Next Year’s Connecticut Budget Deficit? $1.1 billion – Yeah, B – as in Billion….

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Governor Malloy and Connecticut state government will face a projected budget deficit or revenue shortfall of $1.1 billion next year.

Later today, Malloy’s budget office and the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis will be submitting their mandated annual fiscal projects about revenue and spending.

The Malloy Administration’s $60 million projected deficit in the days leading up to the election has become a $365 million deficit.

And the projected deficit for next year is now set at $1.1 billion.

As Keith Phaneuf of the CT Mirror writes, “since the governor and legislature must balance the current books and craft a new two-year spending plan this spring, that means they must wipe nearly $2.5 billion in real and projected red ink off the state’s books before the 2013 session ends next June.”

The massive fiscal problem comes after the Governor and Legislature adopted $1.5 billion in new taxes last year, while making significant budget cuts and achieving state employee concessions.

Phaneuf goes on to note, “The administration’s two-year estimate exceeds $1.9 billion in red ink. Just nine months earlier, members of the administration said the state could look forward to surpluses totaling more than $1.1 billion over the same two-year period — a $3 billion shift for the worse.”

Earlier this year, the Malloy Administration projected that the State of Connecticut would have a “$226 million surplus in 2013-14 and a $942 million in the final budget year of Malloy’s term.”

Here are the latest links to news stories about the projected deficit:

CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/18217/ct-projected-deficit/

CTNewsjunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/cts_budget_goes_from_bad_to_worse/

Courant:  http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/state-looking-at-red-ink-for-next-3-years-cafero-says-its-not-transparent/

 

Is another Connecticut State Employee Early Retirement Incentive coming?

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Crew Member:  Captain, we’re taking on water.  A number of the compartments on the right are filling up and we’re quickly listing to the starboard side.

Captain:  Tell the crew to go down and punch holes in the left side of the ship!

Crew member:  But Captain, that means we’ll sink for sure.

Captain:  True but at least we won’t be listing to the Starboard side when we do.

And thus we have the problem facing Governor Malloy and his Administration when it comes to the value of implementing another early retirement program.

Although Connecticut is only five months into its fiscal year, the state government is facing a $365 million deficit.  It is a budget deficit that may very well get worse in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the gap in next year’s budget, the one the Governor must submit a budget proposal for in February, could hit three-quarters of a billion dollars or more. [We now know the FY14 budget shortfall is $1.1 billion].

Faced with a fiscal disaster of this magnitude, there will be some in the Malloy Administration who will suggest that the state offer its employees another incentive to get younger workers to retire.

While it is potentially good news for those who are offered the incentive, it will further reduce the state’s workforce and further cripple the state’s ability to successfully provide services.  In addition, of course, it would be fiscally irresponsible.

That said, implementing an early retirement incentive would provide a partial, short-term fix to the state’s budget deficit, and therefore may become part of a deficit mitigation package.

The underlying issue is that early retirement incentives turn active employees into retirees.

As retirees, they are paid out of the state pension fund and not the general fund.

So, for example, a retirement incentive that persuaded 2,000 employees to retire would reduce the state payroll by about $130 million or so.  While that development would only “solve” a portion of the deficit problem, it would reduce the demand for General Fund dollars.

Pay checks would become retirement checks, and although smaller, the total amount would still be significant.  Meanwhile, the cost would shift to the Pension Fund, which is already one of the most underfunded pension funds in the country.  The Connecticut State Employee Pension Fund needs about $11 billion just to bring it up to the appropriate funding ratio.

The short-term benefit of getting 2,000 employees off the state payroll is certainly alluring, but the longer term cost to the taxpayers is significant.

And that doesn’t even count that fact that if these employees are shifted to the pension fund, the state would lose the revenue those employees would have been paying toward the retiree health care fund, if they had remained as active state employees in the coming years.

As many people recognize, the “savings” would also be off-set by more overtime on the part of the remaining employees and the costs associated with filling those positions that cannot go unfilled.

