Policy Watch: Budget Butcher Malloy Serves Up More Cold Cuts

This column appears in the March 5 – 12 edition of the Hartford News …

Community Update

Next week’s column will feature a Policy Watch analysis of the Department of Justice finding that the Ferguson Police Department engages in racial profiling, and the city balances its budget using revenue from the disproportionate fines of Black residents. The DOJ also announced they won’t prosecute Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed Black teen Michael Brown.

S.B. 684 An Act Concerning Training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation would make CPR training a mandatory class in public high schools. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&which_year=2015&bill_num=684 My grandmother Ena Mae Sterling died of a massive heart attack. I was home at the time and no one in my family knew what to do. The Community Party fully supports this bill. It would save many lives. Stay tuned for updates.

Policy Watch

Following the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook spree killings, Gov. Dannel Malloy talked incessantly about the need to enhance mental health services in Connecticut. Last Friday during an Appropriations Committee public hearing at the State Capitol, human services workers from mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities testified for 13 hours. They pleaded with lawmakers to restore the $25 million human services funding cuts in Malloy’s proposed state budget. End Hunger Connecticut! Executive Director Lucy Nolan passionately expressed the anger of the human services community when she said, “All this budget does is create need, and take away people’s ability to get help. What are we here for, if not to help people who need it?” Damn right.

The Malloy budget underscores his hypocrisy regarding the poverty issue. Last month Malloy threw stones from a big glass house during his appearance on Face the State, as he slammed Texas for the state’s poverty rate. A U.S. Census report found that poverty is rising right here. http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-income-and-health-insurance-connecticut-cities-and-towns-summary-2011-2013-data Malloy totally eliminated Human Services Infrastructure funding, the central funding for Connecticut Community Action Agencies, the state’s network of antipoverty agencies. http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/03/op-ed-gov-malloy-eliminates-vital-funding-for-low-income-families/

Malloy’s budget is further proof (as if any was needed) that Malloy, who has never mentioned the word poverty once during his annual State of the State address since he has been in office, doesn’t give a damn about poor people in this state . Malloy refers to his human services funding cuts as a ‘tough choice’ but that’s obviously a load of crap, as these cuts are a routine budget strategy for him.

I spent last weekend watching Appropriations and Human Services Committee public hearing testimony. Providers who serve the most vulnerable residents in Connecticut talked about having to close their doors because of Malloy’s budget. My colleague Mary Sanders is Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Center in New Britain. Her assessment of the impact of Malloy’s proposed cuts is grim. “SSC and other Latino agencies are on the chopping block and will be at a Friday budget hearing. 12 agencies from Danbury to Hartford, New Haven to New Britain are all in danger of closing.” The truly tough choice for this corporatist governor is making the rich and big businesses pay their fair share of taxes, which would bring in much needed revenue.

Election Year Malloy denied that there was a budget deficit and promised that there would be no new taxes on the working class during his next term. Reelected Malloy acknowledged what everyone already knew, which is that the state is drowning in red ink. Malloy’s budget chief Benjamin Barnes and Senate President Martin Looney are beating the drum for the return of highway tolls, a de facto tax on the working class and the poor. Malloy, Barnes and the Democrats admitted that more taxes are a real possibility (more like a certainty). It’s not hard to see where this is all heading.

A projected $101.2 million budget deficit (according to Comptroller Kevin Lembo, a Democrat) now includes the specter of annual $100 million cuts, due to the recent revelation that the Malloy budget has exceeded the constitutional spending cap. Malloy and Barnes then tossed their bloody budget cleaver across the aisle, telling Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and Appropriations Committee Co-Chair Sen. Robert Kane (R-Watertown) that GOP lawmakers who object to the budget proposal should find another $48 million in cuts. Connecticut Mirror reporter Keith Phaneuf explained Malloy’s fuzzy math.

