Malloy’s $3 million state funded PR operation

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Every day Connecticut taxpayers ask, where do our tax dollars go?

Today, thanks to investigative reporter Jon Lender, we got a little glimpse into Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s taxpayer funded PR operation.

As taxpayers, we pay about $3 million a year for Malloy’s staff in the Governor’s Office.

And forget, for a moment, that Connecticut taxpayers will be giving Malloy and Foley $6.2 million each in public finds, via the state’s public financing system, to run television ads misleading voters about their records while attacking each other.

Today, the Hartford Courant provided Connecticut residents with a peek into Governor Malloy’s taxpayer funded public relations operation known as the Governor’s Office.

In an article entitled, How Malloy’s Aides Edited, Shaped Their Messages On Charter Schools Debacle, Lender revealed how Malloy’s PR team went into overdrive to try and duck the problems associated with the recent Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.

Rather than accept responsibility for diverting tens of millions in public funds to a private charter school company run by a convicted felon who served about 5 years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, not to mention he called himself a Dr. Michael Sharpe, when he didn’t even finish his academic training, the Malloy PR team spent hours trying to come up with statements that would make it look like they didn’t know they were funneling money to a crook.

As Jon Lender’s story explains,

Pull back the curtain as top aides in the Malloy administration shape the messages that get fed to the taxpaying public, and you see how much calculation, editing and rewriting happens before a statement is finally issued — and how high up the ladder they go for approval.

There’s no better time to do this than during a political crisis, such as the recent one that hit the Hartford-based charter school management group FUSE and the Jumoke Academy it runs. Malloy administration lieutenants scrambled to keep pace with news disclosures about problems that led to the resignation of FUSE’s CEO, Michael Sharpe.

When Sharpe quit on Saturday, June 21, after five days of damaging Courant stories, one of the state Department of Education’s press aides, James Polites, already had drafted in advance two statements to give to reporters

If you want, you can read the ugly details in the Hartford Courant by going to: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-crisis-communications-0706-20140705,0,6730548,full.column.

But the real story is that every year Connecticut taxpayers are paying about $3 million so that Malloy can have a team working to make it appear that he is responsible for all that is good in Connecticut and has no knowledge or responsibility for the problems that plague his administration.

So next time someone asks…Where is our tax dollars going?

You might want to have them read: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-crisis-communications-0706-20140705,0,6730548,full.column

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Why doesn’t Connecticut have a Fair and Progressive Income Tax?

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In Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s world of “Shared Sacrifice,” middle-income families have taken a disproportionate hit.

On the state level, Malloy’s tax plan resulted in higher state income tax rates, a reduced property tax credit, more sales taxes and the largest gas tax increase in state history.  All of these taxes had a heavy impact on Connecticut’s middle class.

At the same time, rising local property tax rates also hit middle-income families especially hard.

But Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens have been given a pass.

Governor Malloy’s record-breaking 2011 tax increase failed to include any meaningful increase in the state income tax for those making more than $1 million a year.

When presenting his budget address to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy explained,

“While I do believe in a progressive income tax, I do not believe that we should punish success, or wealth.”

Asking people to pay their fair share is not “punishing success or wealth.”

In the same year that Governor Malloy stood up and told the Connecticut Legislature that he wouldn’t raise the income tax on the wealthy because he didn’t want to “punish success,” Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney used the very same words to explain why he opposed any new taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

Malloy and Romney were both wrong.

Asking Americans to pay their fair share is what a representative democracy is supposed to do.  One need only look back one hundred and fourteen years ago when Teddy Roosevelt made that clear in his famous “New Nationalism Speech” of August 1910.

While the Malloy administration claims this year’s state budget is balanced the truth is that Connecticut is facing a $1.3 billion projected deficit in the state fiscal year that begins July 2015.

While Malloy and the Republicans shove each other about whose “no tax pledge” is stronger, the reality is that a billion dollar deficit will prevent the State of Connecticut from fulfilling its responsibilities to our public schools, the level of municipal aid, the availability of vital state services and our obligations to make payments for state debt, as well as pension and healthcare payments.

As a CT Mirror story today makes clear, the financial crisis on the horizon is directly attributable to Governor Malloy’s failure to demand that Connecticut’s wealthy pay their fair share.

