly $50 million in budget cuts, these coming on top of the record cuts Malloy has already made to the University of Connecticut, to the Connecticut State Universities and to the state’s community college system.

But now, in a stunning development, the Democrats in the General Assembly have proposed an additional $135 million in cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, ensuring massive tuition increases and major reductions in programs and services at all public institutions of higher education in Connecticut.

While Trump’s cuts are to be expected from an unstable, right-wing “nut job,” the cuts being proposed by the Democrats would have a more immediate and devastating impact on public higher education in Connecticut.

The fact that Democratic legislators have proposed to destroy Connecticut’s public colleges and universities is a sad commentary about just how little they care about Connecticut’s middle income and poorer residents and how little they understand about meeting the future needs of Connecticut’s economy.

For more on the federal cuts go to: https://edsource.org/2017/white-house-seeks-billions-in-cuts-to-higher-education-spending/582316 and https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/05/19/reported-details-trump-budget-include-big-cuts-financial-aid

For more on the budget being proposed by the Democratic legislators go to: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3723660/May-16.pdf

Connecticut elected officials propose record budget cuts to public colleges and universities

While remaining dedicated to coddling the rich by refusing to require them to pay their fair share in taxes, Governor Malloy and members of the Connecticut General Assembly have offered up state budget plans that that will decimate Connecticut’s public colleges and universities and lead to significantly higher tuition at UConn, CSU and the state’s community colleges.

Governor Malloy has already presided over the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education but now he – and both parties in the legislature – are seeking truly unprecedented cuts in state funding levels for the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State Universities and Connecticut’s Community Colleges.

These cuts will lead to higher costs for Connecticut families and reduced offerings at Connecticut’s colleges and universities.  The proposals will lead to nothing more than students paying more and getting less.

Faced with a $5 billion projected budget shortfall, Malloy and the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the State Senate and State House of Representatives recently offered up revised budget proposals aimed at addressing Connecticut’s growing fiscal crisis.

The new proposed budgets rely heavily on cuts to education and human services.

In February, Governor Malloy proposed a $38 million in budget cuts to the CSU/Community College budget, a cut that would come on top of Malloy’s massive cuts over the last few years.

Then this past week, Malloy and the Republicans both proposed nearly $25 million more in cuts to CSU and the Community Colleges, while the incredibly outrageous proposal from the Democrats would actually cut off as much as $90 million in state aid to the schools.

As previously noted, in Connecticut, the poor pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes, the Middle Class about 10% and the state’s wealthiest citizen’s only pay about 5.5% of their income in state and local taxes.

However, rather than require wealthy residents to pay their fair share in taxes, Democrats and Republicans are seeking to dump the state’s budget problems on those least able to pay more.

The cuts to public colleges and universities will certainly lead to massive increases in tuition – which is nothing short of a tax increase on those who are already paying more than their fair share.

As the CT Mirror reported on the Democratic Plan;

Public colleges and universities also face very deep cuts under the Democratic plan.

The University of Connecticut, which already faced a deep cut under the budget Malloy proposed back in February, would lose another $35 million over the next two fiscal years combined under the Democratic legislators’ proposal.

And the Board of Regents of Higher Education, which oversees the state universities and community colleges, would lose another $100 million over the biennium.

The Governor and legislature have no begun closed door negotiations over the budget plan and there appears to be no one in the room who is willing to stand up and speak out on behalf of adequate funding for Connecticut’s colleges and universities.

Last month Malloy claimed Connecticut would have a surplus, now we have a deficit —- why?

From Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo;

COMPTROLLER LEMBO REPORTS $393.4-MILLION DEFICIT AFTER CONTINUED INCOME TAX EROSION

Comptroller Kevin Lembo today announced that continued erosion of the state income tax – likely due to a combination of investors relying more on tax-friendly investment funds, an economic trend towards lower-paying jobs and population loss – has increased the current fiscal year deficit to $393.4 million.