The bottom line is that an early retirement incentive is bad news…

But that said; look for the Malloy Administration to surface an early retirement incentive plan in the near future.

Note:  The proposal may come separately or in conjunction with a settlement related to the Malloy Administration’s inappropriate decision to offer a select group of employees an earlier early retirement incentive last year.  Their move was probably illegal, and if the problem is not resolved through negotiations, an arbitrator might very well rule that the state must provide a group of active employees with an opportunity to retire early.  A broader early retirement agreement could be designed to resolve that problem as well.

Malloy’s decision to coddle the rich = State Budget Deficit

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When Governor Malloy proposed his $1.5 billion tax increase last year, anyone making over $1 million dollars was spared any increase in the state income tax rate.

Concerned that the super-rich in Fairfield County might leave Connecticut – despite the fact that the income tax rate is higher in New York and New Jersey – and much higher in New York City – Malloy’s tax package only increased the income tax rate on people making LESS THAN $1 million.

In addition, he made it clear to the Democratic Legislature that he would not sign any tax package that included a higher rate on millionaires.

So while the Bush (and Obama) Tax Cuts give Connecticut’s super-rich an extra $156,000 in income tax breaks each year – these people saw no increase in their state income tax rate – while the rest of us did.

The amount lost to this give away to the rich – about $350 million.  This year’s projected budget deficit – about $350 million.

So Connecticut, get ready for Governor Malloy to announce more budget cuts this week.

On top of which, despite a huge revenue shortfall for next year, the Governor announced last week that he was ruling out any tax increase on these millionaires for coming year.

Oh it’s good to be in rich…

Fiscal Accountability? Oh you meant Fiscal Accountability…

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Keith Phaneuf’s CTMirror article yesterday, entitled “Revenues plunge, state deficit widens, forcing Malloy to close big gap,” touched on one of the more recent and “unique” attempts at bringing fiscal accountability to Connecticut State Government.

Back around 2009, Governor Jodi Rell and her Office of Policy and Management had a tendency to misrepresent the state’s revenue and expenditure data in order to make it appear that the state budget was more balanced than it actually was.  Some recall this was the time period when Rell allowed the Democratic Legislature’s budget to become state law without her signature, while claiming that she opposed the budget.  Rell even went so far as to attempt to illegally use her line item veto authority to remove certain expenditures, but alas, the court ruled that she could have only used that authority if she had actually signed the budget, not simply allowed it to go into law without her signature.

In any case, in revenge for refusing to be honest about revenue estimates, and in a fit of dedication to fiscal accountability, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1162, AN ACT REQUIRING CONSENSUS REVENUE ESTIMATES. Public Act 214 required the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and the Legislature’s independent Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) to meet and provide state policymakers with “consensus revenue estimates” by October 15 each year, and revisions to those estimates, if needed, in January and April of each year.

If the two entities can’t agree, the responsibility for issuing the consensus would fall to the State Comptroller.

This fail safe solution would force Governor Rell, or any Governor, to be more honest with the General Assembly, the public and the media.

It certainly seemed like a good system, but as the more politically astute among you may note, there was only one problem – and it was a problem of potentially catastrophic proportions

Knowing that the budget is out of balance is arguably a good thing, no matter which political party controls the Executive or Legislative Branches, but if you are the incumbent party, the very last thing you want is for that information to come out on October 15th of an election year.

Imagine all the media reports and potential public outcry that would occur, just two weeks before the election, if voters were to learn that the budget that had adopted was out of balance and that budget cuts and/or tax increases would soon be needed.

So, to rectify the problem, on June 22 of this year, during the Legislature’s short special session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 501.

The bill, which became Public Act 12-2, made a minor change in the consensus revenue estimate law.

Whereas section 2-36c of the Connecticut State Statutes required that consensus revenue estimates be released not later than October fifteenth of each year, the new law deleted the words October fifteen and replaced them with the words November tenth.

Ta-dah!  Problem solved.