As the CT Mirror notes,

Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, a Mansfield Democrat and one of the governor’s most vocal critics, said the huge deficit Malloy has left behind still threatens the future of town aid and public-sector pensions.

Pelto, who last week launched an independent bid for governor, said had Malloy not rejected calls for a more progressive income tax, Connecticut could have municipal aid and pension fixes and a balanced budget.

“Gov. Malloy’s decision to coddle the rich by raising the tax rate on the middle class but refusing to raise the rate for the wealthy is the primary reason the state is facing this deficit,” he said.

Malloy did raise the top marginal rate on the state income tax from 6.5 to 6.7 percent, and also approved a provision ensuring the wealthiest households pay the top rate on most of their income.

But he rejected a bid from Better Choices, a coalition of public-sector unions and social service advocacy groups, who pushed for a top rate of more than 10 percent.

For those who want to understand the real story surrounding Connecticut budget problems, the latest CT Mirror story and an absolute MUST READ.

You can find it at: http://ctmirror.org/should-malloy-have-shielded-education-pensions-from-historic-ct-budget-deficit/?hvid=4e7AU

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Connecticut – Otherwise known as “Budget Gimmicks R US”

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Some call it “Dishonest Budgeting.”

Others call it “Cooking the Books”

And still others say… “Well, it’s just the way thing are done here in Connecticut.”

Whatever you call it, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his predecessors have used one budget gimmick after another to ensure that it is virtually impossible to determine where public funds are coming from and where they are going.

Cooking the books is not only bad public policy, but it endangers our democracy and our economy.  When voters lose faith in their government, a democratic system of government starts to crumble.

And when the People lose faith in how tax funds are collected and expended, it can’t help but reduce taxpayers’ willingness to contribute to the cost of maintaining our government.

In Connecticut, the lack of honesty and transparency in our state budget works promotes the notion that our government and our elected officials either don’t know what they are doing or don’t care about the citizens that they are sworn to represent.

A recent CT Mirror story entitled Tobacco funds: Connecticut’s budget-balancing escape hatch makes it painfully clearly how Connecticut has become the home of dishonest budgeting.

While Governor Malloy is certainly not the first Connecticut governor to use budget gimmicks to make the state budget appear balanced, he certainly excels when it comes to playing games with the state budget.

As the CT Mirror article begins,

The wish list was costly: Legislators wanted to fund new preschool slots, restore money for mental health clinics and put more funds into emergency medical service coordinators.

But as it came time to finalize the state budget this spring, money was getting tight. And so, lawmakers found the funds for preschool and the other programs by turning to a familiar escape hatch: the settlement money from tobacco companies.

Connecticut has received nearly $2 billion over the past 15 years as part of a legal settlement meant to compensate states for the toll of tobacco.

But, to the consternation of anti-tobacco advocates, the state has spent only a tiny fraction of it to curb smoking, the cause of an estimated 4,700 deaths here each year.

Instead, lawmakers have repeatedly used the money as a crutch to help balance the budget. Even the money designated for a special fund for anti-tobacco efforts and other health programs has repeatedly been raided by lawmakers to cover other expenses.

The CT Mirror goes on to explains,

“Connecticut gets lots of money from smoking.  A $3.40-per-pack levy on cigarettes and small taxes on snuff and other tobacco products are expected to bring in about $375 million this fiscal year.

That money goes into the general fund, which pays for the vast majority of the state’s operating costs — including health care and social service programs that incur expenses because of smoking.

A second pool of money stems from a lawsuit Connecticut and 45 other states settled in 1998 with the nation’s four largest tobacco manufacturers. Besides agreeing to curtail certain marketing practices, the industry agreed to pay — in perpetuity — to offset the cost of treating people with smoking-related illnesses.

While the settlement didn’t require the money be used on anti-smoking efforts, Connecticut legislators created the Tobacco and Health Trust and entitled it to all settlement funds not designated for some other purpose. But since 2000, only about 10 percent of the nearly $2 billion Connecticut received from the settlement has gone to the trust — just under $200 million.

And even money that’s gone into the trust fund hasn’t always been available for anti-smoking efforts. Six times in the past decade, lawmakers took the trust fund’s money to help balance the budget — a total of more than $113 million.

