Any CT legislator who votes for the proposed State Budget deserves to lose in November

There are times when an elected official is faced with a choice between doing what is right and doing what is politically expedient in an effort to get along to go along.  The vote on the proposed state budget agreement between Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly is just such a vote.

Their proposed budget is a fiscally irresponsible and mean-spirited farce.

It is a budget that relies on record cuts to vital services and public education and unfairly dumps Connecticut’s fiscal programs on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens and our children.

The proposed budget coddles the rich and claims to limit tax increases, yet will force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise local property taxes on the state’s middle class.

And for what it is worth, the proposed budget does not even balance.

After using one-time revenue, diverting public funds from their intended purposes, borrowing to pay operating costs, and laying off thousands of public employees, this sham of a budget will be out of balance by at least $100 million dollars the day it is signed into law.

Not to mention the damage this budget will do our local public schools and to the people who need and deserve the health and human services that allow them to live more productive and fulfilling lives.

Governor Dannel Malloy is wrong when he says it is a good budget and he is lying when he says it is fiscally responsible.

The Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly who negotiated this terrible “compromise” plan are wrong when they say it is a good budget and they are lying when they say it is fiscally responsible.

And the business executives who are lobbying Connecticut legislators to vote yes on this disastrous plan are throwing the state’s citizens, including our small business owners who generate the vast majority of jobs, under the bus.

Instead of patting themselves on the back, Connecticut’s elected officials should be throwing out  this piece of crap budget and get to work putting together a budget that is fair, honest and fiscally responsible.

Any legislator who votes for the Malloy/Democratic Leadership plan should be defeated in this November’s election and replaced with someone who is capable of standing up and doing the right thing for the people of Connecticut.

Malloy/Democratic budget – Push costs onto local property taxpayers and call it structural change

Although Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the Democratic leaders in the legislature have still not released all the details about the “Malloy/Democratic Compromise Budget,” the General Assembly is expected to vote on the spending plan as early as tomorrow – Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Clinging to his inaccurate claim that his budget doesn’t raise taxes, one of the small details associated with Malloy’s irresponsible approach to managing state government became apparent yesterday as the CT Newsjunkie and The Day newspaper of New London reported that the Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Office will stop, “its longstanding practice of performing toxicology tests for most sudden deaths.

The Malloy/Wyman solution – just have local towns pay the costs.

As The Day reported,

Dr. James Gill told reporters Monday that an impending 5.75 percent cut to the office’s approximately 6.2 million budget, which included two layoffs and is the latest in a series of budget cuts at the state level, means that, beginning June 1, the office will stop its toxicology work in relation to homicides, motor vehicle deaths and most suicides.

The office still will make the corresponding blood samples available to police, Gill said, but it will be up to police to seek out private toxicology testing — something that can cost almost $200 per test.

In addition, the Day explained that the State’s Chief Medical Examiner announced that the office itself could lose its accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners this summer due to the budget cuts and layoffs that are part of the Malloy/Democratic compromise budget.

“When an official with the association visited Connecticut last year for the office’s annual review, she noted that the office’s seven autopsy pathologists were on track to perform 325 autopsies each that year — a number that, if exceeded, would cause the office to lose its full accreditation.

In the past almost two years, the office’s autopsy numbers have increased 58 percent — from 1,488 to 2,357 — stretching employees thin and leading to a projected budget shortfall of $456,000 for this fiscal year.

The official recommended adding an eighth medical examiner to the staff, noting that Gill already has taken on a full case load in addition to his administrative duties.

“Loss of accreditation means that an office cannot meet the minimal standards of practice for death investigation,” Gill explained in a March meeting with the state legislative Appropriations Committee. “Mistakes by a medical examiner put people’s lives at risk, can result in the innocent (being) imprisoned and cost millions of dollars in civil claims.”

In the fall last year, he told the committee, the office proposed reorganizational and hiring plans that “would have saved the office money,” but couldn’t be fully implemented because of the hiring freeze in place at the time.

The Team Malloy solution…

State expenses shifted to local taxpayers

Larger budget deficits due to the required use of more overtime.

Or as Malloy calls it – “structural change.”

Malloy and Legislative Democrats target Regional Vo-Tech high schools for devastating cuts

Unable to get a budget agreement with Governor Dannel Malloy to the floor of the Connecticut House of Representative and State Senate in time, the Connecticut General Assembly crashed and burned last Wednesday night as the 2016 regular session came to the end.

Although a super-secret budget agreement had been reached between Governor “my way or no way” Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the legislature, various factors, including partisan politics and the political fallout from what is actually contained in the budget, resulted in the postponement of the debate and vote on a new state budget until a special session that will be held soon.