The Budget Reserve Fund has a current balance of $235.58 million, which is insufficient to cover the current General Fund deficit.

In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lembo said his deficit projection is approximately $3.6 million higher than the deficit reported by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) because Lembo believes the state will spend more than initially planned on ongoing settlement payments related to the SEBAC vs. Rowland case.

“Connecticut’s budget performance is a reflection of our national and state economies,” Lembo said. “Over at least the past two months, I have expressed concern regarding final income tax collections.

“History demonstrates that final April collections typically move in the same direction as the quarterly estimated income tax payments collected earlier in the fiscal year. For the first two quarterly deposits of the fiscal year, estimated payments were running more than 8 percent below last year. This raised significant concerns – now proven true – about final payment collections. It now appears that final payments will be approximately 10 percent below last fiscal year’s level.”

Connecticut joins nearly 20 other states facing eroding income tax revenue – however, Lembo said that Connecticut also faces its own unique structural problems, including unfunded pension liabilities and retiree health costs.

Lembo said the most significant deterioration in the General Fund’s fiscal outlook occurred in the projection for income tax receipts, which are now $450.7 million below last month’s estimate and $532.2 million off from the original budget plan.

Gov. Malloy’s administration had an optimistic view regarding the potential for gains due to a significant run-up in the stock market at the end of 2016, Lembo said.

“Those gains have not materialized,” Lembo said, pointing to increasing popularity of “tax efficient” investments such as Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). “These funds are designed, in part, to minimize capital gains taxes.”In the United States, ETF assets increased from $157 billion in 2003 to $2.8 trillion by March 2017.

In addition to the drop in estimated and final income tax payments, there has been a significant downturn in the withholding portion of the income tax, which is responsible for over 60 percent of total income tax revenue. 

“A general shift in the composition of employment by sector to lower paying jobs may be a contributing factor,” Lembo said. “In addition to greater use of tax advantaged investments, the state’s population loss may also have played a role in the disappointing final payment results.”

Lembo said U.S. census data shows that Connecticut experienced a decline in population of 8,278 residents between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. Connecticut was one of only eight states to experience a decline in population during this period – and has now posted three consecutive years of population decline.

 

Breaking News – Connecticut Income Tax collections down $450 million from anticipated amount

Connecticut’s economy continues to be in deep trouble.  While unemployment is technically down, the way the economy is changing means lower income tax revenue for the state of Connecticut.

Some Connecticut residents have simply given up looking for work.  Others have taken jobs that pay well below what they used to earn and still other are working in part-time consulting work as opposed to full-time jobs.

Together these changes mean Connecticut’s tax picture is in deep trouble.

As Keith Phaneuf of the CT Mirror explained today;

Plummeting state income tax collections are experiencing their worst decline since the last recession, falling $450 million below anticipated levels for April.

The impact of this decline in revenue not only means Connecticut will face a budget deficit this year, but the revenue shortfall for the next two years will be much more severe than previously estimated.   The 3.6 billion deficit projected over the next biannual budget will grow by $500 million next year and $600 million the year after.

The state will now be facing a $4.5 billion gap between projected revenue and projected expenses.

As CT Mirror wrote, the new numbers mean that the state will probably

Close its third successive fiscal year in deficit;

And deplete its $235.6 million emergency budget reserve.

It increases the risk that state government might have to borrow to cover operating costs for the first time in eight years — even though it still hasn’t paid off nearly $1 billion in operating debt from the last recession.

Read more about this breaking story at: CT tax revenue in free fall, adding $1.1B in red ink for next 2 years

Malloy’s claim that Connecticut enjoys a budget surplus for this fiscal year is a blatant lie…

Late last week the Hartford Courant headline read, State Projects Surplus For Current Fiscal Year.  Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration bragged that they state budget would end up with a $19.7 million surplus this year.

As with previous year, Governor Malloy has falsely claimed the state budget is in much better condition than it really is.