Officials have also assigned the trust fund to pay for other programs, some of which have little relationship to tobacco, like $13 million for then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan or $3.5 million over several years for a health information sharing network at the UConn Health Center.

And Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly have continued to raid the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund for programs that are not remotely related to public health.

For example, as the CT Mirror points out, the General Assembly took money from the Tobacco and Health Trust fund to pay for the following expenditures in the budget that takes effect on July 1, 2014.

  • $10 million a year to expand pre-school programs between 2016 and 2025
  • $10 million for mental health and substance abuse grants
  • $1 million for after-school programs
  • $500,000 for a bioscience industry grant
  • $25,000 to enhance coordination of emergency medical services

Over the last fourteen year, almost $200 million has been paid into Connecticut’s Tobacco and Health Trust Fund.  Of that amount, less than $25 million or about 12.5 percent was actually used for anti-smoking programs.

And the Tobacco and Health Trust fund is one of dozens of special funds that Governor Malloy and previous governors have raided to make it appear that they are managing Connecticut’s state budget correctly.

Despite the reality that both Democratic and Republican governors have utterly failed to provide Connecticut with honest and transparent state budgets, there is no reason that budget gimmicks must be part of the budget process.

Connecticut voters deserve far better.

The CT Mirror story is a must read article for those who want a better understanding of how Connecticut’s budget is made to appear balanced.  You can find the story at: http://ctmirror.org/tobacco-funds-connecticuts-budget-balancing-escape-hatch/?hvid=5y7gJw

 

Look there goes a flying pig!

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The truth is that Connecticut is facing a projected state budget deficit of at least $1.3 billion dollars for the fiscal year that begins after this year’s gubernatorial election.

But today Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy boldly announced… “We don’t face a deficit.”

In a late afternoon CT Newsjunkie story entitled, Malloy Dismisses Deficit Projections, Won’t Ask for More Concessions, the Governor not only explained that the deficit was going to disappear but he took the opportunity to repeat his iron-clad pledge that he will not propose or accept any new taxes in a second term.

As Malloy explained, “There will not be a tax increase.”

And to top things off, Malloy said that he was ruling out asking state workers for more concessions should he be re-elected as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer.

While the Governor’s hyperbole is impressive, there is not a state employee, retirees, public school teacher or retired teacher, let alone a public official or taxpayer who believes that Malloy’s portrayal of reality is accurate.

Hearing about Malloy’s remarks, one can’t help but dwell on that classic idiom about pigs flying or the one about Hell freezing over.

Or for that matter that one we used as kids that always got a good laugh and referred to the possibility of monkeys flying out our butts.

For the latest on Malloy’s economic theories check out the CT Newsjunkie story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_dismisses_deficit_projections_wont_ask_for_more_concessions/ and the Hartford Courant story at: http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/malloy-promises-no-new-deficit-rejects-new-state-worker-givebacks/

Malloy must take responsibility for many of the these hospital layoffs

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When Governor Malloy proposed his bait and switch “provider tax” strategy he promised hospitals that they would be “held harmless.”  The goal he said was simply to maximize federal reimbursement rates.

But two years later, the impact of Malloy’s decision to renege on that promise is leading to massive layoffs and undermining many of Connecticut’s hospitals.

The news headlines have been shocking;

“The state’s 30 acute care hospitals have shed 1,400 jobs in the past year”

“Hartford HealthCare is eliminating 350 jobs”

“Nearly 70 positions at The William W. Backus and Windham hospitals will be eliminated”

“List shows 176 Connecticut layoff notices so far (Norwalk Hour)”

“116 positions will be eliminated as a result of state budget cuts (Danbury News-Times)”

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is reducing the staff at its pediatric and adolescent clinic

“The layoffs announced Monday are the second round in the last seven months.  In November, Hartford HealthCare laid off 179 employees, including 10 each at Backus and Windham.”

So why are people being thrown out of their jobs when access to quality healthcare is more important than ever?

Malloy’s “provider tax” budget gimmick is a major factor.

When Malloy proposed his $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011, the plan also included an additional $350 million “provider tax” on hospitals.  Malloy claimed it wasn’t really a tax because the hospitals would get all the money back and the federal government would reimburse the state for a portion of that money.

