Unions try to figure out a way to provide the concessions, Malloy races forward with layoffs…

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

Tuesday Morning, June 28, 2011, Update:

There are a number of must read stories today…

Start with CTNewsJunkie’s Union Leadership Tables Vote On Concession Package

“SEBAC considers how to proceed with 57% of the union membership in favor of the SEBAC/Malloy agreement.  The final vote was 21,415 voted in favor of it and 15,588 opposed.11 of the 15 unions (26 of 34 bargaining groups) voted in favor.  Adoption would have required 14 of the 15 union and 80 percent in favor.”

“We have a set of rules that prevent accepting the agreement right now even though a majority favor it,” Livingston said. “We’re going to do everything we can to reach a different outcome.”

But true to form, the Malloy Administration come out firing – Roy Occhiogrosso, the Governor’s chief advisor said “The Governor is proceeding as if there’s no agreement, because right now there isn’t…His job is to make sure there’s a balanced budget in place on July 1, one that’s balanced with no gimmicks. That’s what he’s focused on.”

IMPORTANT NOTE:  One of the most interesting pieces is that Malloy, his Administration and even the media are saying that Governor Malloy has until Friday to close a $1.6 billion hole in the state budget.

Actually, my understanding is that law requires that the General Assembly approve and the Governor sign a ‘balanced’ budget which they did (or at least approved a signed a budget that they claimed was balanced).

If the budget is out of balance the Governor can certainly come in with a plan, but there is nothing in the law that actually requires him to do so.  The next legal trigger will occur when the State Comptroller issues his “Letter of July 1st “.  At that time he would determine that the budget is out of balance and that would legally require the Governor to develop a plan to meet that deficit.

This is not an unimportant point.  It is understandable why Malloy and his Administration would claim they MUST BALANCE the budget by Friday, but that is actually not true.

But the perception that they are legally required make good cover for coming up with bad policy.

Meanwhile, another “must read” story is CTMirror’s story Malloy challenged to trim his own staff before ordering layoffs

On top of everything else, it turns out that despite promising to cut the Governor’s Office by 15% during the campaign, Gov. Malloy’s office is “up 20 percent in personnel and 41 percent in payroll over June 2010”

As Keith Phaneuf writes Malloy has increased his personal staff to 30 people adding $661,429 to the Governor’s Office budget.

Just The Facts Please: Connecticut’s Budget Crisis as of Monday Morning June 27th

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

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s  assault, not leadership. ”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Monday Morning Update:

Governor Malloy continues to say he will lay off 7,500 state employees starting this week.

Malloy has ruled out any discussions about modifying the Malloy/SEBAC agreement to get the necessary support to pass it

Asked about solutions such as a re-vote or other attempt to work with the unions,  Malloy’s response was “Not my job…We’re going full steam ahead. … I don’t have the liberty of time.”

What Malloy has proposed is that the Democratically controlled General Assembly give him the authority to cut up to 10% of the state budget (including municipal aid) without legislative approval.  A Governor presently only has the authority to cut up to 5% of any line item and certain expenditures such as municipal aid can not be cut unilaterally.

The General Assembly will meet in special session on Thursday to consider Malloy’s request (demand).

The Governor continues to claim that the budget is $1.6 billion out of balance due to the rejection of the SEBAC Agreement.  Actually a majority of state employees voted for the SEBAC agreement but adoption required a special super majority and that number was not met.

Meanwhile, as to the $1.6 billion figure remember that the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis said it could only confirm 40 percent of the projected savings from the Malloy/SEBAC agreement.

The issue becomes more complicated because Malloy and the Democrats have built a surplus into the bi-annual budget – in fact – Connecticut  could end the coming year with a surplus in the hundreds of millions.

According to Keith Phaneuf of CTMirror.org, in addition to the $150 million projected surpluses that is already built into the budget, tax revenues are running significantly higher than expected and that will mean the surplus for both FY12 and FY13 will be growing.  Finally, certain line items, such as the account to pay health care premiums for retirees are artificially high and when those funds aren’t spent the budget surplus will grow even larger.

However, the problem with using the surplus is that counting the purported $1.6 billion savings from the SEBAC agreement, the budget that was approved by the Democrats and signed into law by Governor Malloy is $1 million below the State Spending Cap in FY12 and $278 million
below in FY13.

