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Wednesday roundup

by: ctblogger

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 09:48:38 AM EST

The latest:
  • Jim Himes gets snubbed for DCCC post.
    Wall Street is indeed a one-way street for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., and not just on maps.

    Adept at mining campaign cash for House Democrats from the financial services industry, which he once worked in as a Goldman Sachs executive, Himes said Tuesday those very same connections likely factored into his being passed over for his caucus' top political leadership post.

    "My guess is, it was a factor, which is disappointing because I think the criticism is way off base," Himes, 48, said.


    A request for comment was left Tuesday for Pelosi, who bypassed the candidates suggested by the liberal PAC, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee -- Reps. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Jared Polis, D-Col.

    Still, the committee's co-founder applauded the snub of Himes.

    "In not selecting Jim Himes to lead the DCCC, Nancy Pelosi rejected the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party," Adam Green said. "Appointing a Goldman Sachs banker to lead the DCCC would be marching House Democrats in the exact opposite direction they need to go in order to win. An economic populist agenda consisting of bold ideas -- like breaking up `too big to fail' banks and jailing Wall Street bankers who broke the law -- is wildly popular in red, purple and blue states."

  • Shame.
    Connecticut is an expensive state to live in.

    In fact, the cost of basic household expenses here is more than most jobs can support, according to a report released today by the Connecticut United Ways that provides a detailed snapshot of financial hardship above and beyond the outdated and woefully inadequate federal poverty guidelines.

    Thirty-five percent of Connecticut's working households grapple to afford the basics of housing, child care, food, health care and transportation, according to the ALICE report - an abbreviation for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed - which was developed by the state's 16 United Way chapters in collaboration with Rutgers University. It is intended to be used as a tool for policymakers and stakeholders to better understand and address the financial hardships faced by the working poor.

    The 121-page report examines the struggles that laborers, retail salespeople, customer service representatives, personal care aides and other low-paid, service-sector workers regularly experience in trying to stay financially afloat. And it introduces a new measurement tool - the ALICE Threshold - that calculates income inadequacy by computing the current cost of basic necessities and geographic variations.

    The findings portray a significant portion of the state's population struggling to make ends meet.

    Despite Connecticut's above-average minimum wage - it is scheduled to increase to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017 - the cost of living here is beyond what many jobs pay, forcing individuals and families to make difficult budgeting choices.

    While Connecticut's median household income is $67,276 - 24 percent higher than the U.S. median of $51,371 - that median masks the fact that 35 percent of households are financially in peril or fragile. In addition to the 10 percent already classified by federal guidelines as living in poverty, another 25 percent live below the ALICE Threshold, an indicator that they, too, are scraping to get by.

    According to the report, 51 percent of jobs in Connecticut pay less than $20 per hour, pushing many households below the ALICE Threshold.

    The problem is exacerbated because the growth of low-skilled jobs is expected to outpace that of medium- and high-skilled jobs in the state and across the country over the next decade, the report states. At the same time, the cost of basic household necessities will rise.

  • Now that the campaign season is over...
    State programs totaling tens of millions of dollars may be abruptly terminated this week, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy grapples with a $100 million shortfall in the $20 billion budget that runs through next June.

    But the deficit is a fraction of the $400 million wave of red ink that resulted in the special legislative session of December 2012, which was ultimately overshadowed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

    Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, told reporters Monday that as much as $70 million in line items could be cut by Friday, with more reductions in January.

    He declined to list specific areas of savings. But tactics in 2012 included a hiring freeze.

    Also, personnel vacancies were not filled and a range of state agencies sustained programming cuts into the tens of millions of dollars.

  • Wait, this person didn't resign yet?
    The registrars of voters' office needs "a major overhaul" and its Democratic registrar, Olga Vazquez, should resign after issues on Election Day delayed voting at several polling places, Mayor Pedro Segarra said.


    "This is not new to that office," Segarra said. "There have been problems in that office during the time that I have been mayor, and that's one of the reasons I took a very strong stance in wanting to create ... a professionalized office; not a political office, not a partisan office - a professionalized office."