The day before the election, the projected state deficit was $60 million.

Three days after the election, it turns out that the state deficit is more like $300 to $350 million.

Say what you want about elected officials, but it was a pretty brilliant maneuver.

For a rather “humorous” look at the issue, read Keith Phaneuf’s story from October 18th where he writes about the Republican’s concern that the Office of Fiscal Analysis is projecting a state deficit that is significantly higher than the Malloy Administration is claiming.

Malloy’s chief spokesman responded, “The closer we get to Election Day, the more desperate the Republicans become.  The more desperate they become, the more heated their rhetoric becomes.  The more heated the rhetoric, the more they play fast and loose with the facts.  They should probably just take a deep breath and begin coming up with the excuses they’ll need to explain away another failed campaign season.”  – Roy Occhiogrosso 10/18/12

And Malloy’s budget office added, “While we always monitor revenue and spending, we’re in the process of doing our own analyses and it would be premature to comment either way” – OPM’s Gian-Carl Casa 10/18/12

You can read Phaneuf’s October story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/17789/gop-says-slowing-revenue-growth-must-be-recognized-now-not-after-election and his story from yesterday here:http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18167/state-budget-deficit-explodes-governor-expected-prepare-deficit-mitigation-plan

Anyone remember Gilda Radner (as Emily Litella) “Oh,Never Mind”

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Gilda Radner as Emily Litella:

“What is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a “deaf” penalty? It’s terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is!”
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The news anchor (Chevy Chase or Jane Curtin) interrupted Litella to point out her error, along the lines, “That’s death, Ms. Litella, not deaf … death.” Litella would wrinkle her nose, say something like, “Oh, that’s very different….” then meekly turn to the camera and say, “Never mind.”

 

THIS PRESS RELEASE JUST IN…

STATEMENT OF BOARD OF REGENTS CHAIRMAN LEWIS J. ROBINSON

AND PRESIDENT ROBERT A. KENNEDY

 (Hartford, CT) – Chairman of the Board of Regents, Lewis J. Robinson, and President Robert A. Kennedy today issued the statement below responding to recent media reports.

“First, Executive Vice President Michael P. Meotti has chosen to forgo his raise in salary. We appreciate this action, and have agreed to it. The Board of Regents will be reviewing all other personnel salary adjustments that were made on the basis of additional duties, responsibilities, and roles assigned resulting from the consolidation.

“Secondly, it’s important to us to apologize for any miscommunication that has occurred between the Board of Regents central office and the community college presidents. In trying to provide any community college presidents who do not support our change agenda a way in which to depart amicably, it was instead mistaken for a buy-out or, worse, a push-out. That was never the intention, and for that, we apologize.

“Let us be clear, too, that the presidents who may not support the Board of Regents’ agenda should not have their commitment, motives and dedication questioned. Change is difficult and our agenda – meeting the needs of every student in Connecticut through the consolidation of governance structures, a reform of remedial education and the implementation of a new transfer and articulation policy to name a few – may not be for everyone. However, we continue to thank each of the 17 presidents for their work and effort on behalf of public higher education in the state, and, most importantly, our students.

“The facts are these:

1.      Presidents who choose to depart from the Board of Regents organization will do so under the existing personnel policies in the community college system.

2.      It is not true that those presidents who choose to stay will automatically be terminated. Presidents who do not choose to depart will be subject to a performance review process which has traditionally taken place in June.

3.      None of the community college presidential positions will be eliminated, merged or consolidated.

“Unfortunately, this issue has taken away from the real reform efforts the Board of Regents has already undertaken on behalf of our students.

“The Board of Regents has approved a seamless transfer and articulation plan which will allow our students to transfer between our institutions more easily. In addition, the BOR has identified $5.5 million in central office savings, and has redirected that funding to the campuses for at least 47 tenure track faculty and direct student support positions. We are in the midst of formulating a longer-term, strategic plan that will help focus our organization on training and preparing students for the rigors of a global economy, while supporting workforce development initiatives across our state.

