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It’s Been a Lousy Week in Politics, and Some of It Is Obama’s Fault


By Jason Johnson, The Root

It’s been a horrible week in politics, and it just keeps getting worse. Now, I don’t entirely agree with my colleague Terrell J. Starr’s assessment from yesterday.

We all know where this is going.

Donald Trump will appoint a maniac, right-wing justice who will be 15 minutes out of law school, which means he or she will serve on the bench for 50 years, help end abortion rights and civil rights, but, most important, will rule—sometime around 2019 or 2020—that the president has the right to PARDON himself (which was always the endgame). Right now I don’t care about what’s coming; I’m mad about how we got here.

In a little over a week, the Supreme Court upheld voter purges, effectively defunded unions and upheld the white nationalist Muslim ban. After all of that, Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy looks around at everything Trump has done, says “I’m good with this” and chucks the deuces to his lifetime appointment.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I’ll tell you now, all of your faves are problematic. However here are the top five people to blame for our current crisis of constitutionality, in descending order of terribleness.

5. President Barack Obama

Blame rating: “What had happened was”

I know nobody wants to hear this; I know that Obama, Ava DuVernay and Blue Ivy are the sacred cows of black folks and liberals in America. Nevertheless, some of this falls squarely on the shoulders of our former “father in chief” (I know firsthand about Barack backlash because I tweeted about this).

Way back in the optimistic year of 2016, I wrote that once Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t even hold hearings to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election, essentially trying to steal a Supreme Court justice, Obama should have just put someone on the court. And he wouldn’t do it. Obama naively believed that the Republicans wouldn’t be willing to handicap a third of the federal government just to spite him.

In 2016 I wrote:

Obama’s refusal to take advantage of Congress being at recess by appointing someone to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia without its approval is one of the most cowardly, embarrassing and shameful abdications of power of any president in American history. And, without a doubt, history and Americans should judge him harshly for it.

Don’t be confused; it was well within Obama’s authority to put someone on the bench. A rare quirk in congressional scheduling gave Obama about a week to make a special recess appointment for the Supreme Court. He should have picked one of the half-dozen women or people of color available.

The appointment would have stayed on the court until 1) Republicans voted the person out, which would have been a real mess during an election year (especially if it were a black woman on the bench); or 2) until the end of the calendar year, in which case, whoever the next president was would have replaced the justice (even if Hillary Clinton had won, she would have been under no obligation to keep Obama’s recess pick).

I hear you Obama defenders now. You Obama hater! Trump won, so Merrick Garland would’ve been gone by the end of 2016 and we’d still be here! That’s true, but there were two critical decisionsUnited States v. Texas, which was about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; and Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which was about union fees—that ended in a 4-4 tie in 2016.

A tie on the Supreme Court is basically a judicial shoulder shrug that leaves the lower court ruling in effect. If an Obama appointee had been on the court, those rulings would have gone 5-4, and Trump would have had more trouble dismantling DACA today, and this week’s rulings about employee union fees would have been tougher to pull off, given that it would have been reversing a very recent precedent. So yeah, I put some blame on Obama.

4. Hillary Clinton

Blame level: Coulda, shoulda, woulda

I give Hillary Clinton credit. She had to face off against a biased press, her husband’s baggage, a Democratic infrastructure decimated at the state level after years of neglect by Obama, Russian intervention, and she still won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Unfortunately, the popular vote wins you support, but it doesn’t win the White House, and like Brandy told us, “Almost Doesn’t Count.”

Clinton lost the election. And ultimately that falls on her well-padded shoulders and her staff. It’s not Sen. Bernie Sanders’ fault; it’s not those annoying, idiotic Jill Stein voters; it’s not even Obama’s fault. Clinton lost against a beatable candidate. Which means she bears some responsibility for us getting Neil Gorsuch, and for whatever nightmare person Trump selects to replace Kennedy.

3. Mitch McConnell

Blame level: [Shaggy voice.] “It Wasn’t Me”

One hundred years from now—after the devastation of the Trump administration, the Alt-Handmaid’s Tale presidency of Mike Pence and, finally, the Founding Fathers’ Purge presidency of Don Jr. – when America finally comes to its senses from our soon-to-be-dystopian nightmare and reflects on how the hell all of this happened—there will be one name that stands out.

Patient zero for the cancer that ate away at American democracy will be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell’s constant obstructionism, commitment to white nationalist policies, and willingness to destroy any norms or procedures of American democracy, while at the same time claiming innocence or, worse, playing the victim, have done more to ruin our union in the last 12 years than anything done by any other sitting politician.

So why isn’t he No. 1 on this list?

McConnell had help. Yes, he refused to hold hearings for Garland, paving the way for Gorsuch on the bench and whatever 37-year-old maniac Trump is about to pick, but other people had to play along. Democrats had to fail to see what he was up to. Republicans had to go along with him and vote the way he wanted. The press had to cover how his behavior played “politically” instead of addressing the legitimacy of McConnell’s actions. So he’s only partially to blame. His biggest co-conspirators might be the next group.

2. White Women

Blame level: Rosanne on Ambien

Fifty-three percent of white women in America voted for a man who repeatedly cheated on his wife, was accused of raping his ex-wife, routinely sexually harassed women, was caught on tape bragging about a sexual assault and said he believed that women who get abortions should be punished. And y’all voted for him anyway.

