Would the Captain please return to the bridge immediately!

You certainly can’t say that Governor Malloy is preoccupied with the minutia of running the state of Connecticut.

In fact, it is probably more accurate to say that it appears that he finds the day-to-day administrative duties of serving as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer boring, annoying or, at the very least, a waste of his time.

Many observers and commentators have already noted that Malloy has spent more time out-of-state than any other governor in recent history.  His recent “West Coast” fundraising trip, the one that he won’t discuss, is just one more example.

It certainly seems accurate to say, except in the face of an immediate natural disaster or crisis when the television cameras are running, Governor Malloy is pretty disinterested in rolling up his sleeves and attending to the actual administrative duties of managing a $20 billion dollar enterprise.

That said, when it comes to attending ground breakings or handing out taxpayer funds he is a master.

One of the most serious examples of this “hands-off” approach can be seen at the State Department of Education where Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has been allowed to systematically dismantle the professional capabilities of the agency.

While jobs go unfilled, key administrative functions go uncompleted.

And it when tasks must actually be performed, it seems the Malloy administration is more it is comfortable with out-sourcing the work to expensive, out-of-state consultants.

The impact of this approach can be easily seen with the State Department of Education’s Alliance District Program where at least eight communities ARE STILL WAITING for approval of their Year 2 Funding plans despite the fact that the fiscal year started 120 days ago and the school years is more than two months old.

The Malloy administration is quick to wrap itself in corporate education reform rhetoric but can’t seem to even review and approve the grants needed to implement its own corporate education reform program.  (Although it should be noted that checks are flowing for MassInsight, the out-of-state education reform consultants who were brought in to run the failing program).

Today we now hear about yet another example of the downside of having an Administration that is either unwilling or unable to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of running a complex organization like the government of the State of Connecticut.

A recent state audit provided a devastating assessment of the failures at the State Department of Public Health.

The situation is summarized in a press release that was sent out by the House Republicans entitled, “House Leader Cafero Blasts Health Department Over Audit Faulty Background Checks on Day Care Personnel, Missing Drugs, No Oversight.”

I use the House Republican’s verbiage, word for word, because it should send a shockwave through the entire Democratic Party and especially the Democrats who make up the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives.

A consistent refrain here at Wait, What? has been to raise the question, what would “we Democrats” be saying if the table were turned and it was a Republican governor doing the things that  Malloy has been doing.

“We Democrats” would be calling that Governor out on those issues and demanding immediate action.

It may be painful for Democrats to hear, but Connecticut Democrats should paying far closer attention to press releases like this one.

The Connecticut House Republicans write:

“HARTFORD – House Republican Leader Larry Cafero today criticized the state Department of Health over an audit that shows holes in background check for daycare providers, missing drugs, lack of staff oversight and numerous other findings that raise questions over agency management.

“These troubling findings by the auditors raise serious questions about how this department is being run and whether it takes seriously its core mission to function as the State of Connecticut’s premier health agency,’’ Cafero said.  “These violations need to be addressed immediately.’’

One of the most troublesome cites concerned faults in background checks for child care facilities. The auditors called into question whether the department’s procedures may not turn up people not suited to working in the child care facilities due to lack of monitoring and follow-through in checking records.

“Child care providers and their employees may be operating without the required completed background checks. As a result, children in licensed child care facilities are at an increased risk of coming into contact with unsuitable individuals,’’ the report released today states.

The department agreed with the finding. The auditors came up with 17 recommendations that need to be addressed including:

  • DPH has not established a process to properly track prescription drug distribution and drugs, including those used to treat pain, have gone unaccounted for;
  • EMS providers have failed to submit required tracking and activity reports;
  • DPH should overhaul its contractor oversight procedures to ensure that the work is being performed and invoices are processed correctly;
  • Travel vouchers for employees have not been authenticated;
  • Compensation time for employees lacks oversight and questions arose over allowing employees to return to work following lengthy sick leaves.