The dark clouds were already evident.

Already last month, the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projected that the current fiscal year deficit would be at least $45 million and Comptroller Kevin Lembo pegged the shortfall on April 3 at $44.6 million.

But last week, according to the monthly letter sent by Malloy’s administration to Comptroller Kevin Lembo, “Personal income tax collections are currently running within acceptable ranges relative to our target…”

Now, just days later, we learn that Malloy’s claim about income tax receipts are false.

In a stunning report in the CT Mirror;

New reports show dramatically eroding state income tax receipts that could expand the deficit in the next two-year budget by more than $500 million while depleting existing reserves.

Although six more days remain before analysts complete their review of April income tax receipts, the new numbers also raise the prospect state government may have to borrow to balance the current budget — the first time Connecticut has had to do so in eight years.

The CT Mirror adds;

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis notified the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Monday that April receipts are running $267 million below the level anticipated in this fiscal year’s adopted budget.

[…]

In other words, if the early returns hold, and if April receipts are down 20 percent or $267 million, that probably would prompt analysts to reduce expected revenues for each of the next two fiscal years by a similar amount, or more than $500 million for the upcoming biennium.

In a rare commentary included with Monday’s report, nonpartisan analysts said it appears that a “pessimistic scenario” that is related to the last state budget is playing out.

Finances, unless adjusted, are on pace to run $1.7 billion in deficit in 2017-18, and $1.9 billion in the red in 2018-19, according to Malloy’s administration, for a combined biennial shortfall of $3.6 billion.

[…]

If the April income tax estimates hold, the worst-case deficit forecast from the Malloy administration would approach $2 billion in 2017-18 and $2.2 billion in 2018-19.

To restate the seriousness of the situation, while the Malloy administration is claiming that April tax receipts are within “acceptable ranges,” they are actually far off what was projected in the budget.

If the actual situation holds true, Connecticut will be facing a major budget deficit this year and a biannual budget shortfall that could reach or even exceed $4.4 billion over the next two years.

The reality is that tax increases will be necessary.

The question is whether Connecticut’s elected officials will continue to overtax middle and lower income Connecticut residents or whether state government will finally start to require that the state’s wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.

Malloy’s austerity budget a disaster for Connecticut…

Governor Dannel Malloy is blasting the legislature for talking about additional revenue to help fund critically important services.

Although Malloy’s budget relies on increasing taxes for poor and middle-class families and shifting $400 million onto the backs of local property taxpayers, he is claiming that the solution to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis is his budget plan.

Malloy’s continued refusal to ensure the rich are paying their fair share means poorer and middle income families are suffering on both the tax and expenditure side of the budget.

As CT Voices explains;

The Governor’s Budget would reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit, remove parents from HUSKY A, eliminate property tax support for the lower and middle classes, keep young children out of  Care 4 Kids funded child care, and cut municipal aid to 141 towns. Statewide, proposed cuts to the EITC and the property tax credit are equal to a tax increase of $93 for low-income families and $157 for middle-income families.

CT Voices adds;

Many of the Governor’s cost-savings proposals target the same groups of low- to middle-income families.

For example, a single mother with two children making $30,000 per year would lose her health insurance, be unable to enroll her children in Care4Kids, and could see a tax increase of $93. A single parent working for $12 per hour with a child would also lose her health insurance at the same time the state restricts her access to child care and increases her taxes.

In response to the Governor’s outrageous budget proposal, some Connecticut legislators are talking about increasing the tax rate on high income earners in Connecticut.

Remember, in Connecticut, the poor pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class about 10% of their income in state and local taxes and the rich only pay about 5.5% of their income in state and local taxes.

Connecticut has created a regressive tax structure that unfairly hurts lower and middle income families.

It is time for Connecticut’s legislators to stand up to Malloy’s bullying tactics and move forward with a tax reform proposal that will not dump the burden on lower and  middle income families while shifting even more onto the backs of local property taxpayers.