    Segarra did not go into detail about the previous issues. Documents at the State Elections Enforcement Commission show that in the past five years, Vazquez has been named in seven citizen complaints that resulted in either orders, or signed agreements, to comply with state election laws and procedures that hadn't been followed properly.

As always, make sure to follow yours truly as well as My Left Nutmeg on Twitter.

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WARNING! WARNING! The state of Connecticut's Fiscal Health

by: ctblogger

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 13:25:41 PM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Last Friday, the Connecticut General Assembly's Office of Fiscal Analysis issued its annual Fiscal Accountability Report.  The report serves as the definitive independent assessment of the fiscal health of the state of Connecticut.

Unlike the "projections" produced by the Office of Policy and Management, which are designed to protect a sitting governor from criticism, the work done by the Office of Fiscal Analysis is widely respected and noted for its accuracy.

Those truly interested in understanding the Connecticut state budget and the issues surrounding taxes and spending in Connecticut should begin by reading OFA's Fiscal annual Accountability Report.  The OFA report not only provides a review of the status of this year's state budget but they also provide a detailed assessment of what will occur over the next three fiscal years.

Unlike the rosy picture painted by Dannel Malloy during the recent gubernatorial campaign, OFA's report is stark and disturbing.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis reports;

  • This year's state budget (FY15) is running at least an $89.1 million deficit. (Although Malloy repeatedly claimed, up until Election Day, that there will be NO state deficit, his budget director has finally admitted that this year's state budget deficit is closing in on $100 million.)

  • The projected state deficit for FY16 (next year) is $1.3 billion.

  • The projected state deficit for FY17 is $1.4 billion.

  • And the projected state deficit for FY18 is $1.7 billion.

The single most important factor to understand when reviewing the OFA projections is that they take into account the expected growth in the economy.

For example, this year the state of Connecticut was expecting an additional $350 million in revenue due to growth in the economy.   However, one of the reasons the state is now facing a deficit is that Connecticut's economy is not growing as quickly as the experts expected.

According to OFA, the factors driving this year's growing state deficit is that state revenues are $59.1 million lower than originally budgeted and state spending is $30.4 million higher than originally budgeted.

The increased spending is due, in part, to the Malloy administration's failure to allocate sufficient funds to pay the healthcare costs for state employees retiring from the Department of Corrections and Malloy's decision to intentionally underfund Connecticut's magnet schools.

The harsh reality is that Connecticut is short about $4.5 billion in revenue from what it will need to maintain "current services" over the next three and a half years and that this number already takes into consideration an on-going improvement in the economy.

While OFA's Fiscal Accountability Report is immediately relevant because of its projections about revenue and spending over the next three fiscal years, the report also covers Connecticut's long-term "obligations" or "liabilities," otherwise known as the money that taxpayers will need to come up with in order to make the state's debt payments and fund the state's other obligations, such as pensions.

It is in this area that the news is even more troubling.

The following chart highlights Connecticut's Unfunded Liabilities.

Liability: Amount in Billions
Debt Outstanding: $21.3 Billion
State Employee Retirement System (SERS): $12.3
Teachers' Retirement System:  $10.8
State Post Employment Health and Life: $19.5
Teachers' Post Employment Health: $2.4
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles Deficit: $1.1
TOTAL: $68.4 Billion

The total amount in long-term obligations means that Connecticut taxpayers will need to come up with $68.4 billion over the twenty to thirty years, in addition to their federal, state and local tax payments for existing governmental expenses.

In essence, the state's long-term debt saddles taxpayers with an annual payment in addition to any payments they have for a home mortgage, student loan debts or consumer debts.

With about 1.2 million taxpayer households in Connecticut, the state's extraordinary level of debt and long-term obligations means that each taxpayer family or household, on average, will be responsible for paying in about $57,000 in addition to their regular tax payments over the next twenty years or so.

And unlike debt at the Federal level which can be easily pushed off, Connecticut MUST pay these obligations during the next two decades or so.  This means that the burden to make these payments will fall on the state's existing taxpayers and those that are already born but have yet to become taxpayers.