Cafero said nine of the 17 citations are repeats of a previous audit and questioned why they had not been corrected.

“Some of these findings appear relatively benign but overall the picture being painted is a general lack of oversight on the part of management that needs to be fixed,’’ he said.”

In truth, the failure of leadership at the State Department of Education and the State Department of Health are the most visible parts of a much bigger iceberg.

Democrats need to take heed before it is too late to get the captain on to the bridge.

Do I need to stop the car and come back there?

Let’s just say it wasn’t one of Connecticut Legislature’s finest moments.

As two news stories today make pretty clear, a “he said/he said” situation has put $127 million in early childhood funding in jeopardy.

The CT Mirror’s article is entitled Childcare providers worry their money held hostage by politics, while CTNewsjunkie’ s story is called Did Early Childhood Bill Fall Victim To Sunday Bow Hunting?

Here’s the PROBLEM (as reported by CTMirror):    

“The state budget shifts $127 million in funding from various state agencies into a new Office of Early Childhood Education… But the office was never statutorily created because the bill that did so was never approved by the state House of Representatives or Senate.”

According to the CT Mirror, “Early childcare providers are concerned the money they currently receive from the state to care for thousands of children is going to stop flowing in three weeks –- because the state budget legislators approved transfers money to an office that doesn’t exist.”

The article goes on to report, “And officials at the State Department of Education are just as perplexed…’We are trying to figure out what it means,’ Brian Mahoney, the agency’s budget chief, said during an interview Thursday.”

Now that is a problem.

So what happened?

The President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate, Democrat Donald E. Williams Jr. explained that the Republicans held the early childhood bill “hostage” in order to force the State Senate to approve a bill allowing the bow hunting of deer on Sundays.

As William’s explained, “It was reported to me Republicans were holding it hostage for a completely unrelated and obscure issue: Sunday hunting,”

The Republican Leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Lawrence Cafero Jr., told the CT Mirror, “I wasn’t going to stop the early childhood bill…To fingerpoint to my side is an absolute joke.”

Meanwhile, CTNewsjunkie wrote, “Cafero claimed that, ‘you can’t boil the issue down to one bill or another. He said the Democrats wasted time on the last day by trying to sneak language into a bill that moved up the date of when undocumented immigrants could apply for their driver’s licenses. That language was eventually removed, but in the meantime Republicans slowed down debate on the floor…”

But have no fear, Malloy and legislators are already thinking about how to proceed.  As the CTNewsjunkie explained, “Williams said they are currently exploring their options and determining whether they can use an executive order and appropriate the funds through one of the existing state agencies. There’s also the option of returning for a special session, or if Malloy vetoes any legislation, a veto session. But Williams said that would be a last resort.”

Good to know that our elected officials can handle the stresses associated with the last few days of the legislative session.

Here are links to the two articles: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/childcare-providers-worry-their-money-held-hostage-politics and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/did_early_childhood_bill_fall_victim_to_sunday_bow_hunting/

Now that’s funny: “Malloy Signs Bill Shifting Power to Pick Regents Chief From His Office To Board”

AKA:  The ongoing saga known as the Connecticut Board of Regents

Earlier this month, at the request of Governor Malloy’s Chief of Staff, the Chairman of the Board of Regents informed that Board that it would be sending the Governor the names of the three finalists.  In that way, the Governor and not the Board would be selecting the next president of the Board of Regents.

Wait, What? readers may recall the two posts entitled “News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law” and “Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

As the CTMirror reported at the time, the Chairman of the Board of Regent explained that the Board forwarded three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”  The news story quoted Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson as saying, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

All this despite the fact that the letter and spirit of the law was stunningly clear.  The Board of Regents was to conduct interviews, select a candidate and the Governor would technically make the appointment.  In that way, the selection process would be done at arm’s-length from the politics of the Capitol.

But alas, despite that clear intent of the law, Governor Malloy and his staff couldn’t help themselves.  They wanted to determine which of the three finalists were most likely to recognize their supreme authority.