While some of the details about the budget agreement between Malloy and the Democratic legislative leadership have been revealed, much of it remains shrouded in secrecy.

According to budget documents that surfaced last week, the massive list of cuts to state programs and services includes an incredible $7.7 million cut to Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical high schools.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and state legislators across the political spectrum brag about their commitment to preparing Connecticut’s children for the economy of the 21st Century, their actions fall far short of their rhetoric.

The state of Connecticut reports;

The Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) is committed to providing quality and challenging academic and technical programs. Its mission is to ensure that students are successful in the workplace, take advantage of postsecondary educational opportunities, and secure advanced apprenticeship training that prepare them for the 21st century workplace. Therefore, the CTHSS has developed a challenging program of study for each of the 37 technical programs. These areas include: construction, manufacturing, electronics, information technology, culinary arts, health tech, and other service areas.

But the reality is that Malloy’s record, when it comes to support for the Vo-Tech high school system, waivers between benign negligence and an outright effort to completely destroy the successful education program.

At the beginning of his first term as governor, Malloy proposed disbanding the Vo-Tech high school system altogether.  When students, parents, teachers, the business community and legislators fought back, Malloy retreated and allowed the 18 schools and their nearly 11,000 students to exist.

However, the Malloy administration has consistently used the state budget to squeeze these important and valuable schools, a system of highs schools that are successfully helping thousands of students have more successful careers.

At last count, approximately 95 percent of Vo-Tech students graduate and almost half (45 percent) of those graduates go on to pursue higher education opportunities.

Others use their Vo-Tech training in one of the 30 occupational trade programs to enter the workforce with the skills needed to get and keep a job in these difficult economic times.

Yet, as Connecticut’s economy continues to lag, rather than invest in more vocational and technical programs, or at least provide the funds needed to maintain the level of services at the state’s existing schools, the budget that the Democrats are being instructed to support includes a record-breaking budget cut to the Vo-Tech high school system.

The budget the General Assembly passed last June and was signed into law by Governor Malloy provided almost $171 million dollars to fund the costs associated with Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools.

Although many, if not most, of the state legislators in Hartford are unaware of the impending disaster, the Malloy/Democratic leadership compromise budget would reduce funding to $163 million – a cut of nearly $8 million.  The new budget would also grant the governor with the power to reduce funding for the Vo-Tech high schools even more through layoffs and budget rescissions.

Once the legislature adopts a new state budget, Democrat and Republic incumbents will turn their time and attention to their re-election campaigns.

When you hear them on the campaign trail saying that they support programs to provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills to be “college and career” ready … just know …. They are lying.

CT Dem Legislators – Why the silence on the layoff of state employees

Among the most disturbing elements of the debate surrounding Connecticut’s state budget crisis is the silence on the part of most Democratic state legislators about the ill-conceived layoffs being perpetrated by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the their administration.

A “throw them to the wolves” mentality might not be surprising from those who hate public employees and the existence of public services, but the public, the people who rely on state services, the impacted state employees and their families deserve better from those who call themselves Democrats.

Hundreds of state employees have already been laid off.  When Team Malloy/Wyman are done with round #1, the families thrown onto the unemployment line and into chaos will exceed 2,500.

The new “super-secret” compromise budget agreement developed by legislative leaders and the governor that will be voted on in the upcoming special session will lead to hundreds and hundreds of additional layoffs of state employees.

And from the vast majority of Democratic state legislators we hear nothing but silence.

Laying off these more junior public employees is not good public policy, it is not a mechanism to bring about structural change in government and it certainly doesn’t help address Connecticut’s long-term state employee pension problem.

Real structural change comes from identifying more effective ways to deliver services, eliminating services that are not needed and implementing strategies to address unfunded pension and healthcare costs.

Malloy’s helter-skelter layoffs serve none of those solutions.

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to ensuring critical state services are provided more efficiently and effectively

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to eliminating services that are not needed

And the state employee layoffs are certainly NOT the mechanism for addressing the long-term obligations the state has due to it negligent failure to properly fund its long-term pension and health care costs.  In fact, laying off employees who belong to the Tier IIA and Tier III pension programs actually makes the funding of pension and healthcare costs even worse.

State legislators know – or better know – that more than 80% of the present pension fund crisis is the result of the unfunded costs for state employees who were enrolled in the Tier I pension program.  Enrollment in Tier I ended in 1985 and about 97% of Tier I employees have already retired.