So Malloy will argue that he won’t use the surplus to balance the state budget because he pledged not to exceed the spending cap and that even if he wanted to, the legislature would have to vote to exceed the spending cap which would require a 60% super majority.  That would mean the Democrats would have to come up with at least 22 votes in the State Senate and 91 votes in the State House of Representatives.

Although the state of Connecticut regularly exceeded the spending cap under Governors Rowland and Rell, Malloy called that process a gimmick during his campaign for governor.  (Apparently saying the SEBAC agreement would have saved $1.6 billion when it would have really saved about half that amount is not counted as a gimmick).

As the day and week progresses, the main thing to watch is whether Legislative Democrats will grant Malloy the super-authority that he is seeking to cut the state budget or whether they will require him to proposed a $1.6 billion dollar plan to cut the budget which they would then have to adopt, reject or modify.

Malloy to Legislature: Give me the power, go home and I’ll take care of everything.

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

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made it clear Friday that he wants the legislature to give him the authority to cut $1.6 billion from the two-year, $40.11 billion state budget.”  – CT Newsjunkie 6-24-2011

Yes – Connecticut state government is facing a crisis and action is needed.

Democrats adopted a new state budget before the Malloy/SEBAC agreement was voted on.  The concession package failed and now there is a problem.

Whether you agree or disagree with the results of the state employee’s vote on the concession package, it is now painfully clear that the budget that was adopted does not balance.

The fact is, the Legislative vote on the proposed state budget back in February was probably illegal (For that issue, read my Wait, What? post of 4/26 Democrats: An illegal budget vote or a vote for lay-offs and massive budget cuts).

But regardless, vote they did and their vote relied on the concession package passing.

Now, with a budget that does not balance the Governor and Legislature must return to the task of adopting a budget that does.

Despite the rhetoric from the Governor’s Office, the state of Connecticut actually have a wide range of options, but Governor Malloy wants to short-circuit those and is now asking the Legislature to give him the unprecedented and unique authority to cut the budget by $1.6 billion without any legislative approval.

To put the matter into perspective, the situation pits two completely opposing viewpoints.

Let us turn to Thomas Jefferson and Former Secretary of the State Al Haig and allow them to explain the two approaches.

First Mr. Jefferson:

“If the three powers maintain their mutual independence on each other our Government may last long, but not so if either can assume the authorities of the others.” – Thomas Jefferson

Now, Mr. Haig;

“As of now, I am in control here”  – Al Haig

Back on January 31, 2011, my column was about a story Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate wrote concerning Proposed Bill No. 187 – An
Act Granting Power to the Governor to Balance the Budget .

The legislation was sponsored by four moderate Democratic state senators and sought to give the Governor more “budget authority” by allowing him to cut up to 10% of the approved state budget without legislative approval.  (The present law allows the Governor to cut up to 5%, except that it prohibits him from unilaterally cutting certain budget expenditures such as municipal aid).

At the time, Governor Malloy was quoted as saying that this legislation was not needed and I found myself applauding Malloy’s commitment to the appropriate separation of powers.

Then, two weeks later, the Malloy Administration actually proposed the same concept (go figure) but the Connecticut General Assembly wisely decided not to adopt his proposal.

Now, as the state faces some tough choices – that range from modifying the concession agreement so it will pass to laying of 7,500 state employees and destroying the safety net, the Governor is, once again, telling the legislature to give him extraordinary powers so that he – and he alone – can make cuts without legislative oversight or approval.

To grant any Governor that power would be wrong.

Some would say the issue is that Malloy was only elected with 49% of the vote and the 187 legislators were elected by true majorities.

However, that is not the reason to follow the law and require the Governor to propose a plan to the Legislature and require the General Assembly to approve, reject or modify that plan.

The reason that Governor Malloy’s plan is a bad one is that we have three distinct branches of government for a reason,  No executive – Democratic or Republican – should be given powers that rightfully belong to the Legislative Branch of Government.   The system of checks and balances is one of – if not the – most important element of a true representative democracy.

Malloy’s request is not only a bad one – it is a horrific proposal – and every single legislator (Democrat or Republican) should remember their solemn oath to the Constitution and their constituents.

Legislators have a job to do and now is the time they must do it.

Malloy: I’m Not A Bully…

Yesterday could have been a day of simple congratulations, with Governor Malloy congratulating himself and  Legislative Democrats and the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate returning the favor.