In response to all of this, the Connecticut General Assembly acted with amazing courage and speed and actually fast-tracked legislation “clarifying” the law by taking away Governor Malloy’s authority to even make the appointment.  The new bill put the duty to appoint in the hands of the Board of Regents, tracking the approach that exists with the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.

When the dust settled, there was no bill signing on this one.  No smiling faces crowded around the Governor waiting for their copy of the pen that signed the legislation into law.

Instead, as the Hartford Courant noted in their story, “According to a statement from the governor’s office, Malloy ‘signed legislation he proposed in collaboration with state lawmakers’ and said ‘the change will help the next leader institute a long-term vision that increases stability and academic growth for the students at the state’s colleges and universities.’”

Malloy’s statement went on to read, “’I want to thank the members of the House and the Senate, including the chairs of the Higher Education Committee, for working with my administration on introducing this bill and acting quickly on its passage,’ Malloy said, according to the statement.”

So there you go — it turns out that it was all one big misunderstanding and Governor Malloy was actually the one who wanted the new law that made it clear that it was the Board’s responsibility and not his to make the appointment of the next president of the CSU and Community Colleges system.

Thank goodness that was clarified before the governor was forced to personally choose the next president.

You can read more about this story in the follow CTMirror article: http://ctmirror.org/story/19758/after-controversies-general-assembly-votes-remove-governors-authority-naming-college-pre

Stamford Advocate joins effort to warn about conflict of interest on State Board of Education

As the Connecticut Legislature prepares to take up the nomination of Andrea Comer to the State Board of Education, the Stamford Advocate has joined the chorus warning that it would be a conflict of interest for her to serve on the Board.

About the controversy surrounding Comer, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Jumoke Academy and FUSE charter school management company, the Stamford Advocate wrote, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed Comer to the board — raising eyebrows and questions about a conflict of interest. The board has direct oversight of the charter school industry, decides whether to reauthorize charters and votes on funding and the creation of new charter schools.”

“Parents of public school children in the state must be aware: As charter school advocates and professionals solidify their hold on the state’s education policy apparatus, the drive to transfer public funds from traditional public schools to charter schools will grow,” the Stamford Advocate added.

As Advocate concluded, “The overwhelming drive of the state education commissioner and the state Board of Education should be toward improving traditional public schools, which are responsible for educating the vast, vast majority of children in the state. Their focus should not be on expanding charter schools, which serve a tiny percentage. If charters want to expand, fine. They should do so without draining resources for most kids.”

Now it is up to the members of the Connecticut General Assembly to stand up and be counted on this vital issue.  As a corporate officer in a charter school company, Comer has a significant and clear conflict of interest. Legislature has a duty to reject her appointment to the State Board of Education.

For the full Stamford Advocate editorial go to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Conflict-on-state-school-board-4364469.php#ixzz2O2DeWJlm

Wait,What? OPM Secretary Barnes says state budget deficit at $64.4 million.

A state budget deficit at $64.4 million.

SURPRISE!  Surprise????

The Malloy administration goes for broke with its misleading approach to the state’s budget deficit problems.

Yesterday, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes issued his monthly budget letter to the State Comptroller announcing that due to a decline in revenue (and some additional excess spending); this year’s Connecticut’s state budget deficit now stands at $64.4 million.

The Malloy administration, along with some in the media, act as if this news comes as a surprise.

There is one thing we can say for sure, the fact that the state of Connecticut is facing more than a $50 million deficit should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone.

On December 3, 2012, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo officially certified that Connecticut had a $415 million state budget deficit.

The next day the headline in the CTNewsjunkie read, “Malloy Not Convinced Deficit Is Higher.”

The Malloy administration was sticking with their projection that the state had a $365 million budget deficit come Hell or high water.

Immediately after Lembo released his official certification of the $415 million deficit, Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser shot an email off to reporters that read;

“We disagree with the number the comptroller is using today… The deficit mitigation plan the governor will propose within the next couple of weeks will, based on the best available data at the time, bring the current-year budget into balance.”

