2012: The Year of Education – Malloy Goes Bold? Really?

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Governor Malloy’s plan would have taxpayers paying an additional $2,600 for each of Connecticut’s 6,000 charter schools students and $150 for each of the 222,000 students in Connecticut’s poorest and lowest performing schools

Courtesy CTMirror

No really, that is the impact of the Governor’s “Bold” funding initiative.

Over the past few days, Governor Dannel Malloy has held a series of press conferences to maximize attention for his education initiatives.  Today he will speak to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly and proclaim this – the Year of Education in Connecticut.

Governor Malloy’s Plan includes:

$50 Million more for the ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) Formula with 75% of that money going to the 30 poorest school districts.

$20 million more to dramatically increase funding for Connecticut’s existing charter schools while authorizing the creation of five new charter schools.

$4 million for 500 new early childhood education slots, $3 million for increasing professional development programs for early childhood education providers and $5 million to create a statewide “Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System” so that parents can get more information about the quality of early childhood programs in their area.

And $25 million over the next two years to “transform” 25 district schools by setting up a “Commissioner’s Network where low performing schools would voluntarily participate and allow the state to take over their schools or help them partner with universities or other regional education centers to implement turnaround interventions.”

In addition the Governor will propose efforts to increase the quality of Connecticut’s teachers by mandating that a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.3 (B+) to get into a Connecticut teacher education program. He will also call for setting up a new teacher certification process that will make it easier for teachers from outside of Connecticut to get jobs in the state.  If the B+ requirement was implemented, a recent CTMirror article reported that more than half of those attending Central Connecticut State University to become teachers would have been turned away.

The core of the Governor’s funding proposal is the additional funds for district schools and charter schools in the state.

Of the $50 million in new ECS funding, $39.5 million will go to the poorer communities.  However, those are the same communities that, under Malloy’s plan, will have to transfer $1,000 from their local budget to the charter school in their community for every charter school student. This means that $6 million of the new funds will be transferred to the local charter school.

Once the transfer to the charter school is made, the 30 poorest districts will then be sharing $33.5 million in new education funds.  Since those 30 districts educate 222,000 students, the net increase in per student funding will be $150.

Meanwhile, the additional money going to the existing charter schools (directly from the state and from the required local district transfer) will mean that each of the 6,000 charter school students will receive a net increase of $2,600 in funding.

We’ll learn more about the Governor’s “Bold” Year of Education Initiatives later today.

Last Minute Deal on Budget: 3 top reasons to vote no remain unaddresssed

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(cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Governor Malloy, Senate President Williams and Speaker Donovan cleared the way for passage of Malloy’s proposed budget this morning after pulling the language that would have destroyed Connecticut’s campaign finance system and agreeing that the Legislature will have to vote on any additional cuts if the state employees don’t come up with $2 billion dollars (not making that change would have meant the budget was an unconstitutional transfer or power to the Executive Branch).

However, the new agreement completely fails to address the TOP THREE REASONS Democratic Legislators should vote no and those are:

(1) State employees are not the enemy.  This is the most anti-state employee budget in modern history.  $2 Billion in employee concessions is not achievable leaving this budget a half a billion or more out of balance.  With or without concessions this budget includes significant layoffs.  Voting for a budget that lays people off and reduces services without knowing where those cuts will occur means legislators are failing to fulfill their responsibilities.

(2)   This budget coddles the super rich.  Although $300 of the $500 property tax credit is reinstated, this tax plan still places an unfair burden on Connecticut’s middle class while not requiring Connecticut’s wealth pay their fair share.  With the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts the richest 1% will pocket an extra $156,000 a year while this budget only requires someone making $2 million a year to  pay $11,900 more.

(3)  This budget makes the deepest cuts in history to Connecticut’s colleges and universities.  At the very moment Connecticut should be strengthen its workforce, this budget takes us exactly in the wrong direction.

Finally, good that they are also removing Malloy’s plan to raise the gas tax by 3 cents but they are not capping the gross receipts tax which means the state of Connecticut will continue to be gouger #2 behind the oil companies when it comes to inflating the price of gasoline.