But then, as if he just couldn’t help himself, Malloy returned to his old mantra of claiming that if Connecticut’s state employees don’t approve the concession package and come up with $1.6 billion dollars, he can’t be held responsible for the pain and suffering that will occur.


Yes, really…

At yesterday morning’s gubernatorial press conference, Malloy told the media “I’m not bullying anybody. Talking in real terms and telling people the truth is not bullying…I just want people to understand the reality.”

And Malloy’s “reality” is that if state employees reject that Malloy/SEBAC concession package, he will be “forced” to lay off up to 7,500 or more state
employees including public servants with as much as 10 to 25 years of service.

According to the Governor, his approach is not “bullying”, it is just a simple statement of fact;  If the kid doesn’t turn over his lunch money, he will be forced to beat the crap out of him.

Of course, the Governor’s “reality” doesn’t actually cover the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

That is not to say that rejecting the concession agreement is a good idea.

However, the real truth is that if the agreement is rejected, Malloy and the Democrats could utilize one or more of the following options to fill some or the entire $700 million deficit;

(1)   They could fill a portion of the budget deficit by utilizing the growing surplus from “excess revenue”.  Connecticut’s 2nd gas tax will generate more than $100 million dollars extra in the coming year.  The income tax and corporate tax will also likely produce more than was budgeted.

(2)  The budget itself has extra funds in some key line items.  The account to pay retiree health benefits, for example, may have as much as $70 million or more in extra funds

(3)    The Governor could utilize some of his authority to cut up to 5% of the state budget ($1 Billion) without legislative approval.  Although there are some limitations to areas that can or should be cut, the Governor could certainly cut millions if needed.

(4)    The law further requires that the Governor develop a plan to deal with any deficit that may arise and propose changes for the General Assembly to approve.

(5)    Finally, the Governor could follow the collective bargaining process and return to the table to negotiate a package that would garner majority support among state employees.

So – call it what you want – but the real reality is that Governor Malloy would have lots and lots of options if the agreement fails.

While suggesting that he will lay off 7,500 state employees may or may not be bullying, one thing is certain, it is not his only option.

Finally the best moment of the press conference came when a reporter asked Governor Malloy to name his biggest regret about the session.

Malloy didn’t have one.

Ah… okay… Governor… but…

How about unfortunately having to raise taxes on the hard pressed middle class to balance the budget. (necessary but unfortunate).

What about the decision to eliminate most of the inspectors and auditors responsible for making sure candidates don’t illegally spend their public campaign finance funds.

What about the budget cuts that will end the open-enrolment opportunities at Connecticut’s community colleges and leave UConn, CSU and the Community Colleges with the deepest cuts in Connecticut history.

What about the decision to water-downed Connecticut’s comprehensive health care  reform bill to the point that it doesn’t help Connecticut’s hard hit-small businesses nor does it include a public option to provide health insurance coverage to those who have no health insurance.

Do you really mean you don’t have a single regret about the 2011 Legislative Session?


Willington Rest Stop Saved… But Connecticut’s Colleges and Public Finance Program Go Down Drain

(Hartford) – With less than 10 hours to go until the end of the Connecticut General Assembly 2011 Session, the Hartford Courant is reporting that the “Malloy administration’s plan to permanently close two I-84 rest areas in Willington on July 1 – on the way to closing all seven of Connecticut’s noncommercial rest areas on interstate highways in the next two years – will be scrapped and they will all stay open,” according to Democratic State Representative Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill.

Guerrera tells the Courant that the Legislature is poised to use their final hours to adopt language that will prevent the rest areas from being closed but even if the legislation is not passed before today’s adjournment, “the administration has assured me that the rest areas all will stay open.”

Apparently  the funds have been found not only to save the Willington rest stop but the other five rest areas as well.

The Chairman of the Transportation Committee went on to tell the Courant “I’m just happy to have worked this out with the administration.”

Unfortunately as of moments ago there was still no word that Governor Malloy or the Democrats in the Legislature were backing off their decision to implement the deepest budget cuts in history to Connecticut’s public colleges, nor their plans to undermine Connecticut’s Community College through a misguided merger program nor even their outrageous decision to lay off almost the entire investigation and audit operation of Connecticut Election Enforcement operation thereby destroying Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance program.