Malloy piled on, responding to Lembo’s announcement by telling reports, “These numbers are going to go up and down…We’re moving forward with our package, which addresses a set of numbers…The comptroller thinks we will spend more money than we did — he may be right…I was told similar predictions were made last year and they didn’t turn out to be right, so we’re dealing with the numbers we believe currently represent that challenge.”

The Governor summarized his position by saying, “We’re going to continue going down the path of dealing with it in a forthright, fair, and transparent manner.”

And so the Malloy Administration proceeded in their “forthright, fair, and transparent manner” and took action to eliminate a $365 million deficit.

In his December 10th article, the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf wrote, “State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo is projecting a $415 million budget hole, while the administration pegs the shortfall at $365 million.  Malloy’s proposal, if backed by the legislature in a special session scheduled for Dec. 19, would be enough to close out the smaller figure.”

On December 17, Phaneuf wrote, “The tentative [budget] plan, coupled with emergency spending cuts ordered by Malloy last month, would cover the entire $365 million deficit projected by the administration for the fiscal year that ends next June 30.  It would cover all but $50 million of the $415 million shortfall projected Dec. 1 by state Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo.”

And on December 19th, after Malloy’s Deficit Mitigation bill passed the legislature, Phaneuf wrote “It does fall short, though, of covering the larger, $415 million deficit projection issued Dec. 1 by state Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo.”

And on January 2, 2013 Phaneuf and other reporters covered Lembo’s announcement that the state was still facing a deficit of nearly $50 million.

And so here we are…  It is two months AFTER Lembo warned the Malloy administration that the deficit was more than $50 million higher than what they were claiming and the Malloy’s budget chief announces that the deficit now stands at $64 million.

Consider it a painful, but enlightening tribute to Governor Malloy’s pledge that he was dealing with the state deficit in a “forthright, fair, and transparent manner.”

It’s morning in Connecticut: Do you know what the budget bill means?

With little debate, and even less awareness of the ramifications of passing the bill, the State House of Representatives voted 140 to 3 and the State Senate voted 31 to 3 to pass a deficit mitigation bill that included a record breaking set of cuts to social services and education programs.

Considering the bill wasn’t even available to review until just before the vote, legislators would be hard-pressed to claim that they knew the magnitude of the cuts or how those cuts would impact their constituents AND some of the most vulnerable people in our state.

Ending partisan gridlock is a grand thing, and creating bi-partisan cooperation has plenty of benefits, but one would hope that political expediency wouldn’t take the place of good public policy.  Looking at the list of cuts, its pretty clear political expediency won out.

In this case, led by a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature, along with the support of nearly every single Republican, Connecticut’s elected officials chose to spare millionaires from having to pay their fair share in income taxes and instead cut just over $250 million in funding for state services, on top of the $120 million Governor Malloy cut last month.

As reported in the CTMirror, “Connecticut’s hospitals took the single-largest hit in the package adopted Wednesday, losing nearly $90 million.”  With Malloy’s rescissions last month, Connecticut’s hospitals have now lost a total of $103 million.  These were funds that hospitals received to cover the costs of uninsured patients and help to make up for the below-cost reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients.

In the short-term, the funding cuts to hospitals will lead to additional layoffs at many Connecticut hospitals, and in the longer term, the cuts will produce higher health insurance premiums, as costs are shifted even more quickly to those who have health insurance.

The massive cut to the 29 acute-care hospitals did produce some of the no votes.

As CTNewsjunkie reported, “Johnson Memorial Hospital is just emerging from bankruptcy and can’t handle a $608,000 cut, Bacchiochi said. It’s also the largest employer in her mostly rural district and she’s concerned it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Guglielmo [the State Senator from Stafford] cited Johnson Memorial Hospital as one of the reasons he voted against the bill.”