“Starting next fiscal year, Connecticut must begin depositing about $48 million annually into a special reserve account as part of its conversion to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Two years ago, when GAAP standards showed state finances were about $1.2 billion out of balance because of decades’ worth of fiscal gimmicks, Malloy and the legislature agreed to borrow about half of those funds. But the state also pledged in the contract with its investors not only to close the rest of that shortfall by hitting annual savings targets — but that it would appropriate these GAAP deposits in the official budget. But the governor’s plan moves these payments outside of the budget – an accounting move that wouldn’t change the amount saved — but would exempt them from the cap. Sen. Robert Kane of Watertown, ranking GOP senator on the Appropriations Committee, reminded Barnes during a hearing last week that putting the GAAP savings in the budget — and thus under the cap — is a contractual obligation Connecticut has with its investors that can’t be disregarded. Factor in the GAAP savings payment, and Malloy’s budget is more than $100 million over the cap in 2015-16, and only about $32 million below the cap in 2016-17. Barnes responded last week by suggesting to Kane that legislators instead identify $48 million per year in cuts to compensate for this problem.”

Criticism of Malloy’s budget is coming from within his own party. State Treasurer Denise Nappier warned Malloy about his plan to borrow $325 million to cover operating expenses, pointing to a likely rise in interest rates which would result in a shortfall (see our Resources section below). Barnes acknowledged that Malloy has not identified revenue sources to pay for his transportation initiative. It doesn’t take a math expert to see that taxes will have to be a part of the formula to fund Malloy’s plan. Simply, now that the gubernatorial election is history, the absolute disaster that is the state’s finances are being laid bare for all of us to see.

As always, the Malloy administration’s plan is to balance the state budget on the backs of the working class and the poor. Human services workers told the Appropriations Committee in graphic detail about how they are already being hurt by a lack of funding, and how Malloy’s budget cuts would exacerbate their problems. Working class residents are already soaked with taxes. The poor, who along with the working class pay more in taxes than the state’s wealthiest residents, face even more severe hardship if Malloy’s cuts are approved by the legislature. For two weeks I have been seeing a homeless man in the West End of Hartford who has been braving frigid temperatures as he asks for money. Last week he told me how a bout with oral cancer has left him unemployed and without a roof over his head. The so-called safety net in this state is already filled with gaping holes and is failing this man, and many other community residents statewide.

The alternatives to Malloy’s draconian budget are obvious: implementing a progressive tax code, closing corporate tax loopholes and creating a publicly owned bank would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The Bank of North Dakota, the country’s only publicly owned bank, has generated $300 million dollars over the last 10 years, which has been deposited in the state’s General Fund. That money is used to fund social services and infrastructure projects, at no cost to taxpayers. The Bank of ND also facilitates principled lending for small businesses, which boosts local economies. The conventional cut/borrow smoke and mirrors economic policy of the Malloy administration clearly isn’t working, and it never will. Community residents, human services workers and sincere activists must unite to force Malloy and the General Assembly to put aside their corporatist agenda and implement new, egalitarian policies that will promote prosperity. The annual struggle of politely asking lawmakers to undo Malloy’s unconscionable cuts while he sits back must end. If a Republican governor rolled out this budget, there would be protests at the State Capitol. The community must step to Malloy and hold him accountable through direct action.

Resources:

Connecticut Network Capitol Report. Includes testimony from February 23 Public Health Committee public hearing on S.B. 684 An Act Concerning Training in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation:

http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/webstream.asp?odID=11240&odTitle=CT-N%20Capitol%20Report%20for%20the%20Week%20of%20February%2023rd%2C%202015&caption=true

February 27 Appropriations Committee public hearing on Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget:

http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/webstream.asp?odID=11246&odTitle=Appropriations%20Committee%20Public%20Hearing%20on%20the%20Governor%u2019s%20Budget%20for%20State%20Human%20Services%20Agencies&caption=true

State Treasurer Denise Nappier’s February 20 letter to Gov. Dannel Malloy on debt service :

http://www.ott.ct.gov/

It’s the Corporate State, Stupid:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article7260.htm

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/) . Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

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