Putting aside the reality that it is illegal to change the pension program for those who have already retired, laying off state employees who are paying into the pension and health care funds actually undermine the effort to put the pension and healthcare fund on proper financial footing.

No legislator, Democrat or Republican, who actually understands how services are provided and the massive fiscal challenges that face Connecticut should be supporting Malloy’s unstructured state employee layoff effort – even those who support reducing the number of state employees and the level of services provided in Connecticut.

But the burden to speak up, to tell the truth, and to address issues related to reducing the number of state employees falls heaviest on the Democrats.  Not only are the Democrats in control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, but they have the historical and social relationship with public employees and their unions.

The failure of so many democratic legislators to publicly speak out about the Malloy/Wyman anti-public employee policies – policies that hurt Connecticut – is a sad commentary and one that voters should consider well when voting.

A possible solution for Connecticut’s budget crisis – “Throw the bums out…”

Watching a horrible car crash take place would be less traumatic than witnessing Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly careen toward their constitutionally mandated deadline of midnight tonight (May, 4, 2016.)

While a Special Session of the Connecticut Legislature will undoubtedly be needed to “clean up” a state budget plan that was developed behind closed doors and remains a mystery to the people of Connecticut, and most of the legislators who will be voting for or against it in the coming hours, the sad reality is that most of the Democratic members of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives appear to be willing to vote for a state spending plan that continues to coddle the rich while instituting unprecedented cuts to vital human services, Connecticut public schools and other critically important programs.

As Connecticut’s media outlets report, details about the budget are “scarce.”

In fact, it would be impossible for most legislators to have a real understanding of how the Democrat’s “compromise” budget will impact the state, their districts or the people they have sworn to represent.

The media headlines paint a disturbing picture of the mismanagement that continues to mark Dannel Malloy’s time in office.…

Democrats, governor strike budget deal, aim for Wednesday vote (CT Mirror)

Dems Get A Budget Deal, But Republicans Have To Let Them Pass It (CT Newsjunkie)

Malloy, Legislative Leaders Reach Deal On Deep Cuts, No Tax Increases (Hartford Courant)

A true snapshot of the problem becomes evident as the CT Mirror reports;

Democratic legislators ended a tense day of negotiations with the governor Tuesday by announcing a deal on a new state budget that the General Assembly will race to adopt Wednesday before the constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight.

Passage will require the cooperation of the Republican minority, an uncertain prospect after House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, exchanged insults outside the Capitol pressroom.

Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, largely glossed over the spending cuts necessary to balance the budget, focusing instead on positive aspects: No tax increases, more money for transportation funding and revenue-sharing with towns, albeit at lesser amounts than originally planned. It also avoids tapping Connecticut’s emergency reserve.

[…]

The leaders said the package would close a nearly $1 billion gap in the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the line-by-line details would not be available until Wednesday.

The plan imposes deep cuts on salary accounts in most state departments and commissions that probably would require Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to reduce the state workforce beyond the nearly 2,600 jobs his administration is striving to eliminate through layoffs, retirements and attrition.

[…]

Though full details weren’t available, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, confirmed that this budget — similar to proposals from Malloy and from GOP legislators — probably reduces funding for agency and departmental salary accounts by hundreds of millions of dollars.

These cuts probably require more personnel savings than Malloy will be able to achieve through workforce reduction efforts currently underway.

The administration began serving layoff notices last month, and the governor said he expects about 1,900 to 2,000 workers will have received pink slips by mid-June.

The administration also expects to eliminate roughly 600 more jobs through retirements and attrition.

Bye said the budget also “sends signals” to state employee unions about another key area in which legislators hope to curb spending in the future: health care and retirement benefits.

As Malloy and legislative leaders prepare to jam through a vote on a new state budget, the bottom line appears to be that the Democrats intend to adopt a spending plan that is based on;

Deep cuts to vital services

An unprecedented attack on state employees

No effort to require the wealthy to pay their fair share

And a state budget that continues to rely on the use of one-time revenues and budget gimmicks.

The real question today is not so much whether the Republicans will allow the Democrats to pass a budget, but whether the voters will continue to put up with elected officials who are unwilling or unable to properly deal with the financial and policy challenges that face Connecticut.

To drive that point home, when asked about the rush to vote, Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano responded with what may very well be the quote of the year.  Fasano explained;

“Maybe they feel threatened by us. I don’t know. And I understand why they feel threatened.  They have screwed up this state so badly, I understand they are very nervous about November. I get that.”

But alas, what makes the entire situation even worse of the people of the Constitution State is that the Republicans have done just as bad a job when it comes to articulating a reasonable alternative to the Democrat’s crash and burn approach to governance.