In addition to hospitals, significant cuts were made to a wide variety of community-based health, mental health and social service programs including autism services, mental health housing programs, re-entry programs for ex-offenders, after school programs and many of the state’s arts and culture grants.

In addition to the actual cuts, by reducing state funding for Medicaid programs, Connecticut lose about $60 million in funding from the Federal government, since Washington reimburses Connecticut 50 cents for every dollar the state spends on those programs.

Beyond the cuts, the deficit mitigation bill also increased revenue by $30 million by limiting a couple of business tax credit programs, including a relatively minor change to the film tax credit and the expansion of an element of the tax on electricity generation.

The budget mitigation plan also swept up $11 million in one-time funds that had been reserved and devoted to specific targeted programs (such as energy conservation) and shifted the state’s $10 million stem cell research program to the state’s credit card.

Finally, the plan collects and extra $9.5 million, as CTMirror explains, “by intensifying efforts to identify and prevent state income tax fraud.”

There was a fair amount of discussion about eliminating longevity payments for non-union employees.  Completely eliminating the longevity payments, those being the twice a year payments that employee with more than ten years of state service receive, would save $6 million a year.

Under the plan that passed last night, the 3,200 non-union state employees will get their longevity payments one last time in April AND those last payments will be added to each employee’s base pay.  However, after that, longevity payments for the non-union employees will be eliminated.

A variety of education programs also got cut, “saving” the state budget about $11 million.  The UConn Health Center was also cut an additional $4 million.  The higher education cuts come on top Malloy’s recent $10 million cut to UConn and $14 million cut to the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges.  Malloy also made a multi-million dollar cut to student financial aid for lower-income Connecticut students attending public colleges in the state, money students had been promised next month.

Additional coverage of the budget document can be found at CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/18530/state-house-passed-budget-deficit-mitigation-bill-bipartisan-fashion, CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/general_assembly_erases_deficit_with_bipartisan_support/  and the Courant http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-special-session-20121219,0,3466632.story

Breaking the Budget Deficit Down – Department of Social Services (DSS) – $190.9 million

When Governor Malloy proposed this year’s budget, the General Assembly passed it, and the Governor signed it into law, it was widely understood that the Malloy Administration had purposely underestimated the true costs of funding various programs, especially within the Department of Social Services.

Almost immediately, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo started warning the Malloy Administration that spending on social services would exceed what was authorized in the state budget.

Eventually, Ben Barnes, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, admitted that the state might spend as much as $100 million more than authorized on these programs.

When the truth finally came out last week, the projected spending level is at least $191 million more than budgeted, although the federal government will reimburse the state for 50 percent of that amount.

This week, details about the $191 million in excess Medicaid spending were finally provided.  The overspending includes;

$62.5 million in Acute Care Services (hospitalization)

$46.1 million in Professional Medical Care (doctors)

$25.9 million in Other Medical Services (lab work, treatment, medical supplies and equipment)

$13.0 million in Home and Community Based Services

$39.6 million in Nursing Home Facilities

$2.8 million in other Long Term Care

$1.0 million in Administration and Adjustments

In addition to the “optimistic assumptions,” there has been an increase in caseload, although the Malloy Administration’s attempt to blame the problem on increasing caseload is more than a bit disingenuous.

According to estimates from the independent Office of Fiscal Analysis,  the number of Low Income Adults seeking services has grown by about 4,000 clients since the beginning of the fiscal year in July, a 5.0% increase.  These additional clients represent an additional cost to the state of about $30.0 million.

In addition, the Malloy Administration had proposed a number of initiatives to reduce spending on Medicaid this year, most of which have yet to be implemented.

As part of Governor Malloy’s $132 million in cuts that he proposed yesterday, the Department of Social Services was hit for about $32 million.  These cuts will force significant reductions in a variety of vital services starting in December and January.

