Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Bridgeport, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, State Budget Ben Barnes, Bridgeport, ECS Formula, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
Connecticut’s taxpayers cover more than 80 percent of the costs associated with running Bridgeport’s Schools.
For more than twenty-five years, Connecticut’s primary funding mechanism has been called the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Underfunded by about $2 billion dollars, the money is distributed to towns based on a variety of factors including the number of students living in poverty and the town’s ability to come up with their own funds via their local property taxes.
Every town gets some state aid; the poorest towns get the most.
There are three criteria that towns must meet to get their state aid;
First, the entire amount of the ECS state-grant MUST be spent on education
Second, any increase in the ECS grant CAN NOT be used to supplant local funding for education.
Third, the town must invest a minimum amount of its own money, a system that is called the ECS Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR).
As the CT Post is reporting, “Mayor Bill Finch’s administration is negotiating feverishly in Hartford to shrink a state-mandated $3.3 million spike in education spending that the mayor inexplicably left out of his proposed budget.”
The story goes on to read, “Since Finch did not include the money in his 2013-14 fiscal plan, Bridgeport officials are now trying to convince the state they should not be on the hook for the $3.3 million because of all the unreimbursed “in-kind” school expenses the city covers.”
Connecticut’s entire school funding system is based on the notion of shared expenses. Bridgeport is at the very top of the list of towns that benefit from the state system.
Although the ECS fails to allocate sufficient funds to cover what the state should be paying, rather than pay their share, Bridgeport officials claim that they should be allowed to duck their responsibility to pay their required share.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bridgeport appears to have any ally in Ben Barnes, Malloy’s Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.
Barnes worked for Malloy when Malloy was the Mayor of Stamford. When Malloy left the Mayor’s office in Stamford to run for governor, Barnes landed in an administrative position in Bridgeport. Soon after, he transferred over to become the chief financial officer for Bridgeport schools.
Barnes knows very well that Bridgeport’s schools are underfunded and he knows the requirements of the local Minimum Budget Requirement law.
However, instead of demanding the Bridgeport, like every other Connecticut city, meet its MBR Requirement, Barnes is quoted in the CT Post article as saying, “If a city takes over some $1 million activity for the (school) board, they get a credit, or vice versa…So we’ve agreed to look for some additional information from them. (And) we’ll provide them with some additional clarification of how we’re interpreting the statute.”
But Barnes knows that history and intent of the law and there was never the notion that a city’s “in-kind” support for its schools was meant to take the place of the city’s fundamental requirement to meet its Minimum Budget Requirement.
Last month, the school budget proposed by the Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” counted on the additional $3.3 million the law requires Bridgeport to spend.
Now Vallas is changing his tune. According to the CT Post article, at a recent Bridgeport Board of Alderman meeting, Vallas said, “Do we need $3.3 million more? Yeah…Can we live without it? If we have to, we will find a way to do that.”
So here is the person heading up Bridgeport’s schools backing off his own budget proposal and the need for the state and the city to properly fund Bridgeport’s schools.
Meanwhile, the CT Post reports that, “Finch and his office have refused to discuss the matter publicly, instead issuing the same terse statements that the administration is focused on a resolution.”
This isn’t the first time the Bridgeport has attempted to duck their local funding requirement. A major Connecticut State Department of Education Audit in 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 raised extremely serious problems with Bridgeport’s unwillingness to fulfill its legal obligations when it comes to properly funding education.
Here we are, almost ten years later…
And we are left with the realization that the more things change, the more the stay the same.
Once again, Bridgeport officials want us to believe that Connecticut’s education funding laws applies to everyone but them.
For the full CT Post article go to: http://m.ctpost.com/connpost/db_43463/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=hcRAd05N&full=true#display
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, Taxes Ben Barnes, Malloy, Municipal Aid, Slots Revenue, Tax
Right…The State Lottery was for Education; Native Gaming Slots Revenue was for cities and towns…And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
In 1993, the Mashantucket Pequot Nation signed an agreement with Governor Lowell Weicker and the state of Connecticut.
In return for the exclusive rights to have slot machines, Connecticut’s Native American Tribes would donate 25 percent of their gross slots revenue to the state of Connecticut. It was the most generous Native American Revenue Sharing agreement in the nation.
When the Mohegan Sun was opened a few years later, the program became known as the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Grant. According to the program description, the fund “annually distributes a grant to each of the state’s 169 municipalities. The distribution is based on numerous factors including, but not limited to, the value of state-owned property, private college and general hospitals, population, equalized net grand list, and per capita income as set forth in Sections 3-55i, j, and k of the Connecticut General Statutes. Payment is made in three equal payments on January 1, April 1, and June 30th.”
In its first full year, about $85 million was distributed to Connecticut’s cities and towns. The state of Connecticut was a bit short on revenue that year, so it withheld the other $30 million in order to help balance the state budget.
Over the years, as the two Native American casinos became more and more successful, the amount of money flowing into the state coffers grew substantially.