Thus the best solution may be for the voters of the state to simply throw them all out and start anew.

Legislators – Make Malloy veto the only fair, honest and effective way to balance the State Budget.

After ordering massive budget cuts to a variety of programs that provide critically needed support for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens and making record breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, this year’s Connecticut State Budget is still $220 million in deficit.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy claimed that the State Budget he signed into law last summer was balanced and that he had succeeded in putting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, in truth, that budget missed the mark by nearly $1 billion dollars.

Over the last few month Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly have instituted deep and sweeping cuts that undermine some of Connecticut’s most vital social, health and education programs and services.

To make matters worse, Malloy is now withholding funds that Connecticut’s hospitals and non-profit providers of community services need to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents get the essential services they need.

With things getting worse by the day, Democratic leaders in the Connecticut legislature are now saying that they are poised to make even deeper cuts to programs as they flail around in an effort to balance the budget.

See:  Legislative Leaders, Malloy Continue Negotiations Over 2016 Budget Deficit (CT Newsjunkie), Senate Democratic leaders confident deficit-mitigation cuts will pass (CT Mirror), Legislature To Vote Tuesday In Attempt To Close Budget Deficit (Courant)

But there is a simple, honest and effective way for legislators to balance this year’s state budget and it is a solution that will allow them to restore some of the funding for the most important state programs and services.

However, Governor Malloy doesn’t like the idea so Democratic legislators are simply pretending that the best solution for the people of Connecticut doesn’t even exist.

It is time for Connecticut legislators to dismiss Malloy’s bullying.  He is a governor, not a king!  Their duty is to their constituents, not to the power hungry governor.

The best, most honest and most effective solution is for the members of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives to do the right thing and pass a budget deficit mitigation package that requires the super wealthy to pay their fair share.

If Governor Malloy’s decides that his priority is to coddle the rich while the rest of Connecticut suffers, let him veto the bill and face the political consequences.

The solution is extremely simple.

As the non-partisan research group Connecticut Voices for Children have reported;

  • Connecticut’s poor families pay about 12.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • Connecticut’s middle income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • And Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

As a direct result of Governor Malloy’s ongoing effort to protect the rich, Connecticut’s wealthy pay FAR less than they would if they lived in Massachusetts, New York or New Jersey..

The harsh, but unspoken, reality is that Connecticut’s middle class and working families are subsidizing Connecticut’s wealthy.

It is a policy that is unfair and needs to stop.

Connecticut’s public officials can eliminate the budget deficit by simply making Connecticut’s tax system fairer.

Depending on how it is actually structured, increasing the tax rates on wealthy resident’s capital gains or personal income would result in $250 million to $400 million in additional state revenue this year.

Instead of cutting vital programs and shifting even more of the burden onto local property tax payers, Connecticut elected officials should dismiss Malloy’s rhetoric and adopt a budget solution that is fair, honest and effective.

The question is, will elected officials do the right thing for their constituents or join Malloy by aligning themselves with the state’s wealthy.

 

Will Democrats Malloy, Wyman and the CT Dem Party disavow Ed Marcus’ disgusting attack on Sanders and all Democrats?

Former Connecticut Democratic State Chairman Ed Marcus is, among other things, a thug.

After serving for ten years in the Connecticut General Assembly, six of which I also worked as the Connecticut Democratic Party’s Political Director, I left Connecticut politics in 1993.

I ended my career in elective office and Democratic Party politics a number of reasons, the primary one being that I wanted to be an active, engaged and hands-on father for my newborn daughter.

However, in addition, I left because the Democratic State Central Committee selected Ed Marcus to be the Party’s Chairman.  Marcus ran on a platform claiming that he would fire me his first day in office due to my legislative work on behalf of a fairer and more progressive state tax structure that included a new state income tax.  He also condemned my “liberal” politics.  It was with a sense of honor that I cleaned out my office and left Democratic Headquarters the day Marcus became its leader.

Today, just like back then, Ed Marcus was utterly unable to recognize that the underlying principle of being a Democrat begins with the concept that a Democrat believes in democracy (a word that beings with a lower-case d).

Now, in a truly unbelievable and disturbing commentary piece in the CT Mirror entitled, Letting Sanders run as a Democrat was a big mistake by the DNC, the former head of the Connecticut Democratic Party proclaims that Bernie Sanders is not “Democrat” enough to run for President as a “Democrat.”