“We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in 10 months, but clearly we have much further to go. We look forward to working with the presidents, the faculty, staff and students on our campuses to ensure that the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities are an accessible and affordable option for our state’s students.”

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There is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents.

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Last week came the media reports that the Board of Regents for Higher Education, the entity responsible for overseeing Connecticut’s newly merged public state university and community college system was engaged in an unprecedented effort to remove the individual community college presidents, because some had raised concerns about some controversial policies that the new central office was pushing.

On top of that came the disturbing news that one of the top administrators in that central office, Executive Vice President Michael P. Meotti, has received a $49,000 pay increase last week, an unprecedented pay increase at a time when salaries for all state employees are frozen as a result of the Malloy-SEBAC labor agreement. .

While some states treat their public higher education systems as extensions of their political operations, where people are given jobs based on their political connections and financial donations to gubernatorial candidates, Connecticut has been relatively free of that type of corrupt system of management.

That is until now.

While the $49,000 pay increase is disgusting enough, media outlets have been slow to report that the recipient of this incredible largess is not only a friend of the Governor, but that the two have known each other since they were young boys. In addition, Meotti’s brother has often been referred to as Malloy’s best friend growing up.

When the CTMirror asked the Governor’s Office whether Meotti’s raise was contrary to the governor’s instructions, Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba told the reporter that, “The Board of Regents is an independent body, and as such it was their decision to handle the compensation of management in this manner.”

The Board of Regents an independent body?

Is there no one in the Malloy Administration who is willing to tell the truth?

Since the Board of Regents is new, all the members of the Board of Regents appointed by the Executive Branch of government were appointed by Governor Malloy!

The truth is that nine members of the Board of Regents are appointed by the Governor, four are appointed by the legislative leadership; two board members are students who are chosen by their peers. There are also four non-voting ex-officio members who can and do participate in board discussions.  These ex-officio members are Governor Malloy’s commissioners of the Department of Public Health, Education, Economic and Community Development, and Labor.

But Governor Malloy’s control of decision-making in the new combined Connecticut State University and Connecticut Community College System doesn’t stop with the his control of the Board itself.

The Board of Regents has an executive staff that who manages the budget and policies of the State Universities and Community Colleges.  The central executive operation is headed by President Robert Kennedy, who was personally recruited to the position Governor Malloy.  Kennedy also has three vice presidents, the first being Michael Meotti, whose salary was increased last Friday from $183,339, to $232,244

In addition to Meotti, there is Vice President for State Universities Elsa Nunez.  Nunez also serves as President of Eastern Connecticut State University and was a strong supporter of Governor Malloy’s Education Reform bill.  Dr. Nunez’s husband Richard M. Freeland serves as Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts,

The other top administrator is David Levinson, the Vice President for Community Colleges.  Levinson is also the President of Norwalk Community College and has been a long-time supporter of Governor Malloy and his family.

When Lewis Robinson Jr., chairman of the Board of Regents, was asked about the controversial pay raise that Meotti received.  CTMirror reported that, “he didn’t know how pay raises in the central office are approved and referred all questions either to Meotti or Kennedy.”  Not surprisingly, both of these top administrators failed to return media calls.

The incredible pay increase did draw sharp criticism from Connecticut State Senator Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and State Representative Roberts Willis, D-Salisbury, the two co-chairwomen of the General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee.

State Senator Bye, who was a leading force behind the State University-Community College reorganization and State Representative Willis, who generally opposed the merger, agreed that, as Bye told the CTMirror, “The whole point of the reorganization was for the dollars to go down to the classroom…”There’s no justifying those increases in these fiscal times. I’m outraged.”

Readers of Wait, What? will recall that as a key part of his first biannual state budget, Governor Malloy pushed through the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public universities and colleges.

The compensation story is yet another example of the Malloy Administration’s broader attempt to turn Connecticut’s public system of higher education into its political playground.

