Christmas in February

 

This column appears in the February 13 – 20 edition of the Hartford News… A Public Bank for Connecticut Update: The Community Party supports Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) campaign to add banking services to the United States Postal Service. A white paper by the USPS Inspector General provides a detailed argument for reviving this concept. Michael Barr, an assistant secretary of the Treasury under President Obama, supports postal banking. The post office provided banking services from 1911-1967, until higher interest rates by banks forced them out of the market. Postal banking services would generate billions of dollars for the struggling USPS while providing people in low income urban and rural communities access to affordable financial services. 68 million Americans do not have checking or savings accounts or are not being adequately served by the banking system. We’re talking to a legislator about this issue now. Visit our A Public Bank for Connecticut Facebook page for updates. http://www.facebook.com/PublicBankCT  Check out our Resources section for more information on this issue.
 
Gov. Dannel Malloy gave his State of the State address/election campaign infomercial last week. The guv kept his streak of not mentioning poverty while delivering his annual speech intact. Malloy, who has been thumping on public employees throughout his term, took off his Darth Vader mask and replaced it with a Santa Claus hat and beard. Malloy officially began his election year strategy of buttering up the workers who were arguably the deciding factor in his 2010 victory over Republican Tom Foley, his likely opponent in November. Public school teachers, who Malloy has attacked relentlessly in his role as a shill for the charter school industry, found a present under their tree; a Malloy proposal which would exempt portions of retired teachers’ pensions from the state income tax. Will this be enough to make teachers forget that Malloy has used them as a scapegoat during the education debate? Not bloody likely. CT residents received a tiny (and I mean tiny) gift in the form of a tax rebate. Individuals will receive $55, while couples who earn less than $400,000 would get $110. Meanwhile the working class continue to be soaked in taxes, the Earned Income Tax Credit for the poor has been slashed, Malloy refuses to raise taxes on the rich and dishes out corporate welfare by the truckload. For the wealthy and big business in this state, every day is Christmas.
 
In 2011 Malloy used pink slips to bully state employees into ratifying a contract that they had voted down six weeks before. These workers will certainly receive an invitation from Santa Malloy to sit on his lap (I am a state employee). No third party gubernatorial candidate has emerged at this point, so November is shaping up to be another false choice. Both Malloy and Foley are controlled by the corporate state, whose agenda is to roll back the gains made by public employees. Malloy’s assignment is more complicated, because the Democratic Party is supposed to be the friend of labor. Malloy used state workers to get elected and balance the state budget, which now includes a phony $500 million surplus and a very real combined $3 billion deficit over the next 3 years.
 
Fast food and low wage workers received their gift in the form of a proposed $10.10 minimum wage increase. Like President Obama, Malloy is responding to the strikes and protests by workers demanding a $15.00 minimum wage by offering a cosmetic pay increase, which will do nothing to improve the economic condition of the working poor. This is the same Malloy who has hemmed and hawed throughout his term in response to questions about his position on raising the minimum wage in Connecticut.
 
Back to the fake budget surplus. Don’t believe the hype, voters. Blogger Jonathan Pelto, a former legislator, recently broke down the method Malloy used to achieve the surplus that he bragged about last week during his address.
 