For those of us who were brought up to believe in the principles that motivated millions of Democrats to support and vote for elected officials who would make our towns, states, nation and our world better, safer and healthier places to live and raise a family, a world in which the most important elements of an egalitarian society would exist for ourselves and our children, Ed Marcus’ diatribe is nothing short of hate speech.

And thus it requires an immediate and uncompromising response from Connecticut’s “so-called” Democratic Leaders:

Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy

Connecticut Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman

Connecticut Democratic Chairman Nick Balletto Jr.

 The spotlight is on you!

Do you totally and completely disavow the repugnant and idiotic words of Ed Marcus.

This is not about whether one intends to vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, although Marcus makes an excellent case for why Democrats should be voting for a real change.

The is about the meaning of American democracy and being a Democrat;

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Democrats, here in Connecticut and across the nation, can read and comment on Marcus’ “commentary piece” at http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/02/29/sanders-a-democrat/.  It is also reposted below.

Democratic Leaders must immediately speak out against Ed Marcus and others who, if unchallenged, will destroy what is left of the historic Democratic Party.

Letting Sanders run as a Democrat was a big mistake by the DNC  (By Former Connecticut Democratic State Chairman Ed Marcus

Bernie Sanders.  A Democrat.  Really?

Sanders has run and been elected as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont; run for and been elected a Vermont Congressman; and run and been elected as a U.S. senator from Vermont. In none of those elections has he ever identified himself as a Democrat. He has run as either a socialist, or independent, but never as a Democrat.

So how is he able to run as a Democrat in 2016? I guess we would have to ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.  She is directly responsible for permitting Sanders, an avowed socialist, to run as a Democrat.  Did she think it would just be a good workout for Hillary, or did she not have the guts to say no?

I believe that it is the latter. What the Democratic National Committee has done to the Democratic Party by declaring Sanders eligible to run as a Democrat is to force Hillary to spend time, money, and energy that could have been devoted to the general election against a Republican.

Sanders is so far to the left that he could never be elected as President, despite his recent showing in the New Hampshire primary.  His values, and that of most of us who have been lifetime Democrats, are not the same.

It is easy to attract support from college kids who know nothing about the real world.  In Connecticut he’ll get help from people who see support for Sanders as a way of becoming a delegate to the National Convention, as well as from those who believe in distributing other people’s money to those who may not be as fortunate. We already do this by way of progressive taxation, but for some folks that isn’t good enough.

Sanders is an annoyance much in the way of a Jerry Brown in 1992, Ted Kennedy in 1980, and Bill Bradley in 2000. We do not need another George McGovern disaster for the Democratic Party which, particularly in this election would impact every resident of the United States.  If by some weird confluence of events we have Sanders as a candidate, ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz what she possibly could have been thinking.

I think back to the National Convention of 1968, at that time National Delegates were chosen by the delegates to the State Convention and the State Convention was basically controlled by the late John Bailey who was then both chairman of the State Democratic Party and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Bailey did not want a primary since that would have been embarrassing to him and a sign of lack of leadership to the people in Washington, including Hubert Humphry who was the “establishment candidate.”

What happened was that Bailey, Catherine Quinn who was Secretary of the Democratic State Central Committee, and myself, along with one or two other people whose names I can’t recall, met in the so-called “Green Room” at the Bushnell and decided that we would give the people who were supporting U. S. Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota (who ran against Humphry at the convention) 12 delegates. Among the delegates selected was Paul Newman, his wife Joanne Woodward, Arthur Miller, Irving Stolberg who later became Speaker of the House in the state General Assembly.  At that time I was the Senate Majority Leader.

I am not in any way implying that it was democracy at work, but it was leadership at work.  The bottom line is Connecticut did not have a divisive primary and although Humphrey lost the election to Richard Nixon, Bailey was able to hang on to his leadership positions both here and nationally.

Was that system better than the existing one? In all honesty I’m not certain, but I’m also not certain if the existing system works since so much of what occurs in a primary is based on who can get out the vote and who develops a following like the next Messiah, which is what has happened with Sanders.

Sanders raves and rants but basically his theme is generally the same: You would have a better life if it weren’t for the people on Wall Street that make millions and billions of dollars.  Part of that may be true, but this is America and we are a capitalist society and it’s a country where everyone has the opportunity to make it.  All you have to do is look at Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and others like them over the years who basically started with nothing and ended up as President.

Leadership is vital in heading a party both on a state level and national level. I believe that Debbie Wasserman Shultz has failed the Democratic Party and has put Hillary Clinton into a hotly contested primary season — that need not have happened if Wasserman had simply indicated that Sanders, an avowed socialist, who had never before registered as a Democrat, could not run as a Democrat.