The Governor and Legislature have not completed their work.  They need to go back and fix this budget or they will be saddling Connecticut with a budget that does not move our state forward in the right direction.

As Governor and Legislative Leaders Rush Vote – 5 Reasons Legislators Must Vote No

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(cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

The Connecticut State Senate is scheduled to vote on the State Budget today, the House of Representatives tomorrow.

The General Assembly should not be voting on this proposed budget.  If a vote is taken, Legislators should vote no and force the changes that are needed to ensure Connecticut has a fair, honest and legal budget.

Here are just 5 reasons Legislators Must Vote NO…

(1) State employees are not the enemy.  This is the most anti-state employee budget in modern history.  $2 Billion in employee concessions is not achievable leaving this budget a half a billion or more out of balance.  With or without concessions this budget includes significant layoffs.  Voting for a budget that lays people off and reduces services without knowing where those cuts will occur means legislators are failing to fulfill their responsibilities.

(2)   This budget coddles the super rich.  Although $300 of the $500 property tax credit is reinstated, this tax plan still places an unfair burden on Connecticut’s middle class while not requiring Connecticut’s wealth pay their fair share.  With the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts the richest 1% will pocket an extra $156,000 a year while this budget only requires someone making $2 million a year to  pay $11,900 more.

(3)  This budget makes the deepest cuts in history to Connecticut’s colleges and universities.  At the very moment Connecticut should be strengthen its workforce, this budget takes us exactly in the wrong direction.

(4)   This budget destroys Connecticut’s best in the nation campaign finance plan.  While the Governor and Legislative leaders deny any knowledge as to how the language got into the budget deal , the budget document would undo all the work and progress that has been made toward strengthening our democracy and reducing the influence of special interests.

(5)   It is illegal to vote on this budget.  With the employee concession issue unresolved, revenues and expenditures do not match as required by the Connecticut Constitution.  In addition, the proposed solution, simply giving the Governor the authority to make any and all cuts necessary to balance the budget is an illegal, unconstitutional and immoral delegation of duty.

The Governor and Legislature have not completed their work.  They need to go back and fix this budget or they will be saddling Connecticut with a budget that does not move our state forward in the right direction.

Tuesday 4-27-2011: Democrats Caucus on State Budget – rush toward a vote

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Despite $2 billion in unachievable state employee concessions, a budget that purposely unravels Connecticut’s “best in the nation” campaign finance program, the deepest cuts to Connecticut’s colleges and universities in state history and a variety of other troubling aspects, Democratic Legislative leaders want an immediate vote on their budget deal with Governor Malloy.

The quote of  the week goes to Senate President Don Williams who explains the need for speed by saying

“The danger in delaying a vote on the budget and letting days and weeks go by, it gives more time for the special interests and the lobbyists to start picking off legislators, to start advocating on this particular line item or that tax break”

Picking off legislators by advocating on a particular line item?

Apparently we’ve truly entered the “It’s this way or no way” approach to governing.

Meanwhile, in a story in yesterday’s CTnewsjunkie, the Governor has reiterated that he is willing to work with legislative leadership if that state employee concessions aren’t achieved but fell far short of saying that he recognizes that legislators would have to vote on the massive cuts that would be needed to balance the budget.

Instead, Ben Barnes, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management would be given the authority to reduce the budget by $1 billion on his own.

In response to criticism that Barnes is not an elected official and should not have that extraordinary authority, Christine Stuart wrote that “Malloy said Barnes is one of his appointees but he’s more than happy to work on the spending cuts with legislative leadership if there’s disagreement on where those cuts should be made.”

For more, check out http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_adopt_this_budget_and_blame_me/

Democrats: An illegal budget vote or a vote for lay-offs and massive budget cuts

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(cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

As Governor Malloy pushes for a quick vote by the Connecticut General Assembly on the budget deal he reached with Democratic legislative leaders, individual Democratic legislators have a very serious choice to make.