Of course, to the self-pay patient, it was a tax.

And to the health insurance company it was yet another cost to be passed on to the people who pay for health insurance.

But the General Assembly approved Malloy’s plan anyway.

As part of his state budget coverage, CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf wrote last year,

“And then there’s really bad news: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would cut their state funding by one-fifth over the next two years.

Put it all together, hospitals say, and at best, they will cut jobs and services. At worst, some will shut their doors. And facilities in the state’s poor northeastern corner say they are particularly at risk.”

The fact is that while the Malloy administration did pay the hospitals back the first year, his budget REDUCED the amount Connecticut hospitals received by about $27 million in the second year, $134 million the third year and $269 million in this year’s budget.

Overall, as a result of Governor Malloy’s budget strategies, while hospitals are being paid for additional Medicaid services, the State of Connecticut has reduced funding for its 32 chronic care hospitals by about $400 million dollars in the last two years alone.

The massive number of layoffs are proof that the “chickens are coming home to roost.”

And, none of this is a surprise to Malloy and the legislature.

As the Vice President of the Connecticut Hospital Association said,

“In short, what started 18 months ago as a scheme to help balance the state budget … has been converted to an unadulterated tax on hospitals…It’s one thing not to help hospitals, it’s something completely different when you harm hospitals.  “Taking patient care revenue to balance the state budget is just plain wrong.”

The state cuts to hospitals garnered some notoriety last spring when Malloy lost his temper on the WNPR radio show, “Where We Live,”

The CT Mirror reported at the time,

When Malloy appeared on May 6 on WNPR’s public affairs show “Where We Live,” he responded quickly when host John Dankosky asked about the hospital funding reductions the governor’s own budget staff wrote about in his budget.

“Let me stop you right there,” Malloy told Dankosky about four minutes into the program. “There aren’t cuts to hospitals.”

The administration insists that while the hospitals lose $400 million in tax reimbursements, they will make it back. But to do so, hospitals will have to treat thousands more poor patients covered through Medicaid.

“It is time for people to trim their sails, to find ways to deliver great service at less expense,” the governor said, adding that all hospital-related state spending should be $1.7 billion next fiscal year, just as it is this year. “We’re not cutting, we’re funding.”

What Malloy forgot was the evidence of the cuts was part of his own budget documents.

Again quoting the CT Mirror,

When the administration unveiled its latest budget plan in February, it initially referred to those changes in hospital reimbursements as spending cuts.

“The decision to reduce hospital funding was not an easy one,” the governor’s budget introduction states.

While the overall policy is rather complex, the impact has been pretty simple.  The way Malloy has handled the state budget is a primary factor behind the hospital layoffs that are taking place across the state.

The families that are being devastated by these hospital layoffs and the communities being impacted by reduced levels of services should tell Governor Malloy that at the very least, he must take responsibility for the actions he took that are now leading to many healthcare workers losing their jobs.

You can read the CT Mirror’s coverage of this issue here:  http://ctmirror.org/hospitals-warn-budget-cuts-will-cut-jobs-and-services-maybe-close-doors/ and here http://ctmirror.org/semantics-malloys-no-tax-pledge/

Important Wait, What? weekend stories you might have missed

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Define fiscal irresponsibility….

While most Connecticut residents feel a growing unease about the Malloy administration’s irresponsible and underhanded approach to state budgeting, I’m often asked to give specific examples of how Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has handled the Connecticut budget during his term in office.

Long-time readers may remember this one, but here is a prime example for readers who are newer to Wait, What?

In January 2010 there was a tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a young Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.

As politicians are wont to do, state legislators kicked into action, and on May 1, 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 10-83.  The new law created a special protected trust account called the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a program to use the funds to help Connecticut school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175 and directed that $50 of each license restoration payment be deposited into the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Now fast forward two and a half years…

Governor Malloy had been in office for two years and none of the $4.7 million collected for school seat belts had been spent.

And then, rather than using the money for its intended purpose…

We witnessed the following;

As part of the December 2012 “deficit mitigation bill” Governor Malloy and the legislature included language that overrode the existing law and quietly transferred $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt Account into the General Fund to help eliminate the projected FY 2013 $415 million deficit.

Gone was the money for school seat belts.