More on these developments will appear in Wait, What? as the week goes on.

Whose money paid for the “Education Reformer’s” effort to influence the outcome of Connecticut 5th Legislative District?

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Last week, the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance engaged in an unprecedented effort to influence the outcome of an election in Connecticut.  GNEPSA, Michelle Rhee’s front group used a loophole in Connecticut campaign finance law to dumps tens of thousands of dollars in support of Democrat Brandon McGee and against Democrat Leo Canty.

In the course of six days, Rhee’s group spent more than either candidate had spent in the months of campaigning that had taken place before a re-vote was needed to determine the winner.

Because of the way Connecticut law is set up, Rhee’s organization did not have to disclose any detailed information about where she got her money for this inappropriate intervention in Connecticut Democratic politics.

The only facts that had to be revealed were the names of the top five organizations or individuals who donated to the GNEPSA campaign.  Those names were Michele Rhee’s national group, Students First, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an investment banker named Nick Beim and Steve Perry, the principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

The fact that list includes ConnAD, which is the sister organization to the Connecticut Association for Achievement Now, Inc., (ConnCAN), is by far the most stunning piece of information of all.

Patrick Riccards is the CEO of both ConnCAN and ConnAD, and both organizations are directly tied to Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that was formed by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Dacia Toll, who now serves as Achievement First’s CEO.

Pryor and Toll formed Achievement First with the help of a small group of wealthy Fairfield County businessmen.  Achievement First’s incorporation papers were signed by Greenwich businessman William Berkley (who remains the Chairman of its Board of Directors) and Stamford’s Jonathan Sackler.  Achievement First’s board also included Greenwich businessman Alexander Troy, and soon after, they were joined by corporate CEO Andy Boas.

A year later, in September 2004, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) was formed.  Leading the ConnCAN Board of Directors was a number of Achievement First’s directors including Jonathan Sackler, Alexander Troy and Andrew Boas

And three months after that, Jonathan Sackler and Alexander Troy set up ConnCAN’s sister organization, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD), which immediately became the lobbying arm of ConnCAN.

Over the next seven years, ConnAD paid one of Hartford’s most prominent lobbying firms over $725,000 to lobby in support of charter school issues.  The payments were as follows:

2005    Gaffney Bennett         $85,000

2006    Gaffney Bennett         $85,000

2007    Gaffney Bennett         $90,000

2008    Gaffney Bennett         $90,000

2009    Gaffney Bennett         $95,400

2010    Gaffney Bennett         $95,400

2011    Gaffney Bennett         $95,000

And then this year, ConnCAN paid more than $800,000 to lobby on behalf of the “education reform” bill sponsored by Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Earlier this year when I took on ConnCAN’s tactics here at Wait, What?, Patrick Riccards responded on the ConnCAN blog by saying,

“It’s always disappointing when we have to take time out of our work on commonsense, student-centered education reform in Connecticut to address misinformation about our organization. But this morning, Jonathan Pelto came out with an ad hominem attack about us on his blog called “Can ConnCAN Con Conn” that claims to have uncovered some sort of hidden agenda.”

Riccards went on to say, “We pride ourselves on being an incredibly transparent organization. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, our 990 FORM is available to the public. Our campaigns and donors are documented every year in our ANNUAL REPORT.”

What Riccards conveniently sidestepped was that they were moving the lobbying money through ConnAD and not ConnCAN and that ConnAD was set up in such a way that it did not have to file any documentation about where they got their money.  No 990 Forms and no annual reports.

Today, ConnAD has spent over $1.5 million and the people of Connecticut have no idea where that money is comes from?

The only thing we can guess is that it is coming from the Fairfield Country businessmen who formed the group and continue to help direct both Achievement First and its related public relations organizations.

However, last, but certainly not least, a new clue has arisen.

While ConnAD was originally formed by corporate executives Jonathan Sackler and Alex Troy, a third partner was quietly added to the incorporation papers, at some point during the last few years.