I guess it is a question of priorities because  Roy Occhiogrosso, Governor Malloy’s chief advisor, who had earlier said the Governor would not reconsider his decision to close the rest stops told the Courant, “Sometimes things change around here, and they change quickly…you have to be open to reasonable compromises right up until the end of the session.”

So there you go….

You can find the Courant story here:  http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-rest-areas-0609-20110608,0,1333639.story

A reminder about Malloy’s definition of “Shared Sacrifice”. The $24 million in new municipal revenue

A total of $15 million for the ten wealthiest towns, $1.6 million for the ten poorest towns

As the 2011 session of the Connecticut General Assembly comes to an end this coming Wednesday the Malloy Administration will remind us that the phrase that best describes this year’s session is “Shared Sacrifice”

Beginning with the ten times he used the word “sacrifice” in his February budget address, Governor Malloy has been pushing the concept that this budget is all about shared sacrifice. His point, over and over again, has been that we are balancing the Connecticut budget by asking everyone to sacrifice.

And there are a lot of sacrifices in this budget…

But lost in the rhetoric are some stunning examples of just how this Governor defines sacrifice.

First there was income tax proposal in which those making over $2 million a year are asked to pay just .02 percent more a year while the rest of us faced far greater percentage increases. This when the data shows that the wealthiest in Connecticut pay about 4.9% of their income in state and local taxes while those in the middle pay at least 10% of their income in state and local taxes.

Then there is the extraordinary example of Malloy’s plan to help Connecticut’s cities and towns.

While cutting deeply into a variety of programs, Governor Malloy not only maintained the level of municipal aid but proposed doubling the size of the municipal real estate conveyance tax as a way to provide cities and towns with a revenue stream that was separate and above what they received from their local property taxes and state grants.

The budget adopted by the Democrats in the General Assembly included this expanded tax.

While requiring those who sell their property to pay .5 percent of the sales price to their local municipality doesn’t immediately seem unfair, the truth becomes evident when you look at who actually benefits from Malloy’s proposal.

Starting July 1, 2011 – thanks to Governor Malloy and the Legislature’s Democrats – Connecticut’s ten wealthiest towns will share $15 million in new revenue from the expanded real estate conveyance tax.

The state’s ten poorest towns will share $1.6 million.

The benefit per person from Malloy’s plan?

The 203,000 people in the ten wealthiest towns will receive a benefit of $73 per person. All new money to help expand local services or allow the town to cut their local property tax rate.

Meanwhile, the 653,000 people who live in the ten poorest towns will receive a benefit of $2.45 per person providing those communities with no meaningful help in preserving services or cutting taxes.

The Governor and the Democrats could have increased the state portion of the real estate conveyance tax which would have raised a similar amount of money but would have distributed those funds based on need.

Instead, the rich got a break on their income taxes while Connecticut’s wealthiest towns will get an unlooked-for windfall.

Yes, the 2011 Legislative Session may have been about sacrifice but it certainly wasn’t a definition of shared sacrifice that most of us would recognize.

Governor Malloy, Speaker Donovan and President Williams Solve Connecticut’s Budget Problems

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

Last night Governor Malloy’s press office released a statement that the Governor and Democratic legislative leaders had come up with a plan to eliminate the $400 million deficit in the state’s upcoming budget.

The Governor capped off the victory by saying “As promised, we’ve maintained our commitment to municipal aid, preserved the safety net and we have not asked for additional taxes.”

Instead the three leaders agreed to additional spending cuts and using higher than anticipated revenue to fill the hole.

And just in case the state employees forget to fulfill their role, Governor Malloy added “The only thing that needs to happen now is for the SEBAC agreement to be ratified in a timely fashion. If it isn’t, we’re back to Plan B – something I don’t think anyone wants.”

Speaker Donovan, now a candidate for Congress, jumped on board saying “Once again, Governor Malloy has kept his promises.”

President Pro Tempore Don Williams backed up the Governor’s threat to state employees saying “We encourage state employees to ratify the SEBAC agreement so we can avoid the draconian budget alternatives that would undermine Connecticut’s economic recovery.”

Their plan to eliminate the $400 million deficit includes “saving” $52 million in what they say are over budgeted allotments to the state retiree healthcare accounts well as cutting $7 million dollars from various workers compensation funds since apparently those won’t be needed as well.

