Malloy to Make New Budget Proposal

The legislature's Appropriations Committee has put together a budget plan that closes only about half of the $900 million deficit lawmakers are trying to fix by the beginning of next month.

It looks as if the committee is leaving the rest of the problem to either the Finance Committee - which would likely mean new tax increases - or more likely to legislative leadership and the governor. In the meantime, a spokesman for Governor Malloy has revealed the governor will introduce a new budget proposal next week designed to close the entire $900 million gap.

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...A Pound of Cure

It's too soon to say for sure, but there are early indications a preventative healthcare program included in the state employee healthcare plan may be paying off.

The results from an initial study shows state employees are taking advantage of the program, and possibly as a result, certain emergency room visits are down. This trend, if it holds up, would tend to confirm the long term benefits to certain policy changes recommended by CT21.

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Regionalize!

Connecticut municipal officials are being told that now, more than ever, it is in their interest and in the interest of state government, to regionalize services.

The message was delivered last week at a meeting of city and town leaders by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

The imperative to share services has long been a policy goal of CT21 and the potential benefits are supported by the findings of several studies.

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Ignoring Good Advice

For years, Connecticut political leaders have often ignored good advice coming from the private sector or from study groups appointed by fellow government officials.

A member of the Connecticut State Tax Panel feels that once again, in the midst of crisis, state lawmakers are avoiding good advice on property tax reform,  because such reforms would be tough to enact from the political perspective.

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State Employee Benefits

Although state employee union leaders are refusing to talk with the Malloy administration about benefit give backs, lawmakers continue to examine the state employee benefit package as an obvious source of potential savings.

The CT Mirror has an analysis.

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Demographics Create Revenue Problem

As lawmakers try to balance the state budget they are increasingly facing a problem created by changing demographics.

The baby boomer generation is requiring more state services as the group ages, while following generations are smaller and cannot provide the revenue necessary to fund current state services. So argues Alissa DeJonge of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc.

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Revenue Decline

In his monthly letter to the governor, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo says he remains concerned about anticipated declines in state revenues. Lembo cautions the governor and legislators that even though this week's vote to close a $220 million budget gap constitutes good progress, it is likely falling revenues will continue to put pressure on the overall budget.

The news comes with just over one month to go in this year's legislative session.

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State Employees Retire

In a move that may spare some of their younger colleagues from layoffs, more than 300 long time state employees filed for retirement benefits this week. That's about fifty-percent more than usual.

The decision comes less than a week after Governor Dannel Malloy made clear he does not intend to offer any early retirement incentives and advised state workers that if they want to save their fellow workers' jobs - they might consider retirement now. Malloy is expected to announce a round of layoffs within the next ten days.

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The Road Ahead

Lawmakers were pleased this week with their bi-partisan effort to close the current $220 million state budget deficit even as they face a $900 million shortfall in the weeks ahead. The near unanimous vote tells the story. But there were a handful of no-votes and at least one in the state Senate is getting special attention because of the reasoning behind it.

Senator Art Linares of Westbrook said he had to vote against the deficit mitigation package because his fellow lawmakers have not gone far enough to address the underlying problems plaguing the Connecticut state budget process. It just so happens that Linares is also the youngest member of the state Senate.

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Next Steps

Democrats and Republicans in Hartford have temporarily closed a $220 million budget gap, but in floor speeches Tuesday most made clear that the hard work hasn't even begun.

Legislative leaders noted the state may be facing budget shortfalls of more than $1 billion a year in the next two years. To address this problem without major new tax increases, lawmakers will be forced to re-examine government spending priorities from top to bottom in ways they have been reluctant to do previously. Some stakeholders appear more willing to recognize the serious nature of the challenge.

State employee unions are so far refusing to talk about contract changes that would save money for taxpayers. On the other hand, the head of the state university system, Mark Ojakian, Governor Malloy's former chief of staff, has adopted Malloy's "new economic reality" mantra and is urging his unit of higher education to make the necessary adjustments.

CT21 continues to offer non-partisan, data-based alternatives to current state policies with the goal of reducing costs and improving efficiency. Over the coming weeks, we will offer additional specific proposals we hope government leaders will seriously consider as they seek to get Connecticut's fiscal house in order. 

Stability Please!

At a meeting in Danbury, local business leaders made a plea to state officials for stability when it comes to the state budget and business regulation.

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Budget Day?

Today is a the self-imposed deadline set by Democratic legislative leaders to vote on a temporary fix to close the state's projected budget deficit.