Article XXVIII of the Amendments to the Connecticut Constitution requires that “general budget expenditures authorized for any fiscal year shall not exceed the estimated amount of revenue for such fiscal year.”

The budget deal assumes that state employees will give up $2 billion dollars in concessions, $1 billion of which shall occur in next year’s budget (FY12).

However everyone except the immediate players involved in this drama recognize that such an amount cannot and will not be achieved.

At best, even the aggressive concessions package would leave this budget half a billion dollars short of revenue and out of balance.

But the law is clear.  The Legislature cannot adopt and the Governor cannot sign a budget where expenditures exceeds revenues – and yet that is exactly what this budget does.  It is a gimmick of epic proportions.

That is unless the Democrats admit and agree that they are actually voting for the full $2 billion in cuts which means historic concessions AND massive layoffs AND significant budget cuts – budget cuts that are almost double the size of the cuts they have already made in this draft budget…budget cuts that will reduce vital services and undermine the quality of life for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens.

A vote on this budget is nothing short of a choice between violating the Connecticut Constitution and adopting an illegal budget or knowingly voting for state employee layoffs and budget cuts.

And quietly giving the Governor the authority to make the layoffs and cuts “on his own”  does not absolve Democratic legislators of the damage their action will have.

All the state employee bashing and political pontificating won’t change the reality that a vote for this proposed budget is a vote for concessions,  state employee layoffs and hundreds of millions in cuts  to vital programs and essential services.

Democratic legislators pledged to their constituents that they would not support these types of cuts.

Now we’ll find out whether they were telling the truth.

News Update: Democratic Legislature Falls in Line

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An example of collaboration in the political arena?

Collaboration is a term usually used in a positive sense to mean working together to achieve a common goal. However, it can also be used as a negative, as in “Collaborator” or “Collaborationist”, a pejorative description of people who work with the enemy even if it against the needs of their own people.

So what type of collaboration is this? The agreement Governor Malloy and Democratic Leaders announced last night make a number of changes a few of which will require some wealthy Connecticut taxpayers to pay a little more (i.e. those who die, those who buy really expensive cars, boats or jewelry and those who make between $250,000 and $2 million a year) but fundamentally it gives the super wealthy a pass and leaves a disproportionate tax burden on those in the middle class.

Second, above all else it leaves in place the unachievable $2 billion in state employee concessions which means that the FY 12 budget Democratic legislators are planning to vote for is $500 million or more out of balance.

Furthermore, the Governor has been clear, if the state employees “fail to provide the funds” he will be forced to lay off thousands, destroy and safety net and cut municipal aid, forcing local property taxes to go up even further.

And finally, this new consensus budget maintains the deepest cuts in the history of public higher education in Connecticut. Cuts that will mean Connecticut’s families will be paying more and getting less from Connecticut’s colleges and universities.

 There are a number of important and positive changes to the budget. (Some highlighted bellow.)

However, this “collaboration” on the part of the Democratic Legislature maintains the worst elements of the Malloy budget including making Connecticut’s state employees enemy #1.

Highlights:

The plan adopts Malloy’s revised income tax proposal which includes a $300 property tax credit paid for primarily by changes that will increase the income tax for those making between $250,000 and $2 million.

The higher sales tax will apply to clothing under $50, over the counter medications but haircuts, automobile trade-ins, car washes, and boat repairs and storage will not be taxed.

There will be 7 percent luxury tax on clothing costing more than $1,000, jewelry above $5,000 and cars and boats above $50,000 rather than Malloy’s plan to add an extra 3 percent to those types of items.

Under the compromise plan, the inheritance tax would apply to estates of more than $2 million instead of Malloy’s plan of $3.5 million.

The new plan increases the reach of the healthcare provider tax which brings in more revenue and federal funds and also relies more on the new tax on major electric generator. The plan also maintains the higher gas tax.

The plan makes some relatively minor changes to the appropriations side of the budget (will outline in a later post).