That third partner is Robert Furek, the former President and CEO of the Heublien Corporation.

While Furek lives on Marco Island in Florida, his is a name that may be familiar to a number of people in Connecticut.

Back in 1997, when Governor John Rowland and the Connecticut legislature moved to take over the Hartford School System, Rowland appointed Furek to head the Hartford schools system’s new Board of Trustees.

When he left the post three years later, the claim was that he had successfully turned around Hartford Schools.  The media reported that, “for the first time in years the district is focused on improving student achievement. In 1999, a permanent superintendent, Anthony Amato, was hired. He brought a disciplined new curriculum for elementary school students–and striking progress on standardized tests.”

Media reports went on to say, “Schools are cleaner. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, incompetent school principals are being replaced. Textbooks are plentiful. Test scores are up under a renewed emphasis on reading, writing and math.”

Leaving aside the truthfulness as to whether Furek actually managed to turnaround the Hartford school system, Robert Furek may very well be better known for his role in raising campaign money for some of the most right-wing candidates and causes in the United States.

According to Federal Election Committee reports,  in addition to his work with the Connecticut Association for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., (ConnAD), , Robert Furek has been a major fundraiser and donor to the campaigns of George W. Bush for President,  John McCain for President, Romney for President, Paul Ryan for Congress, Rick Santorum’s U.S. senatorial run in 2006 and two extraordinarily controversial political action committees;  Progress for America Voter Fund, a primary vehicle for the Koch Brother’s assault on America and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

So, all this brings us back to the independent expenditure aimed at influencing the outcome of the General Assembly’s 5th District seat.

Putting aside why the “education reformers” felt so strongly about the race, there is an even more pressing question – and that is – who exactly was behind this effort?

It was only a few months ago that ConnCAN’s Patrick Riccards claimed that, “We pride ourselves on being an incredibly transparent organization.”

Yes transparent is the absolute last thing they have been.

Well, now the moment of truth has arrived.

ConnAD has spent $1.5 million lobbying for “education reform” in recent years, the majority being spent in support of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill.  And that effort doesn’t even count the money poured into this week’s special Democratic Primary.

“Incredibly transparent” organizations don’t hide the truth from the people of Connecticut.

The question must be answered; who has been funding ConnAD and how much has each person donate?

News Flash: Michelle Rhee had co-conspirators in the attempt to buy this week’s Democratic Primary.

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Official reports indicate that Connecticut’s primary “education reform” group was part of Rhee’s attempt to influence the outcome of this week’s Democratic Primary

It turns out that when Michelle Rhee dumped tens of thousands into this week’s re-vote to select the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, she wasn’t acting alone.

Initial media reports pointed out that the money being spent by the Greater New England Public School Alliance, Rhee’s front group, in support of Brendan McGee and against Leo Canty came from Rhee’s national organization, StudentsFirst, as well as from, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Perry, the head of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

But the media missed the fourth key donor to the Greater New England Public School Alliance’s massive spending effort.  According to those same reports, the fourth major donor was none-other-than ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., the sister organization of ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.

Both organizations are directed by Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN’s CEO, and both organizations were created by the very same people who created and have been funding Achievement First, Inc., the Charter School Management company that was actually co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

ConnAD and ConnCAN’s effort to influence public policy is extensive.  Even before Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill was proposed, these two organizations spent more than half a million dollars lobbying on behalf of charter schools.

The two organizations ramped up their lobbying after Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor introduced Malloy’s “education reform” bill.  Although their ethics reports appear to be filled out incorrectly, in violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws, it appears that ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., spent nearly $825,000 in their effort to pressure legislators to support Malloy’s bill.

At the same time, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., appears to have spent another $230,000 lobbying Malloy’s bill, bringing the total expenditures by the two Connecticut based groups to over $1,000,000.  That doesn’t even count the historic lobbying expenditure by Michelle Rhee.

What these latest State Election Enforcement Commission reveal is that Patrick Riccards, ConnAD and ConnCAN have now moved past their efforts to influence policy through their lobbying and have begun to directly campaign for and against individual candidates.