You can read more about the latest budget news at CT Mirror -Budget chief: Some tax cuts may have to wait; CT colleges likely to face cuts and NewsJunkie Gov's Budget Office, Nonpartisan Analysts Project Deficit.

The reports include confirmation that Governor Malloy will be announcing budget cuts soon and that those cuts will probably be disproportionately aimed at Connecticut's public colleges and universities.

The CT Mirror story also reports that the Governor's operation is already backpedaling on nearly $220 million in tax cuts that Malloy pushed through before the election and another $40 million in tax cuts that he promised to put into law if he were re-elected.

The list of new and proposed tax cuts that Malloy promoted during his campaign are now in  jeopardy include;

  • Restoring the sales tax exemptions on clothing and non-prescription medications.

  • A new income tax credit for retired teachers.

  • Returning the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor families to its original level.

  • And putting an end to the corporation tax surcharge.

  • Plus new tax cuts, including a special tax break for urban businesses and an income tax credit for those who are paying interest on their student loans.
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Shame on Rosa DeLauro

by: ctblogger

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 09:42:12 AM EST

I guess the Republicans aren't the only ones waging a war against women.

Daily Kos:

For years, we have listened to Republicans lecture us on issues of morality, only to find them caught up in zipper problems or paying for abortions for their mistresses or whatever. Too often, their moral stance has been trumped by a wide stance, or whatever.

Now, the House Democratic leadership has painted itself into a corner on a women's issue, and it's time to call them out and get them to change course before it gets any worse.

Illinois Congressman Tammy Duckworth is in the ninth month of her first pregnancy. Her doctors have ordered her not to fly and to stay home because of risks to her health. She will be unable to attend the House Dems' meeting in Washington this coming week where they will choose their leadership team.

Rep. Duckworth asked for a waiver to the "no proxy" rule in order that she might take part. She mentioned her medical condition. Reps. Pelosi and DeLauro said no and the request has been denied.

What Rep. Duckworth did not mention in her letter - which all House members know - is that she lost both legs and part of an arm in Iraq. She is not only a pregnant woman in her ninth month, but a disabled veteran. To require that she travel to Washington in her condition to have a vote on the party's leadership and future is morally untenable.

Nor did she mention that three dozen House Democrats - with the support of President Obama - have introduced legislation that would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.

In other words, do as we say, not as we do.

For years, Democrats have rightly pointed out how Republican policies have discriminated against women. And, given the gender gap in the vote, a good number of women agree. And while the decision not to waive the no-proxy rule for Tammy Duckworth is a single incident up against years of Republican actions, the optics are so horrible that someone should tell the women in the Democratic leadership to get wise or get lost.

Earth to Nancy: someone invented something called Skype. Let Tammy use it just this one time.

The worst of all political sins is hypocrisy. For the House Democratic leadership to accuse the Republicans of waging a war on women while denying the doctor's request for a woman in her ninth month - who is a double amputee in a wheelchair - is one for the ages.

It's been an awful month, but this may be the lowest point.

Lets hope Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro will wake up and do the right thing...
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Breaking News - Watch for Malloy to announce cuts to vital services by end of day!

by: ctblogger

Fri Nov 14, 2014 at 13:38:27 PM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

The primary refrain from Governor Malloy and his political campaign was that there was no state deficit this year nor would there be one next year or the year after.

Malloy stuck to this false claim despite the fact that the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis, the State of Connecticut's independent fiscal operation had identified areas where the Malloy administration intentionally underestimated this year's budget in order to make it appear balanced and went on to project that the state of Connecticut would be facing a $1.4 billion projected budget deficit next year and a budget deficit in the range of $5 million over the next three years.

Throughout the campaign, Malloy and his team mocked the Office of Fiscal Analysis' projections.

Even in the last gubernatorial candidate debate, forty-eight hours before the polls opened, Malloy continued to claim that there was no deficit, there would be no deficit and that, if re-elected, he promised that he would not cut state services, raise taxes or need to engage in talks with the state employee unions about concessions.