For more go to:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/05/31/define-fiscal-irresponsibility/

 

Does it really only cost $30,000 to get Governor Malloy to veto a good bill?

Over the past few months Governor Malloy and his political operatives have raised more than $30,000 from major insurance companies and their corporate executives.  The funds were deposited into the special Democratic State Central Committee account that will be used to augment the $6.2 million that Malloy will be getting from the State’s public financing system.

Then late last week Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they were actually providing Connecticut residents.

The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee, a committee I chaired in 1993 during the last year I served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

The Program Review and Investigation is the only committee charged with fully investigating major public policy issues and developing comprehensive solutions.

In this case, the committee produced a comprehensive report entitled, “Access to Substance Use Treatment for Privately and Publicly Insured Youth.”  Phase I of the report, and its corresponding legislative initiatives, was adopted on December 18, 2012.  Phase II of the report was adopted on June 7, 2013.

This past legislative session, one of the legislative proposals arising out of the report, was introduced in the form of House Bill 5373, An Act Concerning the Reporting of Certain Data by Managed Care Organizations and Health Insurance Companies to the Insurance Department.

The bill was a common sense, first step toward ensuring insurance companies actually pay the bills they are supposed to be paying.

More at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/06/01/really-cost-30000-get-governor-malloy-veto-good-bill/

 

And then this one…Will the Working Families Party stand up for working families in this year’s election

Define fiscal irresponsibility….

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While most Connecticut residents feel a growing unease about the Malloy administration’s irresponsible and underhanded approach to state budgeting, I’m often asked to give specific examples of how Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has handled the Connecticut budget during his term in office.

Long-time readers may remember this one, but here is a prime example for readers who are newer to Wait, What?

In January 2010 there was a tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a young Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.

As politicians are wont to do, state legislators kicked into action, and on May 1, 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 10-83.  The new law created a special protected trust account called the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a program to use the funds to help Connecticut school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175 and directed that $50 of each license restoration payment be deposited into the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Now fast forward two and a half years…

Governor Malloy had been in office for two years and none of the $4.7 million collected for school seat belts had been spent.

And then, rather than using the money for its intended purpose…

We witnessed the following;

As part of the December 2012 “deficit mitigation bill” Governor Malloy and the legislature included language that overrode the existing law and quietly transferred $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt Account into the General Fund to help eliminate the projected FY 2013 $415 million deficit.

Gone was the money for school seat belts.

That tragedy was yesterday’s news and no one even spoke out against the inappropriate raid on the School Bus Seat Belt Account.

Just a year later, adding insult to injury, Governor Malloy and his administration were crowing about a projected FY 2014 budget surplus.

But instead of using a portion of that surplus to pay back the $4.7 million taken from the School Bus Seat Belt Account, Malloy used the surplus funds to pad this year’s budget and even promised a series of election-year tax rebates and tax cuts before the fiscal reality facing Connecticut set in and he had to “postpone” those tax cut promises.

The fact is that over and over again, Governor Malloy has claimed that the state and its state budget have benefited from his good management skills.

But if a governor was truly dedicated to good management he or she would never have raided the School Bus Seat Belt Account or, at the very least, would have returned the money when it was clear that the state had the resources to do so.

Oh, and as an aside, when you hear the Republicans claim that they are the party of “fiscal responsibility,” remember that Malloy’s Deficit Reduction Plan passed the State Senate 31-3 and passed the State House of Representatives 140-3.

It was Democrats and Republicans, working together, who stole the money from the School Bus Seat Belt Account and then refused to pay it back when they had the chance.

Out here in the real world, when we talk about the need for leaders who are truly committed to fiscal responsibility, it has become painfully clear that we will have go outside the “incumbency” party to find them.

Malloy and Legislature turn their back on Public Magnet School students and their parents

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration managed to deliver another “kick to the head” to Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers as the 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly came to an end at midnight last night.

While Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools left the legislative session with a higher reimbursement rate for each student, more money for school equipment, and funds to expand the number of charter schools, Governor Malloy and the legislature failed to come up with the money need to maintain existing services at Connecticut’s public magnet schools, let alone fill the extra magnet school classrooms that have been built and are ready to be used this coming September.