The most interesting piece of all is that the Democratic leaders agreed to cut over $14 million from the State Department of Education’s Interdistrict Cooperation Fund.

Apparently, despite the Connecticut Supreme Court’s rulings that separate and unequal education is unconstitutional, the state’s leaders have determined that we can reduce funding for the programs that are designed to give students the opportunities to attend more desegregated public schools.

Of the $400 million mini-budget plan, my personal favorite it their claim that they have “not asked for additional taxes” to balance the budget.

In fact, since Connecticut’s gas tax #2 is tied to the price of gasoline, the recent spike in gas prices has netted the state $70 million more than was expected and that has come in just the last few months.  Since state government is unwilling to cap this regressive tax, higher gas prices will mean more and more money pours into the state’s general fund and politicians can say with a smile “we have not asked for additional taxes.”

Correct, because the taxes are just growing “without being asked.”

Good one  huh?

You can read more at CTNewsjunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/400_million_budget_gap_to_be_filled_primarily_with_surplus_funds/

A Giant Step in Connecticut’s Race to the Bottom…

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

Hidden behind the shadows of this year’s state budget debate is a growing set of actions that will do more damage to Connecticut’s future than anything we’ve seen during this Great Recession.

Connecticut’s fundamental truth is that our most precious natural resource is our people and the only economic development strategy that will work is to ensure that we have the most educated, knowledgeable and capable workforce in the nation and the world in order to successfully compete in the 21st Century global marketplace.

As we lose our educational edge to southern and midwestern states, not to mention China and India, we are seeing a disaster of unparalleled proportions taking shape – a disaster that will make the Rust Belt and its failed manufacturing economy almost look good.

While the debate about taxes and state employee concessions makes headlines, few realize that the state budget Governor Malloy proposed and the Democratically-controlled legislature enacted will make the deepest cuts to our public colleges and universities in state history.

In the coming days, the General Assembly will hide inside a so called “implementer bill” an authorization for a massive re-organization of the Connecticut State University System and Connecticut’s Community and Technical Colleges – a planned merger that fails to consider for what is best for our colleges and more than 100,000 students who attend them.

A story in yesterday’s edition of the CT Mirror offers us a glimpse into the devastating impact these decisions will have on our public institutions of higher education.

As a direct result of Governor Malloy’s budget cuts and policies being championed by the Governor and his Commissioner of Higher Education, Connecticut’s community colleges are on the verge of ending their historic policy of “open enrollment”, a policy that assures that anyone, regardless of background or economic standing has the opportunity to attend one of our state’s community colleges as they seek to acquire the knowledge and
skills to succeed.

Stop for a moment and understand what is taking place.

The Malloy Administration is implementing a change in policy that would take us from a state in which every person has a right to expand their skills and advance their education to one in which, as Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti said, the state must focus resources on those who have a real chance of benefiting from taking courses.

The CTMirror article reports that “Meotti said that Connecticut should reconsider offering access to post-secondary education to those who are destined to fail. Three of every four students who enter the community college system lack basic knowledge in math, English and reading and are
required to take remedial courses upon entry into a community college, according to the State Department of Higher Education.”

Meotti adds in his own words that these “are students who are so not ready and have no ability to be successful in a college classroom,”

Wait?  What?

The Democratic Commissioner of Higher Education, serving under a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature, in a state
with the highest achievement gap of any nation, a place that can only succeed if we have a well trained workforce says that our community colleges should be reserved for those who are destined to succeed?

We aren’t talking about entrance to Yale or even UConn (although remember George W. Bush went to Yale and his academic skills certainly didn’t predict his “success”).  We are talking about ability to attend on of Connecticut’s 12 community colleges, institutions whose primary role is not to provide academic degrees but to ensure that every person has the opportunity to learn and grow and strengthen their skill set so they can build a better quality of life for themselves, their families and their community.

Imagine if what Meotti said was uttered by someone like Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan.  Demonstrators in Connecticut would take to the streets decrying their elitist, arrogant positions and suggesting that it was based on some inherent classism or racism.

A claim that only some people are “destined to succeed”?

Certainly Mike Meotti isn’t racist but the policies he is pushing would have devastating consequences on those who need a little more help because they are coming out of failing schools or don’t have the life experiences or network to ensure that they will absolutely “succeed” in college.  Let’s face it, minorities, women, those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds will all be disproportionately hurt by these proposed policies.