“When examining how the Malloy administration put this year’s budget together one need only look at the following fiscal gimmicks.
And these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way revenue and expenditures were defined to make it appear that Connecticut is on stronger fiscal footing.
Here are a just a few of the ways in which this year’s Connecticut State Budget was “balanced.”  
This year’s state budget:
  • Diverts $190.8 million from last year’s surplus to pay costs this year to make this year’s budget look more balanced and diverts another $30 million to do the same thing in next year’s budget. 
  • Diverts $115,000 for the Stem Cell Research Fund (SCRF) to pay for regular costs at Department of Health. 
  • Although the budget provided the DCF-funded private residential treatment centers with $11.5 million to maintain services, budget takes those funds away. 
  • Rather than use the $20.2 million in surplus from collective bargaining costs in last year’s budget as required to increase the rainy day fund or reduce debt, Malloy’s budget dumped the money into the General Fund and Transportation Fund to make the budget look more balanced. 
  • Diverts $1.4 million from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the UConn Health Center. 
  • Diverts $1.1 million from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Public Health. 
  • Diverts $3.4 million from Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Public Health and Department of Social Services. 
  • Diverts $1.3 million from Tobacco and Health Trust Fund (THTF) to pay for expenses at the Department of Developmental Services and Public Health. 
  • Further underfunds the Teachers Retirement Retiree Health Services Program by $22 million by reducing the reducing the state’s share costs to 25% and municipal health subsidy to 25%. 
  • Diverts $2.2 from the Pre-Trial Alcohol Substance Abuse Program to fund expenses in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Regional Action Councils). 
  • Diverts $1 million from Pre-Trial Alcohol Substance Abuse Program to fund expenses in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Governor’s Partnership to Protect CT’s Workforce). 
  • Diverts $500,000 in UConn funding to pay for CT Center for Advanced Technology Inc. 
  • Diverts $875,000 from the Student Protection Account to pay for expenses at the Office of Higher Education.  The Student Protection Account is supposed to be used to refund tuition when for-trade schools go out of business. 
  • Diverts $1 million from the Systems Benefit Account to Operation Fuel and allows up to $100,000 of that money to be used for administrative costs. 
  • Diverts over $2 million from various accounts within the Office of Policy and Management and transfers these funds to the Litigation/Settlement account in FY 14 to fund ongoing “litigation expenses.” 
  • Diverts $10 million from last year’s Transportation “Pay-As-You-Go” account to expenses this year including Rail Operations ($4. 2 million); Personal Services ($1. 5 million), Transit Improvement Program ($200,000), and Pay-As-You-Go ($4. 1 million). 
  • Directs the Office of Policy and Management to cut $10 million to municipal aid but the cut would not be announced until next fiscal year. 
  • Diverts $2.8 million in Magnet School fund from last fiscal year to pay $2.3 million for this year’s Sheff programming, $330,000 for the Sound School, and $160,000 for the Neighborhood Youth Centers for the New Haven YMCA. (Remember Appropriations Chair Toni Harp was planning to run for mayor of New Haven this year.  She did…and won). 
  • Diverts any balance of the Probate Court Administration Fund in excess of 15% of the total expenditures authorized to the fund to the State’s General Fund. 
These are just a few of literally dozens and dozens of examples of budget gimmicks that were used to make this year’s budget look “balanced.”
So when you hear that Connecticut has a “budget surplus” just remember that the so-called “surplus” is built upon a fiscal house of cards that will eventually collapse and Connecticut’s taxpayers and those who need and deserve vital state services will be the ones asked to pay the real cost for this political folly.”
 
Finally there is the School Seatbelt Fund, arguably the most appalling example of budget bs by the Malloy administration. You can read Jonathan’s post on the fate of the fund here. http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/01/22/school-bus-seat-belt-fund-prime-example-connecticuts-budget-gimmickry/ The 2014 gubernatorial election offers more of the same for voters, no matter who they choose. The best present for the working class and the poor in this state would be a third party candidate who truly represents their interests.
 
                                                                                         ACTION ALERT!
 
We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and urge them to introduce the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act during the legislative session. Hartford residents call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355
 
Contact the Labor and Public Employees Committee and tell them to include CP’s Safe Work Environment Act amendments with any workplace bullying legislation introduced in 2014. Our amendments remove the legal requirement for an employee to prove malice and intent by an employer, which is basically impossible. We also want lawmakers to create a workplace bullying advisory board, which would solicit and implement input from public employees when they recommend future legislation. Municipal employees should tell committee members to expand the scope of any legislation introduced this year to include city employees, in addition to state workers. City teachers have reported rampant workplace bullying at Capital Preparatory Magnet School.   https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/jonathan-pelto-talks-about-rep-matt-ritters-workplace-bullying-town-hall-january-27/ Hartford residents should call and email labor committee member Rep. Brandon McGee. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/McGee/  The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here (note: Sen. Cathy Osten is no longer a member). http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=LAB
 
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for public service announcements on CP’s racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.
 
Resources:
 
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s op-ed on adding banking services to the post office:
 
 
New Republic commentary on postal banking:
 
 
National Public Radio report on postal banking:
 
 
United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General white paper on adding banking services to the post office:
 
 
Jonathan Pelto’s Wait What? blog:
 
 
Cornell Lewis’ DCF Plantation blog:
 
 
Cornell Lewis Legal Defense Fund:
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
                                        

 
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