For more about some of the tax proposals – good and bad – read;

CT Newsjunkie:  Finance Committee Explores Abundance of Revenue Ideas As Deadline Nears

Malloy – Nation’s most unpopular Democratic governor won’t seek re-election

A darling of the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement, and having used his time in office to make record cuts to education, higher education and other vital services, all while coddling the rich, Governor Dannel Malloy announced today that he will not seek re-election to a third term in next year’s gubernatorial campaign.

As CT Mirror explains;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday he would not seek a third-term in office, saying he’d reached a difficult decision after weighing what was best for his family and the state.

Malloy, who first took office in January 2011, pledged to use his remaining 20 months in office “to continue implementing my administration’s vision for a more sustainable and vibrant Connecticut economy.”

The Hartford Courant added

Standing with his wife, son and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Malloy pledged not to back down from his ambitious agenda. He promised to work to revise the state’s system for aid to schools and towns, create “better” budget practices and reform the criminal justice system.

[…]

Malloy emphasized that he had run for governor three times and “that’s enough. I’ve devoted six full years to trying to turn this state around.” He said his “personal popularity” was not a factor. “ I am overwhelmed with how happy I am.”

[…]

The announcement effectively renders him a lame-duck with more than 18 months left in his term. For more than a year Malloy, who serves as chair of the Democratic Governors Associations, has been one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

You can read more coverage of this breaking story at:

CT Mirror: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/13/malloy-will-not-seek-a-third-term/

CT Newsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_says_he_wont_seek_re-election/

Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-gov-malloy-will-not-seek-a-third-term-20170413-story.html

 

 

Beware the new Connecticut legislative plan to channel even more public funds to charters

In a new piece published in the Stamford Advocate, education columnist and advocate Wendy Lecker reveals a stunning new proposal that would force taxpayers to give Connecticut’s charter schools even more scarce public funds.  Governor Dannel Malloy already gives Connecticut’s charter school more than $110 million a year and this year, while proposing the deepest cuts in state history to public schools, Malloy unveiled a plan to increase that amount by about 10 percent.  However, a group of Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly want to divert even more public funds to these privately owned, but publicly funded entities.

As Wendy Lecker explains;

Using the Betsy DeVos playbook, Norwalk Sen. Bob Duff and East Hartford Representatives Jason Rojas and Jeffrey Currey are pushing major changes to Connecticut’s school funding system, concocted by the charter front group, the Connecticut School Finance Project; in order to funnel money directly from school districts to privately run charter schools.

Currently, public school districts pay for the cost of education from: a state allocation, ostensibly calculated under Connecticut’s school funding formula, the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula; local funding, i.e. the local share; and some federal funds.

Charter schools are considered independent school districts, authorized and overseen by the state. Local communities have no say over the operation of charters within their borders. Charters are exempt from many requirements, such as having all certified teachers and serving all grade levels. Thus, it is logical that districts should not pay local dollars to charters. Charters are funded through a separate state funding stream, and receive federal and private funds.

However, the Connecticut School Finance Project proposal will now have local districts paying for these privately run charters. For every child attending a charter school, a local district will lose a portion of its ECS allocation equal to about 25 percent of its local per-pupil share. Charter schools will receive an ECS allocation that will cover the rest of its funding. So charters will get more state funding than the local school district, plus local districts will now pay them an additional penalty for each charter school student. As charters expand, districts will lose more.

The DeVos team used this strategy in Michigan. They instituted a system where money intended for public schools flowed to charters. They then fought for explosive charter growth. This toxic combination decimated budgets and schools of Michigan’s poorest cities, such as Detroit.