So far there are no details on any proposed deal, but it is not unusual for lawmakers to wait until the last possible moment to close a deal of this sort.

What is clear is that the end of this year's legislative session will only mark the beginning of a process to address fundamental changes necessary to keep Connecticut's fiscal house in order over the long term.

Layoff Challenges

Layoffs of perhaps thousands of state employees appear imminent, but the workforce reductions will not happen without push-back from state employee unions and without a lot of groundwork by the Malloy administration.

A Minefield of Concerns - CT Mirror

Unions Rally - CT News Junkie

Policy Shift

Last week's announcement by the Department of Developmental Services that it plans to close two regional treatment centers - run by the state - is a sign state government is finally moving toward a greater reliance on private sector care providers.

DDS has concluded it costs state taxpayers far less to care for some agency clients if services are provided by private sector workers. The DDS decision is supported by research conducted by CT21.

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New Stats

Mixed statistics were released this week from the state and federal government on the Connecticut economy.

The state's unemployment rate is unchanged, but the highest in New England. Meanwhile, Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the country.

CT Has Highest Income - Hartford Business Journal

Employment Rate Analysis - CBIA

Bates Named Exec. Director CT21

The Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century(CT21), founded in 1999 to recommend non-partisan, data-driven policy solutions to government leaders, has named Scott Bates of Stonington as its new executive director.

Justice Reform

CT21 has embraced most of the criminal justice reforms put forward by Governor Dannel Malloy.

A shift away from harsh prison sentences would be a benefit to society in general and would decrease corrections budgets.

This week, the Pew Center released findings that tend to confirm earlier studies by CT21 that show Connecticut has among the highest incarceration rates in the country.

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Budget Movement

Governor Malloy and legislative Democrats and Republicans say they are confident they are moving toward a bi-partisan compromise on closing this year's projected state budget gap. A vote is expected next week.

However, early signs point toward a short term solution that does not make systemic changes that would be seen as altering Connecticut's budget fundamentals.

At the same time, Malloy is signaling major layoffs of state workers are on the near horizon.

Negotiations Continue - CT News Junkie

Layoffs Yes, Early Retirement No - CT Mirror

Layoffs Imminent

Three of the last four Connecticut governors have resorted to layoffs, or the threat of layoffs, since 1991.

Once again Governor Malloy finds himself in the same position as state employee labor unions refuse to discuss contract givebacks to help balance the budget. Unlike previous governors, Malloy is getting support from Democratic leaders in the legislature who believe it is time for the unions to come back to the bargaining table to avoid thousands of job cuts.

Layoffs Imminent - Connecticut Post

Looney Says Unions Should Talk - CT Mirror

Union Issues

State employee union leadership is basically telling the Malloy administration "a deal is a deal" and is resisting efforts by the governor to re-open contract negotiations as part of the effort to trim state spending.

Over the weekend union leaders told Governor Malloy they do not have the authority to discuss contract givebacks unless authorized by union membership.

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DMV Opportunity

This week's top management changes at the Department of Motor Vehicles could signal a major opportunity for Connecticut to modernize its current, trouble plagued system.

CT21's comprehensive report on information technology changes in state government highlighted specific examples in Georgia and Arizona that might be used as a template for better customer service and cost savings.

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Nearly Half of CT Towns in Fiscal Trouble

From Connecticut Data Collaborative
by Michelle Riordan-Nold

With each passing day it seems the headlines in the papers highlight a worsening fiscal situation for the state. This begs the question: What does it mean for our towns?

This is the first in a series that will examine the fiscal situation of municipalities. There have been several statewide initiatives to examine fiscal challenges facing both the state and towns. Our goal is to highlight the major findings from these initiatives and reports; expand on the research that was done; present it through a new medium; and inform a broader audience on the work being done in the state.

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Time to Act

By CBIA Staff

Connecticut’s growing fiscal problems have an unsettling effect on our business climate and economy, risking jobs, government services, and our quality of life.

As opinion polls consistently illustrate, voters recognize those issues and they are becoming increasingly concerned about the direction of the state.

A Promise to Move Now

Legislative leaders are now promising to close the current projected state budget deficit by April 1, a full month before the end of the current legislative session. This promise was made this week even as Governor Malloy took unilateral action to trim nearly $80 million in planned spending using executive authority.

While the promise to close the current deficit is welcome news, it may also signal a strategic decision by legislators to deal with larger structural problems after this year's elections.

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