And these are just the words of Malloy’s point person on higher education.

As the CTMirror points out, Governor Malloy himself “has a plan to decrease the high use of the state’s community colleges for remedial coursework.”

And the Governor added “We want to draw down [the number of] students who are having to use their time and energy” on remedial courses, he said. “That’s probably the best way to get at this problem.”

One assumes that the Governor is expecting that Connecticut’s public high schools can improve student performance to the point that students graduate with the fundamental skills they need to be successful in college.  However, the challenges facing our schools, especially those in urban areas, schools that will be producing 40% of Connecticut workforce, are significant and improvements will take years, even decades, to fully implement. In the mean time, Malloy’s proposed approach would mean tens of thousands of Connecticut residents would be shut out from the opportunity to go to a community college to acquire additional education and skills.  Hardly the appropriate path to take if we want a stronger economy, not to mention a more equitable and just society.

Instead of ending open enrollment in our community colleges, how about we actually throw the doors wide open and use our scarce resources to give these students the tools they need to succeed, even if they need some remedial work before taking some of the more advanced courses.

How about we don’t cut $20 million dollars from the most efficient and effective part of Connecticut’s system of higher education, our community colleges.

What if we remembered that not everyone begins or even finishes their primary and secondary school experiences with the same set of skills and capabilities, but every person, old or young, white or black, man or woman, rich or poor can always learn and improve their skills as they seek to position themselves to succeed.

And Instead of simply talking about jobs, how about we actually do something to ensure we have a broad based, multi-talented workforce that is prepared for the jobs our businesses will need… oh and Governor, some of those jobs aren’t in state of the art research labs but still require skills beyond what people are getting in high school.

But most importantly, where are the voices of reason on this vital issues?

Why the silence from members of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus and other legislators representing communities whose constituents will be especially hurt by the politics Malloy and Meotti are moving forward with?

Where are the more progressive legislators who claim to truly believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed, not just those who have been born with opportunities dropped into their laps?

Where are the women legislators who understand the barriers that are in place for women trying to return to the job market and how some courses, even if they don’t end up in an Associate Degree, can be the difference between finding and not finding safe, quality work?

Where are those policy makers who were the first in their family to attend college or at least recognize that first time college attendees might very well need – and certainly deserve – some extra help as they work to change the course of their lives?

Where is Connecticut’s business community who complain so bitterly that they don’t have access to enough educated workers, even to the point of needing to import workers from other states and countries?  These economic times are hard enough for Connecticut’s businesses without having our state leaders implement policies that will ensure we don’t have an educated enough workforce as we move deeper into the 21st Century.

And where are the editorial writers whose job it is to speak out on important issues like this?

As Governor Malloy and the General Assembly careen toward the last day of the 2011 legislative session, Connecticut’s future doesn’t rest with how the FY12 budget drama plays out.  Connecticut’s future will depend on whether the Democratic Legislature has the vision, courage and wherewithal to put the brakes on Malloy’s disastrous higher education policies so that they can return next year with a plan that builds, not destroys Connecticut’s most important economic development tool – our colleges and universities.

Watch this issue carefully in the coming day.  How the General Assembly handles Malloy’s efforts to undermine Connecticut’s community colleges will say a lot about their character and dedication to Connecticut’s future.

Fake State Budget “Surplus“ goes from $680 million to $34 million in a blink of an eye…

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

Back on one of my favorite issues….

Over the past few months most of Connecticut’s elected officials (and many in the media) have celebrated Connecticut’s growing state surplus.

Republicans, in turn, were blasting the Democrats for raising taxes when the state had a surplus and Democratic legislators have been talking about using the extra funds to reduce the extent of the budget cuts.

Intentionally (or unintentionally) what all of these people failed to reveal was the this year’s budget (FY11) was “balanced” with a plan to borrow $956 million. A loan that was scheduled to be paid off by maintaining a surcharge on electricity bills.

But interestingly, even though the budget was approved last summer, and that officials often worry about the State’s cash flow, the State Treasurer never borrowed the money to pay for this year’s budget.

One might think that it fact would mean that it would be reported that without that borrowing the state was actually facing an almost $1 billion dollar deficit, but since the budget authorized the borrowing, it was always reported that the budget was “balanced” and any new revenue was reported as a growing “surplus”.