To bolster Malloy's false claims about the state budget, on October 20th, just days before Election Day, Malloy's budget director even wrote,

"Revenue and expenditure trends remain consistent with the budget plan, and we continue to project a $0.3 million balance from operations.  [Translated to English that mean that the Malloy administration reported that the state was on track to have a $300,000 surplus for this fiscal year]

Considering that Malloy's budget director knew his statement was a lie, if Connecticut was a corporation with stocks, the Securities and Exchange Commissioner (SEC) would have had the right to take action against the state for intentionally and fraudulently lying to stockholders.

But the harsh legacy of Malloy's 2014 campaign is that the governor and his political operatives managed to make it through the campaign without having to tell Connecticut's voters the truth about the state's fiscal situation.

The truth then - and now - is that lower than expected revenues and additional spending due to Malloy's decision to intentionally underfund certain programs meant this year's Connecticut state budget continued a $100 million deficit.

Sadly, the truth was available to voters but in the blur of the final weeks of the campaign, few voters were aware of Malloy's underhanded tactic to mislead the electorate about the growing budget deficit.

Now, ten days after the campaign is over, the Malloy administration is scrambling to put together a series of budget cuts.

Since these cuts will fly in the face of Malloy's campaign statements watch for Malloy's people to announce the cuts late today.

Traditionally politicians like to announce bad news late on Friday afternoons believing the most reporters have closed up their computers for the weekend, and that even more importantly, the public won't be paying attention to state news on the weekend.

The true irony is that Malloy's cuts are likely to disproportionately hit Connecticut's state employees and programs that Malloy promised to protect.

During his first term in office, Dan Malloy made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut public colleges and universities.  In an attempt to win back the support of college students and their parents, along with faculty and staff at Connecticut's colleges, Malloy repeated promised to make higher education a top priority.

But Connecticut's college students will likely be among those who are most hurt by Malloy's impending budget cuts, as will other state and unionized employees.

This after the union leaders spent millions urging their members to support Malloy's re-election bid.

Those interested in knowing the truth about Connecticut's budget situation should take the time to read the news articles written by CT Mirror's Keith Phaneuf.

Nonpartisan analysts tracking $84M in potential cost overruns in state budget (Oct 31)

CT budget again faces red ink as federal grants, gaming revenues shrink (Nov 10)

Malloy to order emergency cuts, restrict hires to counter impending deficit (Nov 13)

Then watch for coverage tonight and over the weekend about Malloy's budget plan.

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Close the loopholes

by: ctblogger

Thu Nov 13, 2014 at 16:33:40 PM EST

After witnessing Ted Kennedy Jr's shameless exploitation of the state's public campaign finance system, as well as the flood of dark money thrown into the gubernatorial race, I've been very vocal over the need to fix the loopholes in the law...and I'm not alone.
There is one thing we agree with Suzanne Bates from the Yankee Institute about, "money gets into politics - to influence."

We would clarify that outside, shadowy, dark money sneaks in to move a mostly unknown agenda that the movers are trying to hide. We have seen a substantial increase in outside spending in Connecticut's elections because of new loopholes passed last year.

In this past gubernatorial race, more than $16 million dollars was spent on attack ads. Notably, the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations formed SuperPACs which spent huge sums - more than $15 million. One SuperPAC was Connecticut Forward (opposing Tom Foley, supporting Dan Malloy), and the other was Grow Connecticut (opposing Dan Malloy, supporting Tom Foley). This was money that originated from the DGA and RGA. We don't know where all that money is from, but we will see it when the SuperPACs file their 990s. Amounts of money from other sources, such as labor unions and the NRA, were much smaller.

In short, the system needs to be fixed so that what happened during this election cycle never happens again...regardless of your political affiliation, if these loopholes stay in place, we all lose.
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Wednesday roundup

by: ctblogger

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 10:48:45 AM EST

  • Speaker Sharkey couldn't be further from the truth.
    In the wake of last week's Democratic losses in the Connecticut General Assembly, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Democrats lost because they voted yes on SB1160, the 2013 gun safety reform bill. Sharkey's assessment of the political risk of supporting common-sense gun laws is patently false.