For those and a more details breakdown of the tax changes, CTnewsjunkie has posted a copy of what was handed out to legislators and others yesterday. Click Here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/upload/dem-deal.pdf

Psychological warfare or political gimmick gone bad

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Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

Connecticut media are abuzz today with reports that Gov. Dannel Malloy’s “Plan B” to dealing with historic deficits ($1 billion in concessions from public-sector workers) may be cutting $1 billion in state aid to Connecticut’s  cities and towns.

The question is whether this is another case of Malloy’s psychological warfare to demonize Connecticut’s state employees or a political gimmick gone bad.

For an administration that can’t get out of campaign mode, the evidence actually suggests the latter.

The Associated Press reports that, “Connecticut cities and towns would lose one-third of their state aid under a contingency plan Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has requested in case there is no agreement on $1 billion in union savings and concessions to help balance his budget.”

The Malloy administration has even created a list that reduces every local government’s state aid by 35.83 percent.

However, when the Connecticut Post asked Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor, about the $1 billion cut-list (which was leaked to the Post on Tuesday), he said it was developed in response to complaints about why Malloy hadn’t balanced Connecticut’s budget without raising taxes.

Occhiogrosso said cutting $1 billion in aid to cities and towns would be like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to cut $4.65 billion in aid to New York’s cities and towns. Occhiogrosso pointed out that the cut-list’s town-by-town breakdown indicates just how devastating a $1 billion cut would be.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the state’s primary lobbying arm for local governments (and an organization that Malloy once chaired) called the plan a “doomsday budget.” It said: “A billion-dollar cut in municipal aid will result in massive municipal employee and teacher layoffs across the state.”

Yet later that same day (Tuesday), the governor’s office was handing out the $1 billion breakdown to reporters and Occhiogrosso was saying to the Associated Press and other media “There are only so many places where you can go to get large sums of money to get to $1 billion, if that number is not reached in discussions with labor … Municipal aid is certainly one of those places. It represents a large portion of the budget.”

Occhiogrosso added “There are different scenarios being looked at — municipal aid, reduction in state agencies’ (budgets), several different scenarios. The governor’s been pretty clear that one thing will not happen. Taxes will not rise beyond what he has already proposed … Everything else is on the table.”

So what exactly is this “doomsday budget”?

Is it a document designed to explain Malloy’s decision not to use Cuomo’s approach. Or is it a genuine plan to destroy every town’s local budget and local school system if state employees are unable to come up with the unachievable $1 billion in concessions.

Either way, it is a maneuver more in line with a political campaign than the thoughtful approach of a chief executive.

For me, the primary clue to what is going down is that Malloy’s town-by-town breakdown does not differentiate between towns that could survive a massive cut in aid and those that could not. Whomever authorized this list decided to simply cut 35.83 percent from every town. No reasonable policymaker, especially no Democrat, would ever propose cutting municipal aid by the same percent in every town.

The fact is a cut in municipal aid of more than a third to a town like Greenwich, with its extraordinary tax base and limited municipal demands, would create far less damage than a similar cut to a city like Hartford or Bridgeport.

It is more than far-fetched to think that this $1 billion cut-list could really be part of Malloy’s “Plan B”.

The Malloy people would do themselves and the state a big favor by developing a “real” Plan B if they can’t squeeze the billion from the state’s employees.

And so it begins…

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Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

When Governor Malloy submitted his Connecticut State Budget proposal in February it included $1 billion dollars in employee concessions for FY 12 and another billion for FY 13.

Those who appreciate the realities of how Connecticut’s budget works recognized immediately that such a figure was not achievable.   There was simply no way that $1 billion dollars in employee savings could be achieved in one fiscal year.

Malloy Walks the Picket Line

The question was and remains today – why would the Governor propose a budget that he knew was destined to be as much as $500 million or more out of balance?

Sadly, the clues were immediate.

At the time, Malloy said that “if” the concessions were not forthcoming, but he was confident that they would be achieved, he would be forced to lay off thousands and shred the State’s safety net.  He was very clear.  The blame for this catastrophe would rest solely on the heads of Connecticut’s state employees.