Some years the state provided its cities and towns a little more money (one year the grant grew to $135 million), but in other years, it cut the grant a bit. Each time, the excess stayed in the state’s General Fund.
Over the past 19 years, the Native American Tribes have given the state approximately $6.2 billion. Over that same period, the state has passed on about $1.5 billion or less than 25 percent of the money generated by the agreement. Connecticut’s state government spent the rest…
In recent years, the state has reduced the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant even further.
This fiscal year Governor Malloy’s budget allocates only about $62 million to the cities and towns via the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant program.
But then came last week’s budget proposal from the Governor.
In a major policy shift, perhaps one of the biggest in the entire budget, Governor Malloy has proposed to reduce the Native American grant program to almost zero. Instead, the Governor’s budget plan has the state borrowing an additional $56 million and giving it to towns to boost their Local Capital Improvement Grants (LoCIP). The unrestricted Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan grant would, for all intent, cease to exist.
It is ironic, to say the least, that on the twentieth anniversary of the Native American Slots Agreement, the Governor would run a wooden stake through the heart of what is left of Governor Weicker’s original proposal to allow the Tribes to have exclusive rights to slot machines in return for a “permanent” revenue source to help cities and towns pay their bills and lower their local property taxes.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy Ben Barnes, Malloy
Faced with a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit for next year and $63 billion in overall state debt and unfunded liabilities – giving Connecticut the largest debt burden per capita in the nation – Governor Malloy recently proposed a $1.5 billion initiative for UConn, a program to augment the existing $2.3 billion 1995-2017 UConn 2000/21st Century UConn program that was designed to rebuild, renew and expand the state’s public research university.
When confronted about moving forward with increased borrowing during this period of fiscal distress, the Governor responded, “Listen, Connecticut is not going to move forward doing the same things that we did unsuccessfully for 22 years,” Malloy said Friday. “This is a big idea.”
The concept of focusing on major initiatives, even in the face of unparalleled fiscal problems, is not new for Connecticut’s governor. As observers have come to recognize, Governor Malloy wants people to see him as a “big” thinker.
A new investigative report by the CTMirror and WNPR highlights this issue extremely well.
“Stamford sewage treatment plant’s long history of problems, the financial implications for local residents and environmental consequences for the entire state.”
“Plagued by mismanagement, faulty equipment and a botched $105 million upgrade, Stamford’s Water Pollution Control Authority has come under fire for sending hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage into Long Island Sound in recent years.
Part of the problem was that three top city officials — the mayor, who is now Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy; his aide, Ben Barnes, now the state’s budget chief; and the sewage plant’s longtime director, Jeanette Brown, who resigned in 2011 — were focused on an exciting new technology that aimed to turn waste into energy.
Unfortunately, their plan had a few glitches.”
The two part investigative report can be read here Striving for innovation, spending millions, Stamford leaders ignored major problems and here Stamford’s failed attempt at energy innovation cost taxpayers tens of millions
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Ben Barnes, Budget cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Last Wednesday’s blog post was entitled, “Wait,What? OPM Secretary Barnes says state budget deficit at $64.4 million.”
The article sought to remind readers that back in December, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced that the state deficit was exceed $415 million, but rather than accept the word of the Constitutional Officer responsible for determining the deficit, Governor Malloy and administration decided to claim the Comptroller was wrong, or as they put it, wrong again.
Readers may recall, immediately after Lembo released his official certification that the deficit would $415 million and not $365 million as Malloy’s budget chief had announced, Roy Occhiogrosso, sent an email 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.”
The Governor, himself, got in on the act, mocking Lembo’s prediction and saying, “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.”
It is worth repeating that Malloy 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 thus the Malloy Administration and the Legislature enacted budget cuts and revenue “enhancements to eliminate a $365 million deficit.
What prompted the Wait, What? post in the first place was the announcement by Malloy’s budget chief that – even after the Governor’s budget mitigation actions – the state budget deficit now stood at $64 million.
Well, now we learn that the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the nonpartisan fiscal analysts who report to the Connecticut General Assembly, has determined that the deficit is not $64 million but $140 million.
As Keith Phaneuf reports in the CTMirror, “The state budget deficit is more than twice the size Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration reported this week, according to a new analysis released Friday by nonpartisan legislative analysts.”
The full explanation can be found in Phaneuf’s story, but suffice to say the Malloy Administration failed to reveal all of the excess spending that it taking place and misreported some revenue related information.
Read Phaneuf’s report here: http://ctmirror.org/story/18895/nonpartisan-analysts-say-state-budget-deficit-approaches-140m
Soon we’ll receive the even more shocking and disturbing news of what this larger deficit means for next year’s budget.
While the Malloy Administration may seek to minimize the projected gap when he releases his proposed state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the latest numbers from the Office of Fiscal Analysis suggest that next year’s budget shortfall is not the $1 billion the Governor’s Office has hinted at but closer to $1.4 billion or more. Traditionally, OFA should be announcing their FY14 projection soon. I’m sure CTMirror will have the details the moment the numbers become available.