Some of the more significant program cuts include the following;

Children’s Trust Fund $657,000

Husky B Insurance Program $1.5 million

Old Age Assistance $1.5 million

Aid to the Disabled $964,000

Temporary Assistance to Family (TANF) $5.3 million

Connecticut Home Care Program $2.3 million

Child Care Services (which is the child care subsidy for low-income WORKING PARENTS) $2.3 million *

*So, the cut could actually cost the state money if parents are forced to quit to take care of children

Housing/Homeless Services $2.9 million

Furthermore, the largest cut to the Department of Social Services is being made to the grant program to Connecticut hospitals to help them cover their uncompensated care.  Malloy’s cut to these hospitals is for $13.4 million, which will certainly lead to health insurance premiums going up as hospitals try to stay in business by shifting even more costs to self-pay patients and those who are insured.

Water into wine; Deficits into surpluses: The Ben Barnes Story

(Updated with missing sentence and fixed typo – sorry)

The hands down leader for the most absurdly incredible budget comment of the year, at least to date, doesn’t go to Malloy or Occhiogrosso, albeit they have had some pretty good ones, but to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief.

When Barnes spoke to Connecticut legislators earlier this week about this year’s $365 million budget deficit and next year’s projected $1.1 billion shortfall, legislators also asked him about the impending and monstrous “spending cap” problem that Connecticut is facing.

Barnes said that if Connecticut did not exceed the spending cap, the projected deficits would actually be surpluses.

Although this year’s budget is “projected” to be $5.9 million below the spending cap (3 one hundredth of one percent), next year’s current service budget will be $600 million over the spending cap and the year after that, the budget will exceed the spending cap by $1.2 billion.  In FY16, the Connecticut budget, as of now, would be $1.3 billion over the spending cap.

What Barnes was really saying was that IF Connecticut cut funding by well over a billion dollars, our deficits would become surpluses.  While reasonable people can disagree about the amount of cuts that can be adopted, there is no rational observer who would suggest that the Connecticut budget can be cut by $1 billion.

To put the issue into perspective, between his budget cuts and the Malloy-SEBAC state employee agreement, the Malloy administration reduced state spending this year by $400 – $600 million, depending on how generous one wants to be with the numbers.  The vast majority of those savings came via the state employee concession package.

The ability to now cut an additional $1 billion, with the employee agreement now locked into place, is impossible.

It would have been easier to have won the recent $500 million lotto – and even that amount wouldn’t have solved Connecticut’s problem.

There are those who will say that the Great Recession is over and the economy is getting “better,” but Connecticut’s fiscal crisis is very real and is actually getting worse.

In addition the revenue and expenditures issues, Connecticut’s flawed Spending Cap will finally have to be addressed.

Instead of refusing to step up to the challenge and explain the truth to Connecticut’s legislators, Ben Barnes, Malloy’s Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, steadfastly remained committed to misleading legislators and the public.

Hartford…We have a major problem here and the Malloy Administration is making it significantly worse by failing to tell the truth.

Schools Woefully Underfunded, Formula Broken

Will Malloy rise to the occasion and make resolving Connecticut’s School Funding Crisis his legacy?

From today’s Hartford Courant Commentary by JONATHAN PELTO AND WENDY LECKER


“Courts have been equally clear that when schools are given adequate resources, learning improves.

In New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts and elsewhere, increased spending on basic educational resources led to demonstrated improved achievement.

Despite vast differences among states, courts enumerated a remarkably consistent list of educational necessities, including: high-quality preschool, small class size, additional services for at-risk students, supports for teachers such as professional development, curriculum supports, supplies, equipment, adequate facilities, and adequate books and other learning tools.

As Stamford’s mayor, Dannel P. Malloy understood the direct link between resources and achievement. He was a founding member of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the plaintiff in Connecticut’s pending school funding lawsuit.

By joining the coalition’s lawsuit, then-Mayor Malloy acknowledged that the state cannot meet its duty to provide every child with a quality education without providing every school with the resources to meet each child’s needs.

Sadly, as governor, Malloy has not made resolving the lawsuit and properly funding education a true priority. Instead, his new “solutions” for education are privately run charter schools and teacher evaluations based on test scores.