In New Hampshire as well as several other states anyone can vote in a Democratic Primary. That is a bad idea and concept. After all it is not a general election and if anyone can vote they vote for in essence against candidates for different reasons. There are many Republicans and some Independents who have supported Sanders only because they know that Hillary is electable and Sander is not.  That type of voting pattern was clearly in play in New Hampshire. It should not be permitted. Cross over voting is not what a Democratic Primary is all about.

There’s no question in my mind that the Democratic Party needs a new chairperson who understands what leadership means, with the gumption and common sense to lead the party, not to permit a non-Democrat to run as a candidate in what after all are Democratic Party Primaries.

Edward Marcus is former chairman of the Democrat State Central Committee in Connecticut, former state Senate majority leader, and principal of Branford-based Marcus Law Firm

ALERT – Lobbyists for the “Education Reformers” spend $1.9 million more in Connecticut.

While 2015 was a bad year for many Connecticut taxpayers and for those that rely on vital state services, it was a very, very good year for Connecticut’s charter school industry.

Making deep and significant cuts to a broad range of critical services, including funding for public education, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly actually handed even more public money over to the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

While leaving Connecticut’s real public schools without sufficient funds, Malloy and Democratic legislators approved a deal to divert more than $100 million dollars this year to the companies that operate Connecticut’s charter schools.

Why would Malloy and Connecticut’s elected officials turn their backs on their own students, parents, teachers and public schools?

Maybe it had something to do with the record breaking amount of money that the “education reformers” and the charter school industry spent lobbying the Governor and the legislature.

Connecticut’s Democratic legislative leaders initially said they would not agree to giving Connecticut’s charter schools even more money, Malloy demanded that it was, “his way or else.” Rather than doing the right thing and standing their ground against the bully, Democratic legislators even gave Malloy the additional money he wanted to open two new charters schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford. Both local boards of education in Bridgeport and Stamford had overwhelmingly opposed the proposed charter schools, explaining that they did not need or want additional charter schools in their district.

Ignoring Connecticut’s collapsing fiscal situation, the Governor and legislature actually handed the charter schools even more scarce public funds, even though those schools discriminate against Connecticut children by refusing to accept and educate their fair share of students who require special education services and those who aren’t proficient in the English language and therefore need additional English language services.

According to the latest lobbying reports filed by the various corporate education reform lobbying groups with the Office of State Ethics, the corporate-funded advocacy organizations that support charter schools, the Common Core and the absurd Common Core testing scheme spent more than $1.9 million lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015.

Leading the spending spree was the New York-based entity that calls itself, “Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.”  This is the group that bussed in parents and students from as far away as New York City and Boston to hold a rally at the Connecticut State Capitol demanding more money for the privately owned charter schools.

The additional $1.9 million in lobbying expenditures brings the total amount these groups have spent in support of Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher initiatives to more than $9 million, making it the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

The list of corporate-funded education reform entities that reported lobbying Malloy and the legislature in 2015 included Achievement First, Inc., the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); the North East Charter Schools Network and the Bronx Charter School of Excellence.  A number of other charter school and education reform front groups, including Educators 4 Excellence, Excel Bridgeport and Achieve Hartford were active around the state but claim that they did not communicate with the governor or legislators and therefore do not need to reveal how they spent their money.

Connecticut has become a case study in how “big money” is changing how education policy and politics is conducted.

Malloy and Dems take giant step backwards as World Leaders negotiate effort to save the Earth from Climate Change (updated)

NOTE:  Updated with responses from Malloy administration agencies

Heralded as groundbreaking legislation designed to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gasses, in 2007, Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed legislation that “permanently” exempted weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs from the Connecticut State Sales Tax.

The legislation, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly, was cited as one of the state’s major accomplishments.

Gina McCarthy, then Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection and now the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, highlighted the “landmark” legislation in her 2007 Annual State Report entitled Protecting and Restoring our Environment.

In a 2014 national EPA report on “Existing State Policies and Programs that Reduce Power Sector CO2 Emissions,” McCarthy’s agency explained the importance of “State tax incentives for energy efficiency,” writing

“…sales tax exemptions…spur private sector innovation to develop more energy efficient technologies and practices and increase consumer choice of energy-efficient products.

To this day, the federal government promotes Connecticut’s sales tax exemption law on its Department of Energy website

However, just two weeks ago as world leaders, including Gina McCarthy, worked around the clock to develop the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Governor Malloy and Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly repealed Connecticut’s important sales tax exemption on weatherization and energy-efficient light bulbs as part of their “Democratic Budget Deal.”

