The Connecticut House and Senate convened yesterday for a special session and quickly adjourned with no agreement in sight about how to reduce the growing state budget deficit.
The December 15 special session was supposed to deal with Governor Rell’s deficit mitigation plan that proposes cutting $337 million from the $37.6 billion budget.
As of December 1, the State of Connecticut is projected to end fiscal year 2010 with a billion dollar hole in its budget. This is a serious shortfall, and Governor Rell and some state legislators are looking to local towns to find money.
Of particular interest to you and other municipal employees is the fact that the governor’s plan cuts $84 million in funding for cities and towns. That’s another fiscal wallop that towns do not need. It also will set the context for municipal officials to set their expectations low when they are putting together budgets in the coming months for the 2010-11 budget year.
Also on the governor’s list is a more than $300,000 reduction in state funding for CommPACT schools. This reform model – backed by CEA and others – has also attracted corporate and foundation financial support.
CEA told key lawmakers in December that it would be a, “terrible shame if this stunning public-private partnership were to fall by the wayside.” Especially because it is making an extraordinary difference for children and teachers.
There has been no word on when another special session of the legislature will be called. For updates on Connecticut’s budget deficit and how it will affect the state’s classrooms sign up to get email updates from BlogCEA or subscribe to BlogCEA’s RSS feed.
The Connecticut House and Senate met today for a special veto override session. Seven of the bills Governor Rell had vetoed were overridden, but while the healthcare partnership bill received enough votes for an override in the House, the Senate’s 23-12 vote was one short.
This override failure is disappointing as the bill, An Act Establishing the Healthcare Partnership, would have taken a monumental step forward in reducing the skyrocketing costs of municipal health insurance – one of the most serious fiscal challenges facing towns and cities. The legislature’s bipartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis confirmed that the bill would have saved taxpayers money.
Both chambers did override Governor Rell’s veto of the SustiNet bill, which creates a volunteer board of directors, four committees, and three task forces that will set up a flexible framework for an affordable state healthcare system.
Governor Rell now has the Healthcare Partnership bill on her desk. The legislation was adopted overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, however, it is unclear whether the governor will sign the bill into law.
This bill will allow municipal employees, non profits, and small businesses to voluntarily enroll in the state employee healthcare plan. Please let Governor Rell know that this bill is important to you and you want her to sign it.
Legislators and Governor Rell are still a long way from a budget deal after the close of the regular session on Wednesday.
One thing Republicans and Democrats agree on, however, is the urgency to get a new spending package by the end of the month.
Towns and cities across the state need to know what kind of education and infrastructure aid they’ll get. And if the next fiscal year starts without a spending package, the Republican governor will have more flexibility to cut spending without the consent of the Democrat-dominated General Assembly.
Connecticut Post, Legislature, Rell head into special session, June 5, 2009, by Ken Dixon
With only seven hours left before the legislative session closes tonight, a balanced budget is still out of reach. Governor Rell, Democrats, and Republicans have all crafted budget proposals this winter and spring trying to close a huge budget deficit. The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has pegged the deficit at $8.7 billion.
In the two budget documents she has released, Governor Rell proposed slashing programs and services by a total of nearly $3 billion. Democrats have said Rell’s proposed cuts shred social services and vital programs for citizens. The governor, legislative leaders, and capital reporters spoke about the budget crisis this morning on WNPR’s Where We Live.
As the legislature goes into special session tomorrow, CEA will continue to push for a budget that is built on a realistic revenue stream – through progressive taxation – to help fund local public schools. The goal is a state budget that will sustain public schools through the severe recession and leave education on a solid foundation when the crisis has passed.
With no end to the budget battle in sight, Democrats authorized a special session this weekend. The General Assembly closes its 2009 regular session on Wednesday, and it seems likely it will be some time still before Connecticut has a budget in place for a fiscal year that begins July 1.
No sooner had the House and Senate approved the session than Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, blasted the Democratic majority, accusing it of “a shameful abdication of constitutional responsibilities.”
The Democrats — fresh off a series of back-and-forth votes with Republicans designed more to augment political pressure than to resolve the state’s budget crisis — fired back that it’s the governor’s irresponsibility that forced fiscal overtime. They charged that Rell tried all session to duck discussing publicly the most painful spending cuts needed to avoid tax hikes, and that she offered proposals for a gambling expansion and a battery of deep cuts to vital services only last week — just six days before session’s end.
Privately, sources on both sides of the political aisle said they believe this marked the opening salvo in what likely would be a summerlong fight to determine how much of a record-setting budget deficit would be closed by reducing the state’s chief services — health care, education, and social programs — and how much would be closed by increasing taxes, particularly on the wealthy.
CEA’s collective voice was heard loud and clear by members of the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee who gave a red light to HB 6388, a proposal that would have severely damaged teachers’ right to bargain salaries and working conditions.
While this is good news, anything can happen in the weeks ahead since legislative proposals can reemerge as amendments when the full state House and Senate acts on legislation.
HB 6388 emanated from Governor M. Jodi Rell’s budget address. It would have hurt collective bargaining rights in many ways, such as allowing cities and towns to freeze teacher salaries, insurance and working conditions to eliminating the ability of teachers to negotiate hours in future negotiations.
CEA made a major effort to alert teachers about HB 6388 and its potential consequences. From a front page story in the CEA Advisor to an all-member letter to prominence on the CEA website, member attention was focused on the legislative measure. Teachers collective voices makes an enormous difference.