Now Governor Malloy is proposing to NOT borrow the money to balance this year’s budget and instead he wants to use this year’s “surplus” to pay this year’s expenses.  The move saves the cost of borrowing and saves the far more significant cost of the interest on that loan.  It could even mean the surcharge on electric bills could be reduced.

All of this would be great news except that Governor Malloy’s plan uses up all but about $34 million of the recently reported $680 million state budget surplus and this places a significant limitation on how the State is going to deal with the $300 million dollar deficit in the budget that the Democrats approved and the Governor signed into law a couple of weeks ago.

$300 million dollar deficit in the new budget?

Remember that Governor Malloy had assured legislators that his state employee concession plan would save an unachievable $1 billion
dollars. Senate President Don Williams and other leaders said they too were sure the agreement would save the billion dollars so Democrats, in turn, adopted a budget that included the full billion in concession savings.

When the Malloy/SEBAC agreement was later announced it turned out that it “saved” $1.6 billion over two years and only $700 million in the first year. (not to mention the fact that some of the $1.6 billion in savings is a tag unlikely).

The agreement, therefore, left at least a $300 million dollar deficit in the state budget for next year.

Malloy has talked about closing that gap with a combination of additional budget cuts and using some of the “revenue growth”.

However, with the surplus gone, we can rest assured he will focus on additional budget cuts and as of now it isn’t even clear the legislature will have the opportunity or take the initiative to vote on where those cuts will be made.

Not good news considering $300 million in additional cuts would require about 50% more cuts than has already been made to next year’s budget.

A state surplus of $680 million disappears in a day?

This must be Connecticut.

Malloy Ramps Up His Psychological War on State Employees

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

The ugly truth facing Connecticut became increasingly apparent Wednesday as Governor Malloy signed into law a new state budget that is $2 billion out of balance.

A budget that from the very beginning was designed to fail while making Connecticut’s public employees the scapegoats for the state’s fiscal problems.

Over the last 48 hours, relying on unachievable concessions from Connecticut’s state employees, Democratic Legislators approved Governor Malloy’s plan that will eventually lead to massive cuts to vital services.

Rather than confront that truth and raise sufficient revenue or identify and approve additional cuts the Democratic majority held fast to the lie that $2 billion in concessions could be achieved.

However, with only 45,000 active state employees, a legal impediment to reducing the benefits provided to retirees and a legacy of underfunding Connecticut’s state employee pension and health care costs it is literally impossible to achieve a $2 billion concessions package that would survive the negotiation and approval process.

Now, with the budget approved, this twisted approach to governing moves forward as the Governor announces that tomorrow he will issue 4,000 lay-off notices and that “everything is on the table” for additional cuts.

The magnitude of the budget lie is becoming apparent.

4,000 Connecticut state employees and their families now wait in fear for the news that their lives will be plunged into chaos as they are thrown into the world of unemployment during the greatest economic downturn of the past 50 years.

Adding insult to injury, laying off 4,000 employees will not only impact the quality and availability of important state services but it will only “save” the state about $300 million leaving a hole of at least $700 million in the coming year’s budget.

According to the Governor’s rhetoric, this “deficit” will only be eliminated through additional cuts rather than additional revenues – despite the fact that the new budget gave Connecticut’s super wealthy a pass on being required to pay their fair share in taxes.

Cutting $700 million more on top of the record cuts that have already been adopted will have a profound and devastating impact on Connecticut’s most essential services.  The quality of life for tens of thousands, including some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens is now at risk because legislators would not face the reality that they were voting on a fraudulent budget plan.

Meanwhile, like so many politicians around the country, Governor Malloy continues to blame this impending disaster on public employees as he ramps up a game of psychological warfare to force concessions and set the stage for cuts in services that can then be blamed on the state’s workers.

And as this horrible strategy plays out there is nothing but silence from Connecticut’s Democratic officeholders.

Imagine if Pratt & Whitney announced 4,000 layoffs.

No, better yet, think back to the times that Pratt has announced layoffs of far fewer employees.  Rallies with Democratic politicians on the picket line calling for investigations, demanding meetings and charging that the company is engaged in union busting.

But now when the shoe is on the other foot and a Democratic CEO who is unfairly targeting employees….Silence.