However, due to the way ConnAD was set up, it doesn’t need to disclose where it gets its funding.  This loophole means that Connecticut citizens don’t know who actually paid for last spring’s historic lobbying effort or who is presently behind the effort to impact the outcome of these Democratic primaries.

At this point, the only piece that is known is that Michelle Rhee, with the help of Connecticut education reformers got deeply involved in this week’s Democratic primary.

After an initial primary, two recounts and a judicial order for a re-vote, the voters of Hartford and Windsor choose Brandon McGee over Leo Canty, to be the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, on Tuesday.

While the battle was mostly a local one, Michelle Rhee’s effort to influence the outcome garnered national attention.  As noted, Michelle Rhee’s Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent an unprecedented amount in support of McGee and against Canty.

So why would one of the country’s leading “education reformers,” along with ConnAD and ConnCAN, target a particular candidate in a Democratic primary, when that house seat is just one of 187 house and senate seats in Connecticut?

The reason seems to be due to the fact that Leo Canty serves as a leader in the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

The fact that Michelle Rhee would leave the national stage to target a particular candidate in a Connecticut legislative primary is surprising enough.  The revelation that Connecticut’s primary education reform group would actually help fund such a campaign effort, is, quite frankly, unbelievable.

ConnAD and ConnCAN have been closely aligned with Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor.  In fact, Commissioner Pryor has publicly credited ConnCAN for their help in passing Malloy’s bill.

With ConnAD and ConnCAN now funding an independent campaign to defeat an individual Democratic candidate because they belong to a teacher’s union raises some extraordinarily serious questions about who was involved in these decisions and whose money was actually being used.

The initial press reports were that the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent about $32,000 in their independent campaign to influence the outcome of the primary.  However, additional reports were submitted in the final days of the primary indicating that other expenditures were made.  It should be noted though that the reports are so poorly completed that it is difficult to determine exactly how much Rhee’s group spent.

The following amounts were submitted to the State Elections Enforcement Commission:

Greater New England Public Schools Alliance 9/26/2012 $31,977.51
Greater New England Public Schools Alliance 9/28/2012 $5,606.18
Greater New England Public Schools Alliance 10/2/2012 $8,889.43
Greater New England Public Schools Alliance (amended report) 10/2/2012 $1,1226.00

 

 

Oh look, Malloy and Christie still hand in hand on “Education Reform.”

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Wait, What? readers will recall Governor Malloy’s original “Education Reform” proposal which created the “Commissioner’s Network,” a system in which Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, would be given the authority to take over a series of local schools, remove the existing staff, ban collective bargaining and turn the schools over to some third-party who would then be exempt from the state’s laws requiring competitive bidding and limiting the use of consultants.

A modified version of his proposal passed the Legislature and is now being implemented.

For example, Pryor is taking control of the Milner School in Hartford and handing it over to the Jumoke Charter School company.  Commissioner Pryor is taking this action despite the fact that Jumoke has NO EXPERIENCE working with non-English speaking students and yet more than 40% of the Milner School’s students are not fluent in English or go home to households in which English is not spoken.

New York’s public radio station (WNYC) and public education expert and advocate Diane Ravitch are reporting the “education reform” plan coming out of Chris Christie, New Jersey’s right-wing governor.  And it sounds pretty damn familiar.

See the NYC story at Documents Detail Christie Administration’s Plan for School Reform and Diane Ravitch’s post at Chris Christie’s Plan to Privatize NJ’s Low-Performing Schools.

Both articles come from information provided by The Education Law Center, New Jersey’s public education advocacy group.

The Education Law Center acquired a copy of Governor Christie’s plan.

It is almost as if Christie took Malloy’s plan and simply exchanged the word New Jersey for Connecticut and called it a day.  (Or perhaps it was the other way around and Malloy took Christie’s plan.)