Why?

The reason remains a mystery, but faced with a growing state budget deficit the Democrats’ “budget mitigation bill” included a variety of budget gimmicks, significant cuts to important human services and education programs, a major tax break for General Electric (and a handful of other large companies) and a sentence repealing Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 12-412k. [The state statue that exempts residential weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs from the state sales tax]

Section 12-412k. (a) For purposes of this section, “residential weatherization products” means programmable thermostats, window film, caulking, window and door weather strips, insulation, water heater blankets, water heaters, natural gas and propane furnaces and boilers that meet the federal Energy Star standard, windows and doors that meet the federal Energy Star standard, oil furnaces and boilers that are not less than eighty-four per cent efficient and ground-source heat pumps that meet the minimum federal energy efficiency rating.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of the general statutes, the provisions of this chapter shall not apply to sales of any residential weatherization products or compact fluorescent light bulbs.

With no public notice, hearing or debate, Malloy and the legislature simply voted to eliminate the sales tax exemption on residential weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs as of January 1, 2016.

The move will mean that Connecticut residents trying to weatherize their homes or buy energy-efficient light bulbs will pay an additional $3.6 million in sales tax to the State of Connecticut in FY 2016 and $7.5 million in FY 2017.

But, of course, perception is always more important than reality;

The recent move to reduce Connecticut’s commitment to energy efficiency and slow climate change didn’t stop Governor Malloy from making sure he was part of the news story and photo opportunity when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy came to Connecticut last week to talk about the Paris Agreement.

As CT Newsjunkie reported with, “EPA Chief Returns to Hartford, Touts Paris Agreement On Climate Change,”

It was a homecoming of sorts for Gina McCarthy, the current administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who served as the head of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 through 2009.

Flanked by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and members of the Connecticut Auto Retailers Association, McCarthy returned to … to talk about the Paris agreement, under which 195 countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

She said climate change is one of the biggest “economic and national security challenges of our time,” and because of the leadership of President Barack Obama, “we were able to get an agreement in Paris that everyone should be proud of.”

[…]

McCarthy said the only reason they were able to push forward with a plan to reduce emissions here in the United States and a plan to lower the temperature of the climate globally is because states like Connecticut are paving the way.

[…]

The governor said Connecticut is doing its part to address the impact of global warming.

Several years ago the state passed legislation to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and it became the first “range confident” state for electric vehicles in the nation.

“Climate change is happening. Make no mistake about that,” Malloy said. “And it’s time to take action to address the challenge in a responsible and thoughtful way.”

It’s a problem we can’t fail to act upon, Malloy added.

Yup, Governor Dannel Malloy, who now serves as the head of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and therefore the spokesman for the country’s Democratic Governors actually spoke up about Climate Change saying, “It’s a problem we can’t fail to act upon.”

The only problem is that Malloy failed to tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the media or the public that he had, in fact, acted…

But alas, it was in exactly the wrong direction.

Footnote:

The 2007 legislation exempting weatherization and energy-efficient light bulbs passed the Connecticut House of Representatives on June 1, 2007 by a vote of 128 -19, with both present Speaker of the House Sharkey and Majority Leader Aresimowicz voted in favor of the bill. The next day the bill passed the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 32-3 with now President Pro-Tempore Looney and Majority Leader Duff voting “Yes.”

The advocacy group, Energy Northeast, wrote about the original sales tax exemption stating;

Illustrating the bi-partisan and diverse stakeholder appeal of legislation requiring [greater energy efficiency] is Rhode Island’s 2006 efficiency procurement law [which] passed a Democratic-majority state Senate and House unanimously and was signed at a joint press event with the sitting Republican Governor a few days later. Similarly, Connecticut’s 2007 Efficiency Procurement legislation was passed overwhelming by a Democratic-majority state legislature and signed by a Republican Governor.”

But that was then and this is now…

Eight years after the bi-partisan commitment to promoting energy efficiency and with the issue more important than ever, Connecticut’s Democratic Governor and Democratic General Assembly decided that a few million dollars in additional state revenue was more important than continuing to help Connecticut residents weatherize their homes and buy energy-efficient light bulbs.

Requests for comment were made to Governor Malloy’s Office, the Office of Policy and Management and various agencies in the Malloy administration.

The Department of Revenue Services responded by email saying  they would have no comment.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Communication Director responded as follows:

In these difficult financial times for our state, we recognize that tough decisions have to be made.  In order to balance the state’s budget, the General Assembly has had to look at eliminating sales tax exemptions on many products and services.