Worse still, this proposal fails to fund Connecticut schools adequately. A foundation aid formula, like ECS, is only adequate if its components are: i.e., the foundation amount, the amount necessary to educate one child with no special needs; and the weights that adjust the foundation amount for different needs, like students living in poverty, English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

This proposal’s foundation amount is not based on any assessment of the cost of education in Connecticut. Instead the proposed foundation amount is supposedly derived from average spending in other states — a ludicrous way to estimate the cost of education here. The proposal does not even consider spending on operating expenses, i.e. the expenses needed to run a district. It only considers spending on a narrow selection of expenses they call “core instructional costs.” It is no wonder the foundation amount this group proposes is lower than Connecticut’s foundation amount back in 2007-08.

The proposed student need weights are also not based on the actual additional cost of serving needy students. The 30 percent poverty weight is less than half of what experts say is needed to educate poor students. The proposal omits additional weighting for students living in severe poverty, who are costlier to serve. Why? Because charters tend to serve students who are less poor than their host public school districts. If the formula does not differentiate, then charters are rewarded for continuing to ignore the most disadvantaged.

The proposed ELL weight is a ridiculous 10 percent — only one-tenth of what it necessary to fund education for these students. It will particularly harm districts with large and growing populations of ELL kids. However, charters routinely under-serve ELL students, so a low weight means they will not get penalized financially for continuing this practice.

This proposal removes special education funds from the ECS allocation. For a group claiming its aim is a “unified” formula for all students, why omit students with disabilities? Special education is the thorniest cost to deal with when privatizing schools. Removing it clears the way for charter expansion.

And though some districts stand to gain this year (especially Duff’s, and Rojas’ and Currey’s), the proposal reduces the state share of funding for our poorest districts.

Even proponents admit this proposal woefully underfunds Connecticut schools. The group acknowledges that the ECS formula is currently underfunded by more than $600 million. Realistic estimates conclude that the total shortfall is over $1.5 billion.

Yet this proposal plans to increase school funding by only $320 million — over six years! And there is no mechanism to increase state funding as costs rise.

Raiding public school funds to favor privately run charters, that serve less than 2 percent of Connecticut students, is not equity. It will leave our neediest students with less.

You can read and comment on the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-new-plan-to-channel-local-funds-11058087.php

Media fails to properly report on Malloy plan to destroy Connecticut’s community college system

In a stunning development yesterday, Governor Malloy’s former chief of staff – who know serves as the President of the Connecticut State University and Community College System – proposed a devastating plan that would undermine Connecticut’s Community College System and remove important independent functions of Connecticut’s State Universities.

In the initial news coverage of this breaking news, Connecticut media outlets have failed to focus on the proposal’s negative impacts, instead parroting the empty rhetoric and broad generalities contained in the Malloy administration’s press release.

The CT Mirror reported,

“The Board of Regents for Higher Education will be asked Thursday to endorse a framework for saving at least $41 million annually through the administrative and operational consolidations of institutions that have remained autonomous since the merger in 2011 of the state’s 12 community colleges, four regional state universities and the online college, Charter Oak.”

As for the dramatic plan to strip each college community college of its leadership and administrative teams the news story only adds,

Facing a shrinking college-age population and growing budget gaps, the system’s president, Mark Ojakian, released an outline Monday for an “operational consolidation” unifying the community colleges into a centrally managed institution that would retain its dozen campuses while shedding administrators at an annual saving of $28 million.

“Unifying the community college system” is hardly an adequate explanation of the extraordinary negative impact that would occur by eliminating the community college presidents and campus based leadership teams that presently run each of the state’s twelve community colleges.

Perhaps the most astonishing and disturbing aspect of the entire development is that without legislative or public input the Connecticut State University and Community College Board of Regents are expected to vote on adopting this terrible proposal this coming Thursday.

Media coverage of the proposal can be found via the following links;

CT Mirror: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/03/ojakian-pitches-sweeping-consolidations-to-keep-cscu-viable/

New Haven Register: http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20170403/president-of-state-colleges-and-universities-system-proposal-would-cut-13-million-in-back-office-jobs

Courant:  http://www.courant.com/education/hc-cscu-sweeping-budget-plan-20170403-story.html