And now the next phase in this drama has begun…

On Friday, the CT Mirror ran a story entitled “Municipal aid is at stake in Malloy’s talks with labor

The story leads with a quote from Malloy’s top advisor Roy Occhiogrosso, who said “All the assumptions will have to be re-examined, because he is committed to producing a balanced budget with no gimmicks, and if the savings don’t materialize there are only so many places to go for money…Municipal aid is one of those places.”

Faced with the inevitable failure to pull $1 billion dollars out of Connecticut’s state employees, the Malloy administration is now ramping up their rhetoric. 

As a result of their inability to produce $1 billion in concessions, state employees will now not only be responsible for putting many of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens at risk, but we are now learning that aid to cities and towns will be cut and the corresponding local property taxes increases that will be needed will be another tribute the state employees’s failure to produce the appropriate savings.

Yet the Malloy Administration has never admitted that the number they are demanding from Connecticut’s state employees is “almost double what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo obtained from his much larger work force.”

And even worse, although the Malloy Administration says it has a detailed concession plan that amounts to $1 billion dollars they refuse to make their “secret plan” public.

Although rank and file state employees seem almost unanimously committed to doing their fair share to balance Connecticut’s budget, few – if any – understand the extent to which they have been set up to fail.

This is a dark time for Connecticut’s state employees and it will get darker in the coming days as the Malloy Administration announces with ‘”surprise” that the $1 billion dollars in concessions cannot be achieved.

A Glowing Endorsement for Malloy’s Budget.

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Cross-posted on Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

A Glowing Endorsement for Malloy’s Budget.

“Virtually every constituency, interest group and bargaining coalition in the state has some gripe with Gov. Malloy’s proposed budget — which is exactly why we, and in particular our elected representatives, should support it.”

David Crandall, the President and CEO of New Britain’s Hospital for Special Care, Hartford Courant Commentary March 25, 2011.

At a time when there are very few, if any, who are praising the Governor’s budget, a full-fledged endorsement like Crandall’s is hard to come by. 

What makes the commentary piece even more interesting is that as President and CEO of a major Connecticut hospital, he is well aware of how damaging the Governor’s proposed budget is to the state’s hospitals.

Adding to the intrigue is fact that the Crandall’s piece reads more like a set of Malloy’s PR talking points than anything else; 

Crandall says

“The governor’s proposed budget…tackles head-on the tough issues which vexed his predecessors.”

“…[Malloy] offers solutions in the one area that will sustain our state for decades to come”

“The governor’s budget also reflects his pedigree as the consummate Hartford outsider.”

And finally, rather than address the impact the Governor’s budget would have on the quality and availability of hospital care, which would make sense since that is Crandall’s expertise, he spends a significant amount of his editorial praising Malloy’s push to reorganize public higher education.

One has to wonder just what is going on behind the scenes.

Crandall and the Hospital of Special Care is one of the more sophisticated operators when it comes to government relations.  According to the Office of State Ethics they spent over $873,000 on lobbying state government in the last two years alone including more than $135,000 paid to Joe Harper, who served New Britain’s State Senator for many years and ran the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee with an iron fist.  (By comparison, Gaylord Hospital spent $46,000 on lobbying).  In addition to retaining one of the best government relations firms in the state, Crandall and the Hospital for Special Care hired an additional lobby firm earlier this month, a new company formed by Adam Salina, the Mayor of Berlin and a rising star in Connecticut politics.  Salina was also a plum spot on Malloy’s transition committee, reviewing incoming resumes). 

An early endorsement by Salina and key Democrats in New Britain in February 2010 is credited with helping to derail Ned Lamont’s march for the Democratic nomination.  The New Britain political establishment had not supported Malloy in his 2006 gubernatorial campaign so when they switched to him this time, it had a big impact.

And to the victor goes the spoils.  New Britain’s state senator at the time is now the Commissioner of the State Department of Administrative Services and one of their State Representatives is the new Connecticut State Auditor.  New Britain’s other legislators have risen to new heights as well.