As the CT Mirror is reporting this morning, the bill to implement Malloy’s next state budget authorized “The Department of Education to limit enrollment in magnet schools across Connecticut.” The CT Mirror adds,

The budget actually allows Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor to “prioritize” which schools can increase enrollment, and limit state expenditures on magnet schools next academic year. Legislators largely ignored an estimated $50 million the nonpartisan analysts say is needed to maintain current services at magnet schools and the education commissioner say is needed to support previously scheduled enrollment increases.

Connecticut’s public school parents and their children will be shocked to find out that hundreds of students will be turned away at the doors of Connecticut public magnet schools despite the fact that classrooms are available and ready to go.

This latest action by the Malloy administration also explains why parents and students in the greater Hartford area are still waiting for the annual Regional School Choice Lottery to take place.  These parents followed the rules; they got their applications in on time, and yet have heard nothing about whether their children will be able to attend a magnet school in September.

Many of those children, along with others from around Connecticut, will soon learn the awful truth that the failure to adequately fund Connecticut’s magnet schools means they won’t be attending a magnet school in September.

It was only a few months ago (January 2014), that Malloy traveled to East Hartford to cut the ribbon for the state’s newest magnet school, the $57 million Connecticut River Academy that was scheduled to open this September.

At the announcement, Malloy bragged about fighting hard to open more magnet seats.

What he failed to explain at that big press conference was that while taxpayer are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in new borrowing to pay for the construction of new magnet schools, Malloy failed to provide the funding needed to actually open the school and fill the classrooms.

The failure to properly fund Connecticut’s public magnet schools is not only a travesty for the students who were looking forward to attending these schools, but it is nothing short of a disaster for Connecticut’s public education system.

Malloy and Democrats eviscerate “Transform CSCU 2020” in the new State Budget

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It was with great “fan-fare” that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy traveled to Manchester Community College this past January to announce his “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative.

Malloy claimed that his plan would provide Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges with an extra $60.2 million in funding.   Governor Malloy stated at the time,

“This is only a down payment… I’m making a personal commitment, and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues.”

At the press conference, the President of Manchester Community College declared,

“We’re here today to celebrate the governor’s goal to support student success by his investment…It’s this investment that will better position us to be on the leading edge with our academic programs and will increase public higher education’s role in sustaining and expanding economic vitality for this state of Connecticut.”

But unfortunately, like so many of Governor Malloy’s “initiatives,” the reality of his plan failed to match the rhetoric delivered at his press conference… In fact, the plan didn’t match the rhetoric at all.

As a result of Malloy’s historic cuts to higher education, Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges are facing a very real and a very serious $42 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

This projected budget deficit means that the four Connecticut State University campuses and the twelve community college campuses need $42 million just to maintain the existing level of reduced services, let alone provide additional services to Connecticut’s college students.

Yet rather than confront the budget deficit that resulted from his previous actions, Governor Malloy tried to portray his new proposal as an effort to enhance and expand Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

By calling his $60 million initiative, “Transform CSCU 2020,” Malloy’s plan was little more than a public relations ploy since realistically, the $42 million of the $60 million of the “new” money is need simply to maintain existing services.  The remaining $20 million was all that would have been available to actually enhance or “Transform” existing programs at these public universities and colleges.

Almost immediately, questions about Malloy’s plan were raised.  Here is a link to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, “Malloy’s CT state college plan:

But even Malloy’s initial gimmick was not to be.

By the time the Connecticut General Assembly was ready to take up the proposed state budget, Malloy’s $60 million “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative, and its complex revenue intercept plan, was gone and replaced with a simple $47 million allocation to the Board of Regents.

And when the budget was actually voted on last Saturday, the “Transform” initiative had dropped again, from $47 million to $42 million —- just enough to fill the budget deficit created by Malloy’s earlier budget cuts.

The truth is that what was left of Malloy’s “Transform” plan left nothing at all for new programs at CSU or the community colleges.

Yet, in a grotesque failure to be honest, Malloy and the General Assembly continued to call the reduced allocation, “Transform CSCU 2020,” leaving many legislators and interested observers thinking that it was the same initiative Malloy had proposed in January.

Also, in typical fashion, Malloy didn’t even properly fund the $42 million budget allocation.