As WNYC reports, “The New Jersey Department of Education is moving forward with a reform plan…[that] calls for school closures, state operation of failing schools and elimination of union representation in schools…”

Like Malloy’s original plan, New Jersey’s plan proposes that “schools will be freed from the district’s collective bargaining agreement and the school’s operator will have control over personnel decisions.”

The Christie Plan also lays out a system in which “private contractors will take over failing schools.”

In addition, similar to what is going on in Bridgeport, New Jersey’s plan relies on “private funds” that will be used to implement portions of the law.  In New Jersey’s case the money is coming from the Broad Foundation of California.

Low and behold, the similarities between Christie’s plan and what Malloy, Pryor and Paul Vallas are doing here in Connecticut don’t stop there.

Diane Ravitch writes “one of the news stories says that [New Jersey’s education commissioner] wants to use [Paul Vallas’] New Orleans “recovery school district” as a model for New Jersey.”

Ravitch rightfully asks whether these guys know that when Vallas was done with New Orleans, “79% of the charters in New Orleans were graded either D or F by the state, and that New Orleans’ school system was ranked 69th of 70 districts in the entire state.”

Meanwhile, in the small world department, Christie’s education commissioner, Chris Cref and the Broad Foundation – the very ones leading Governor Christie’s efforts worked directly with Malloy’s Stefan Pryor when Pryor was working in Newark.

After reading about what is going on in New Jersey, I know I’m repeating myself, but it is worth saying again.

Governor Malloy introduced the most anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-union “education reform” bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.  Malloy’s bill was far more in line with the worst proposals coming out of the corporate privatization movement.

Thankfully, the Democrats in the Legislature watered down some of the worst provisions of Malloy’s bill, but the law is still moving Connecticut in the wrong direction.

Oh and meanwhile – there is that whole budget deficit thing…

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In less than ninety days, the state’s fiscal year (FY12) will come to an end.  The day will mark the completion of Governor Malloy’s first fiscal year budget.

We sometimes forget that when Dan Malloy was sworn in as Governor Dannel Malloy back in January 2011, the state was functioning under a budget developed by Governor Rell and the Democrats in the Legislature.

It wasn’t until July 1, 2011 that Governor Malloy’s first state budget took effect. The “Fog of Time” probably clouds our recollection, but some will remember that Governor Malloy came into office facing an upcoming budget short-fall of more than $3 billion dollars.

After $1.5 million in new taxes, significant budgets cuts and a Malloy/SEBAC state employee agreement that included a wage freeze, changes in health benefits and a variety of other “projected cost savings”, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law a budget that purportedly contained a surplus.

Now with three months left in the fiscal year, Gov. Malloy and his budget chief, Ben Barnes, continue to hold on to their fantasy that the state presently has a small surplus.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis is predicting the state budget will end $120 million in the red – assuming that the Malloy administration follows through on its promise if allocate $75 million in a first step toward shifting the state to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles GAAP).

For the past nine months, Connecticut Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo has been in a difficult position.  As Connecticut’s fiscal watchdog he has the obligation to put politics aside and report the actual state of affairs when it comes to Connecticut’s budget.

On the other hand, we’ve all seen that the Malloy administration is not only thin-skinned but quick to bully and assault anyone who criticizes them, even when the criticism is fair and accurate.

With that background, Lembo has done an impressive job giving Malloy’s budget projections the benefit of the doubt while still articulating the growing reality that will face Connecticut as the fiscal year comes to a close.

Truth be told, Connecticut’s state’s deficit would be significantly higher if it wasn’t for some handy budget gimmicks that the Malloy administration has been able to utilize including moving money from the last fiscal year into this fiscal year without having to go through the pesky appropriations process with all its transparency, procedures and votes.

Putting aside some “creative” spending strategies, Malloy, Lembo and the Democrats in both the Senate and House are looking to the April 15th tax deadline in the hope that income tax revenues will spike and the deficit will be erased, are at least won’t get worse.

As Lembo said in his press release, “all eyes are on April.” More

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