Considering the political environment, it’s not surprising that the Malloy Administration has been searching for people to stand up and endorse his budget plan.  What is interesting is how a hospital President and CEO has suddenly become one of the Governor’s most outspoken cheer-leaders.

The connection to the higher education re-organization is also intriguing.  The Joe Harper who Crandall paid so well for his government relations services has long been a proponent of re-organizing higher education.  On the other hand, Crandall is one of the newest members of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, which is home-base for Larry McHugh.  McHugh is not only the Chamber’s President but he previously served as the Chairman of the CSU Board of Trustees and now serves as Chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, a position he certainly wants to hold on to.  McHugh is certainly extraordinarily appreciative that Malloy exempted UConn from his massive public higher education reorganization plans.   

All in all, it is interesting timing. 

And as the proverb goes, “may you live in interesting times.”

Crandall’s piece in the Courant can be found here:  Crandall on Malloy’s Budget

Background Note: As of 2009 Crandall was making $793,000 a year from Hospital for Special Care and its related companies.

Governor, enough! Just tell your people to grow up.

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Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)

Arrogance and bullying is not an appropriate leadership style.

Today’s blog post was supposed to be about some additional policy issues facing the Legislature but after reading the latest CTnewsjunkie story, we must unfortunately return to the issue of how the Malloy administration is dealing with state employees, with criticism of their policies and with the responsibilities associated with governing.

According to the news story, Correction Workers To Fight Concessions, when AFCME Local 391, the union that represents Connecticut’s 5,000 correction workers recently held an executive board meeting, there was a consensus that the members would not support the Malloy Administration’s demand for $1 billion in employee concessions.  The minutes read “The members have spoken and we have heard them loud and clear: No!”

In response, Roy Occhiogrosso, Governor Malloy’s closest advisor, once again, came out firing.  He blasted the correctional guards saying “it’s disappointing to see that kind of rhetoric at the same time we’re being told the unions are negotiating in good faith.”

In response the spokesperson for Connecticut’s state employees pointed out that the Local’s minutes simply reflect the employee’s upset and that “Those concerns and frustrations are legitimate, and a product of years of disregard and disrespect from previous administrations.”

The spokesperson reiterated that the state employee unions remain committed to “the good faith discussions SEBAC is having with the Malloy administration” but he reminded Occhiogrosso that “we are a democratic union…Our members have a right to speak their mind.”

While talking of shared sacrifice and the need to have a “grown up” discussion about the difficult choices facing the state, this Administration seems more interested in belittling those who voice reasonable concerns or have understandable disagreements with their policy proposals.

Three months into their tenure and the Malloy Administration continues to appear unable or unwilling to get out of “campaign mode”.  Dismissive and flip rhetoric may work in the heat of campaigns but it is very much out-of-place in the here and now.

For example, the Governor is fond of saying things like: “The smartest thing the legislature can do is pass this [budget] as quickly as possible and then blame me.” Or: “If I were them, I’d pass it as it is … I think what this does is take the pressure off of them to make the tough decisions.”

Cute phrases to be sure but hardly an appropriate thing to say to the 187 state legislators who have the moral, ethical and Constitutional responsibility to represent their constituents in Hartford.

Meanwhile, the Malloy Administration remains unwilling to share some of the most critical details about their budget plans.

Last week we learned that they do have a “detailed plan” to achieve the unachievable – $2 billion in concessions from the state employees – but that they won’t reveal that plan.

The largest single element of the budget and they don’ t feel the need to share any of the details with the public, the legislators or the media so that people have a chance to understand what is being proposed and how it might impact our state?

Sharing information and allowing debate is not a by-product of a functioning democracy, it is the fundamental requirement that produces a successful democracy.

No one has a monopoly on good ideas.  Pushing back on some of the Governor’s proposals does not mean that we don’t care about Connecticut’s future.  In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

These are difficult times. Hard choices must be made.

To succeed, our elected officials must be committed to promoting respect, understanding, dialogue and debate and this Administration would do well to start acting like the leaders they can and must be if we are to have a chance to overcome the challenges that face our state.

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