While the sales tax exemption that covered many products used for weatherizing homes was certainly an added incentive for people to take action, we believe its elimination will not have a significant impact on the public’s appetite for energy efficiency projects.

Homeowners and businesses understand the importance of weatherization and energy efficiency – and the kinds of saving that can be achieved.  This concept has become deeply embedded in people’s minds and even without an sales tax exemption there will continue to be a strong focus on saving energy.

 

 

You can read more about McCarthy’s visit to Connecticut last week via the CT Mirror’s EPA’s Gina McCarthy stops by with a Paris postcard

 

Denying reality, Malloy blames legislature for cuts to Tourism and Arts in recent “Democratic budget bill”

In a stunning attempt at revisionist history, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to WNPR radio to blame the Connecticut General Assembly for the recent cuts to the state’s tourism and arts programs when, in fact, it was the legislature that had reduced – by a significant amount – the cuts that Malloy has repeatedly has wanted to those programs.

However, the truth didn’t stop the Democratic Governor from throwing the legislature, and especially his Democratic colleagues, under the bus.

Here are the facts:

At the beginning of this year, Governor Dannel Malloy proposed a state budget that reduced Connecticut’s “Still Revolutionary” Tourism Marketing Program from $12 million to $10 million dollars.

At the same time, Malloy proposed about $5.9 million in cuts to Connecticut’s various museums, cultural and arts programs.

During the budget process, the Connecticut legislature rejected the vast majority of cuts to the cultural and arts programs but did reduce funding for the State Tourism Marketing Program by an additional $500,000, bringing this year’s State Tourism Marketing Program to a total of $9.5 million.

This fall, faced with a growing state budget deficit, despite having claimed he had signed a balanced budget 90 days earlier, Governor Malloy called for bi-partisan budget negotiations to develop a new budget deficit mitigation plan to balance the budget.

As part of that process, on November 10, 2015, Malloy issued a proposed list of budget cuts that included an additional $1 million cut to the State’s Tourism Programs ($500,000 for the State Tourism Marketing Campaign and $500,000 to the State Tourism Districts.)  Malloy also proposed an additional $4.5 million in cuts to the state’s museums, cultural and arts programs.

When the Democrats in the General Assembly passed the “Democratic Budget Deal” last week, it included a $1 million reduction to the State Tourism Marketing Program, but again rejected Malloy’s attack on Connecticut’s culture and art programs.

But rather than tell WNPR Connecticut Public Radio’s Ray Hardman the truth during a recent news segment about the budget cuts to the State’s tourism and arts programs, Malloy straight out lied about his role in the entire process.

First, in a politically blatant maneuver to mislead the public, Malloy tried to suggest that the decision to reduce state funding for tourism and arts was the result of a bi-partisan agreement, which of course, is completely false.   While the budget negotiations began with the Republican legislative leaders at the table, no bi-partisan agreement could be reached and the package was eventually passed with only Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

Second, in an even more politically embarrassing move – considering Malloy isn’t up for re-election in 2016, but Democratic legislators will be facing voters next November –  Malloy decided to throw his fellow Democrats under the bus for suggesting that it was the legislators who were the ones focused on cutting tourism and the arts.

As WNPR’s story explained;

Tourism and the arts took a hit in the budget adjustment agreed on by Governor Dannel Malloy and the legislature in special session earlier this week. The adjustment was needed to fill a $350 million hole in the state budget.

The biggest hit to culture and tourism was a $1 million cut to the state’s “Still Revolutionary” tourism marketing campaign. That’s despite strong tourism numbers this summer, showing increases in both hotel occupancy and out of state visitors. Regional tourism offices were also affected.

“It’s not something I advocated for,” said Malloy of the cuts in an editorial meeting with WNPR. “But in a bipartisan process, you have to make compromises. Members of the legislature are not as supportive as I am, and this is an ongoing and fairly constant battle.”

That Malloy would duck his role in cutting state funding for tourism and arts programs by suggesting that the Republicans supported his budget proposal is bad enough, but considering that as a Democrat, Malloy is supposed to be supporting his fellow Democratic elected officials, it is particularly troubling that the Governor would twist the truth in an effort to blame Democratic legislators when they were the ones who were actually working to reduce the damaging cuts that Malloy was trying to push through.

Of course, more cuts to tourism and the arts are coming since the Democrats in the General Assembly did give Malloy the authority to cut an additional $93 million from this year’s state budget, cuts that he will make without the legislators review or approval.

When WNPR asked about that next round of cuts, Malloy said that culture, arts and tourism would be far down on his list of possible new cuts…

Yeah and I have a nice bridge for sale….