The new state budget actually allocates $23 million in state funds to the Board of Regents to help fill their budget deficit and transfers another $19 million from the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to the Board of Regents so that it can close the rest of its budget deficit.

Of course, by using one-time revenue, Malloy has assured that the public colleges and universities start the following year with a $19 million deficit and counting…a deficit that will be part of Malloy’s $1.3 billion dollar state deficit that must be cleaned up by the state’s next governor.

Truth be told, in its final form, Malloy’s Transform CSCU 2020 is nothing more than an effort to backfill the budget deficits Malloy’s own plans created.

As an aside, Malloy’s decision to raid the assets of the Connecticut State Loan Foundation wasn’t limited to the $19 million for the State Universities and Community Colleges.

The Governor, with the support of the legislature’s Democrats, also grabbed $4,400,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation for the “CHET Baby Scholars Program” and $1,600,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for the Office of Higher Education’s “Governor’s Scholarship Program.”

Irresponsible budgeting doesn’t even begin to describe what Malloy has done with this new state budget.

Malloy’s “NO TAX” pledge will send Connecticut into the abyss

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As a result of Governor Malloy’s gimmick ridden state budget, the candidate who wins the 2014 gubernatorial election will take office facing a projected state budget deficit of $1.3 billion or more.

By using one-time revenues for on-going expenses, purposefully under-funding various government programs and utilizing a series of budget gimmicks, the new 2014-2015 state budget is just about as irresponsible as they come.

The moment Malloy signs it into law he will be creating a budget deficit for this year and a catastrophe in the budget that will follow.

But as irresponsible as Malloy’s latest budget is, nothing compares to the damage that will come with his recent “NO TAX” pledge should he be elected to a second term.  Malloy sealed his fate when he recently told reporters that he would, “neither seek nor accept any further tax increases” in a second term.

Pandering to phantom voters, Malloy has engaged in a George Bush “read my lips” moment.

By making an “ironclad” NO TAX increase pledge, Malloy joins the Republican candidates in assuring that the people of Connecticut must live with a tax system that crushes the middle class while coddling the rich.

As Malloy knows, Connecticut’s middle income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the poor pay about 12 percent and the rich pay about 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

Instead of pledging to be fiscally responsible or even pledging not to increase taxes on middle-income families, Malloy has made it clear that he will continue to protect the rich, even if it comes at everyone else’s expense.

Perhaps the Governor wants Connecticut taxpayers to forget that his 2011 $1.5 billion tax increase raised the income tax rate for middle-income families while those making more than $1 million saw no increase in their income tax rate at all.

Malloy’s pledge will to protect Connecticut’s wealthy will have devastating consequences should he win in November.

The harsh reality is that as result of Governor Malloy’s failure to properly fund public education, the one thing we know about a NO TAX pledge at the state level is that it will lead to higher local property taxes and that will create a tax structure that is even more regressive.

Malloy’s irresponsible promise on taxes not only means Connecticut’s wealthy will get richer while failing to pay their fair share, but it will force our state government to further abdicate its responsibilities.

Even the  most rosy revenue estimates or dreams of a renewed economy will not provide the revenue necessary to maintain vital state services during a 2nd Malloy term.

As noted, four more years of inadequate state funding for education will mean higher property taxes and reduced resources to provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

Four more years of inadequate funding for Connecticut public colleges and universities will shift even more of the costs on to students and parents and will prevent many from even getting the college education they need to lead fuller lives, be self-sufficient and help build our economy.

Four more years of inadequate funding will undermine Connecticut health and human service programs, pushing some of the state’s hospital out of business and leaving many Connecticut citizens without the vital services they need.

Four more years of inadequate funding will devastate state agencies that are already understaffed and will, yet again, unfairly target state employees.

And perhaps most importantly, four more years of inadequate funding will prevent the state of Connecticut from confronting and reducing the overwhelming debt that Malloy and previous governors have built up – that being a maxed out state credit card, insufficient funding of the state and teacher pension funds and insufficient reserves to pay for the state health care retiree accounts.

While many in Connecticut were already questioning Dannel Malloy’s priorities and legacy, his “no tax” pledge ensures that his place in history will be that of just another politician who put his own political aspirations ahead off what was best for the state of Connecticut and its citizens.

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