Yet charter schools, serving 1 percent of Connecticut’s public school students, have dismal graduation rates and routinely exclude Latino students, English language learners and students with disabilities.

Furthermore, teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores have been proven to be wildly inaccurate and to massively increase the frequency of standardized tests children must take.

Instead of diverting funds to reforms that do not work, this governor has the historic opportunity to create a fair and equitable school funding system. Malloy’s legacy will rest on how he deals with the education-funding crisis highlighted in CCM’s report. More important, our children’s futures depend on it.”

To read the full piece go to:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-pelto-lecker-connecticut-schools-underfunded-20121123,0,6000165.story

Could Connecticut’s state deficit really jump from $60m to $365m in a month? That would be a No

According to Connecticut law, by the twentieth day of each month, the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management must provide the Office of the State Comptroller with a statement of “revenues and expenditures for the General Fund.”

Using this information, and his own budget experts, the State Comptroller then produces the state’s official financial statement that is released on the first of each month.

A couple of weeks before the election, OPM reported that the projected deficit was $60 million.

A couple of weeks after the election, OPM reported that the projected deficit was $365 million.

As to the question of whether a state deficit could leap from $60 million to $365 million in thirty days, the answer is a simple and resounding – “No.”

So what is going on?

On October 19, 2012, Ben Barnes, Governor Malloy’s budget chief, wrote to State Comptroller Kevin Lembo to report, “We are projecting the General Fund will experience…a $60.1 million shortfall on a budgetary basis, a change of $33.2 million from last month.”

Now, thirty days later, OPM Secretary Barnes, in his monthly letter to State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, is observing that the projected budget deficit is actually six times larger than he had projected, only a month ago.

Now Barnes is reporting that state revenues are down ANOTHER $144.9 million, including $100 million in “unexpected refunds” of income and corporation taxes.   OPM lowered the amount the state is expected to collect from the corporation tax by $51.8 million and the amount that will come in from the state sales tax by $43.7 million.

Even more enlightening is that whereas OPM alluded to the fact that it will probably spend $100 million more than expected on health care costs for poor, Medicaid recipients, the letter Barnes sent to Lembo yesterday reports that the Malloy Administration will spend at least $294.1 million MORE than the amount allocated in the state budget that was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

The number is at least $160 million more than OPM projected last month.

Tens of millions of dollars in excess spending is related to costs in non-Medicaid spending, including cost over-runs in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and in other state agencies.

It would appear that some of these higher costs are related to excess personnel costs meaning that Malloy Administration knew for quite some time that payroll costs were going to exceed what had been budgeted for those agencies.

Last week, Governor Malloy and his advisers sought to dismiss any criticism by suggesting that State Representative Larry Cafero, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, was merely trying to score political points by criticizing the Administration’s handling of the budget.

However, Malloy and some in the media, who simply run with that story, are doing a tremendous disservice to the truth.

While Cafero may very well be attempting to score political points, after all, he is a politician and the political leader of the opposition party; the issues he is raising are legitimate.

In fact, if the tables were turned and it was a Republican Governor announcing massive budget deficits, the Democrats would be calling for legislative hearings and some would even be suggesting that Administration Officials be called to testify, under-oath, so that the Legislature could determine who was involved in the effort to cover-up the magnitude of the budget problems leading up to the election.

The budget analysts who work for the Office of Policy and Management, the State Comptroller and the Office of Fiscal Analysis are some of the most talented people in their field.  There is absolutely no question that some of these experts understood the magnitude of the budget problem.

The unanswered question is not whether the professional staff within state government understood that the budget crisis was getting worse, but why those in more political positions chose to withhold the information from the public.

CT Newsjunkie has the latest at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/barnes_confirms_365m_deficit/ or you can read OPM Secretary Barnes’ letter to State Comptroller Kevin Lembo at http://www.ct.gov/opm/lib/opm/budget/comptrollerletter/fy2013/2012nov20comptrollersletter.pdf