But what is clear is that assuming Connecticut seeks to continue to maintain its present level of diminished services, the gap between revenue and expenditures could be in the range of $1.4 billion or more for the coming budget year – almost the size of the tax increase that was adopted just two years ago.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, State Legislature Ben Barnes, Budget cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
A state budget deficit at $64.4 million.
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.”
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Ben Barnes, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
On December 19, 2012, the 2011-2012 Connecticut General Assembly will meet one more time, this time for a special session to deal with Connecticut’s growing budget deficit.
Call it the Holiday Special Session, or perhaps more aptly, it should be called the, “let’s cut vital human services the week before Christmas” Special Session.
In addition to the $123 million the Governor already cut from this year’s budget using his rescission authority, Malloy has now proposed an additional $220 million in cuts. These cuts, however, would require legislative approval.
The hardest hit agencies are the social services provided by the Department of Social Services, the Department of Children and Families and services aimed at helping those with developmental disabilities or mental illness.
In total, the Governor is seeking to balance the $365 to $415 million deficit with well over $250 million in cuts to what would commonly be called essential social services.
Sheila Amdur, the state’s leading mental health advocate, who presently serves as the interim CEO of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, told the CTMirror that Malloy’s cuts disproportionately hurt those who are not in a position to care for themselves.
Amdur told the CTMirror, “It’s so unconscionable that I’m almost speechless.”
In addition, because the federal government reimburses Connecticut for 50% of its Medicaid social services and health care related expenditures, Malloy’s cuts will actually cost that state over $58 million in lost federal revenue.
On the revenue side, Malloy’s plan includes an additional $22 million in tax revenue, although the Malloy administration was quick to claim that the plan doesn’t call for new taxes.
Malloy’s plan also takes out the state’s credit card and borrows $10 million to pay this year’s installment in the $100 million, 10-year Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative.
By putting the stem cell research on the state’s credit card, rather than paying for it out of the traditional budget, the state can take the $10 million in revenue that was coming from the State’s Tobacco Lawsuit Suit Settlement Fund for stem cell research and put it in the General Fund where it can help cover this year’s deficit.
Considering the state’s credit card already has $19.3 billion on it, another $10 million doesn’t even move the scale, but it is certainly ironic, considering candidate Malloy ran on a platform of never using the state’s credit card for on-going state expenses. (Although to be accurate, this year’s budget already puts tens of millions of on-going expenses on the state credit card).
Even before this latest proposal, Connecticut already ranked #1 in the nation when it comes to state debt per person. While the average state debt per person, across the 50 states, is $1,408 per person, Connecticut’s debt is $5,096 per person and growing.
Finally, Malloy’s budget roadmap “raids” a fund intended for environmental conservation and plans that Connecticut will get nearly $9 million in extra tax money this year as a result of a new “get tough on taxpayers program.”
The Governor’s proposed “roadmap” can be found here: http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/lib/malloy/2012.12.07_deficit_mitigation_roadmap.pdf
Here is the latest from the CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/18395/malloy-seeks-more-social-service-cuts-and-extra-tax-dollars-businesses-shrink-deficit and http://ctmirror.org/story/18410/malloy-defends-his-plan-collect-more-tax-dollars-businesses
And click here for CTNewsjunkie’s article on the roadmap: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_issues_deficit_reduction_framework_calls_for_special_session/
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit Ben Barnes, Budget Deficit, Malloy, State Budget
“Comptroller Kevin Lembo today announced that the state is currently on track to end Fiscal Year 2013 with a deficit of at least $415 million based on current spending patterns and revenue projections.”
Although just last week, Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, continued to maintain that the deficit was $365 million, State Comptroller Lembo has set the record straight. It is $50 million higher than the Malloy administration has admitted and continues to grow larger.
According to Lembo’s press release, “Statewide agency appropriations projected to year end are running above their appropriated levels even after consideration of OPM’s estimated deficiency appropriations…Medicaid – the largest single gross appropriation line-item in the budget – is significantly above the budget target.
To translate that into common speech, even as late as last week, the Malloy Administration was finding it impossible to tell the truth.
When putting together the budget, the Malloy Administration underestimated what the state would need to cover Medicaid expenses. In addition, the Malloy Administration claimed it would achieve savings it never achieved and finally, the poor economy has meant that the number of Medicaid cases as grown. As of now, Malloy’s Medicaid budget missed the mark by more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
Incredibly, even now, Malloy and his handlers refuse to come clean with the Connecticut media or the public.
Check back later for updates from the Connecticut media as they become available.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Kevin Lembo, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit, State Legislature Ben Barnes, Kevin Lembo, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
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.
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Malloy, Spending Cap, State Budget, State Deficit, State Legislature Ben Barnes, Budget cuts, Malloy, Spending Cap, State Deficit
(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.