    Of the 106 Senate and House candidates who voted yes on SB1160, more than 90 percent were re-elected. Gun regulation wasn't a key issue in several of the contests where incumbent Democrats lost, so it's disingenuous of Sharkey to blame their losses on support of gun violence prevention.


    Sharkey's thesis is further refuted by the outcome on the other side of the aisle. Every Republican House member who voted yes on SB1160 was re-elected. The only incumbent Republican to lose was Mike Molgano, who voted against the 2013 gun bill. His opponent, Caroline Simmons, a 28 year-old newcomer to elective office, made gun violence prevention a prominent message in her campaign.

  • I guess Mr. Irrelevant wants someone to pay attention to him...too bad the coward didn't run for re-election in 2012.
    Of course, it's hard to get too worked up about Lieberman joining a group of naive plutocrats who like to get together and talk about Solving Problems, all the while revealing themselves to be utterly oblivious to how American politics actually works. But a just-released interview in which Lieberman chums around with a fawning Bill Kristol is another story.

    The interview has its (inadvertently) hilarious parts, like when Lieberman calls Beltway hack Ron Fournier "a really fine reporter." But it's mostly a maddening reminder of the egomaniacal former senator's noxious role in American politics, not least when he assisted erstwhile foes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in advancing a destructive foreign policy agenda as one of the leading cheerleaders for the Iraq War.

    Recalling an encounter with Bush immediately after his 2001 inauguration, Lieberman remembers telling the new president he hoped they could work together.

    "He said, with that Bush look, 'I think we're gonna find some ways.' Now little did I know how much," Lieberman says, as he and Kristol break into guffaws.

    "His presidency," Lieberman continues, "is going to be viewed generally more positively than it was when he left office."

    Ah, yes - in retrospect, 500,000 Iraqi deaths, regional instability and the rise of the Islamic State militant group, and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression really won't look so bad.

  • The Courant's Dan Haar highlights various problems with the state's election process...and why reform is desperately needed.
    You awake the morning after after election night in the richest state of the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. Your governor claims he won his race by tens of thousands of votes but there's no official record of the tally.

    Vote counts from various sources are so contradictory and incomplete that losing candidates do not concede, even in races that are not close. The governor tells the media he understands his opponent's hesitation, but, he says proudly, the governor's party simply has better vote-count information - information the state itself does not have.

    Late morning on the day after the election, the state's top election official - whose own race outcome was still not publicly known - announces that towns are still sending in results. Handwritten. By fax.

    She had gone to sleep at 3 a.m. armed with the party's vote tally, knowing she won. But by late morning her opponent still thought the race was wide open.

    At noon, 16 hours after the polls closed, news outlets were not close to assembling all the numbers. Registrars had until 6 p.m. to report results to the state. The capital city was among the last to do so, as usual, one day after its polling places had to open late because the registrars failed to issue voter lists - basically their only job.

    Absurd, right? In the end, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy beat Tom Foley by a decent margin of almost 30,000 votes. Merrill beat challenger Peter Lumaj by a comfortable 42,000 votes. It was a typically chaotic end to a statewide election, coming four years after Bridgeport ran out of ballots.

  • Only in Bridgeport!
    The profiles in courage award goes to the curious Board of Education member Ken Moales who wants to fill a school board vacancy by private paper ballots. Sanity prevailed in the form of Board of Education chair Sauda Baraka who reminded Moales at a meeting Monday night school board members are part of a public board.

    The process to fill the October 15 resignation of John Bagley, city hoop star, is coming down to the wire. The school board has 30 days to fill the vacancy, following his resignation date, from a small pool of candidates who must be registered with Connecticut's Working Families Party, the victorious line for Bagley when he won a school board seat two years ago. The City Charter provides a vacancy is filled by remaining members of the board for the balance of the term vacated.

    The school board will meet Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Aquaculture School presumably to fill the vacancy.

    What happens if the school board fails to select a candidate?

    "Bridgeport's city charter gives its school board the authority to select a replacement, and we anticipate that's exactly what they'll do," says city Communications Director Brett Broesder in a statement to OIB.

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