I am so tired of the occasional news story about white female Trump voters who “regret” their decision, or can’t understand why their health care costs are skyrocketing, or are amazed when their husbands get deported. You didn’t regret voting for a habitual sexual predator and accused rapist—you’re just regretting it now that it’s hurting you. They must’ve been on that Ambien in 2016.

So in 2020, when newest Supreme Court Justice Corey Lewandowski pens the majority decision ruling that abortions are a “state issue” and women have to start sneaking across the border from Kentucky to Ohio for contraception and prenatal care, it’s all your fault. This is what you voted for.

1. Donald Trump

Blame level: Benedict Arnold

Ultimately, in addition to the white nationalism, the border crisis, the pending financial crisis (it’s coming), the environmental crisis (it’s coming), the erosion of our national image and the trade wars, among fifty-eleven million other things, it’s Trump’s fault we’re about to get one of the worst justices in Supreme Court history. Just remember all the screwup it took for us to get here.

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Congressman John Larson to Hold Public Forum


WEST HARTFORD — U.S. Rep John Larson will be holding a public forum to discuss the cost of higher education, national service and other matters.

The event is scheduled for May 1 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Lourdes Hall Room 115 at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford.

For more information visit, https://larson.house.gov/issues/national-service.

 

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Statewide Candidates Speed-Date Latinos


By

The challenge: convince well-connected Hispanic politicos why you’re the best candidate to represent them in statewide office —  and do it in under one minute.

That round of speed-dating, involving four potential governors, three treasurers, two attorneys general, one comptroller and the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, took place Wednesday at a New Haven gathering at the Greek Olive on Long Wharf.

Yolanda Castillo, Manchester Democratic Town Committee member

“As a Latino community, for those that have been involved in political life for all these years, we want to make sure that we support the people that think about our community and that are interested in making sure that everyone in Connecticut has a better quality of life. Latinos, people of color, our numbers are growing, and we have a voice,” said Yolanda Castillo, the caucus’s vice-chair and a member of Manchester’s Democratic Town Committee. “Think of our community, because our community is in need.”

With the clock racing, the crowded field of Democratic candidates tried to differentiate themselves by giving similar short pitches, touching on their resistance to the Trump administration and the kitchen-table issue of good jobs. A couple threw in rehearsed lines of Spanish.

Currently, only one Hispanic is officially running for statewide office. Connecticut has never elected one. Yet Latinos comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population; Latinos involved in politics have been pushing their parties to diversify their tickets.

The four 2018 Democratic candidates for governor, two for attorney general and one for comptroller who showed up Wednesday night are all white. The candidates for treasurer included an African-American man, a man of Sri Lankan descent and an Indian-American woman. Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a union organizer in Newtown considering a run for lieutenant governor or secretary of the state, was the one Latina who spoke to the voters.

Despite the lack of representation on the ticket, the candidates all know that Hispanic voters will be a powerful voting bloc that could play a role in deciding the front-runners from among a wide field of candidates. At the end of the meeting, the caucus members started counting up the delegates they’ll send to the Democratic convention next month, where candidates need to draw at least 15 percent support to make it on the primary ballot.

In conversations with a reporter during a meet-and-greet hour, some of the candidates struggled to get specific about what they plan to do for the Hispanic community.

All those aiming for the governor’s mansion expressed a willingness to revisit the Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits state law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration agents — with seven broad exceptions, such as if the target has had a felony conviction, been identified as a gang member or terrorist, or appeared to be an “unacceptable risk to public safety.” Advocates, like the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance’s Alok Bhatt, argue that loopholes are leading to courthouse arrests. Sean Connolly was the only one who hesitated, saying it didn’t fit with his “style [of] collaboration” to get into a dispute with the feds.

Several candidates also said they’d be open to funding legal aid for immigrants facing deportation cases. In 4,000 cases involving New Haven County residents, legal representation proved to be a strong predictor for who won relief from an immigration judge.

During the pitch to the caucus members, most focused on amping up the crowd.

CHRISTOPHER PEAK | NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT

Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris, a former state senator, state consumer protection chief, and West Hartford mayor, kept his pitch short with fewer than 10 words.

“Tough times, challenges: we can do this,” he said. “Go, fight, win!”

Speaking with the Independent, Harris enumerated a much longer list of what he’d done for the state’s Hispanic population. As a legislator, he introduced a bill allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. (Jodi Rell vetoed it; Dan Malloy later signed a similar version.) As head of consumer protection, Harris persuaded Medicaid to reimburse payments for medical interpreters, cracked down on notarios without a law license and simplified language on the department’s forms to be more readily understandable to non-English speakers.

CHRISTOPHER PEAK | NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly, the former state commissioner of veteran services, said that newcomers today should have the same opportunity that his Irish grandparents found in Connecticut.

“My father came 52 years ago to our great state, bought and operated his own landscaping business and had his career in Connecticut, I’m running because too many people I’ve encountered said those opportunities don’t exist here in Connecticut anymore. We need to ensure and expand that opportunity: a fair shot for everybody, no matter who you are.”

He closed with a sentence in Spanish that earned cheers: “Ellos están conmigo. Quiero que ustedes estén conmigo tambien!” Translation: They are with me. I want you to be with me too!

Susan Bysiewicz, who’d just officially declared her entry into the gubernatorial race, said she worked hard to diversify state boards and commissions when she served as secretary of the state.

Sí, se puedo!” she declared, mistaking the verb’s conjugation. “We can win together!”

Bysiewicz said she planned to elevate the need for more federal funding for the cities that have taken in Puerto Rican evacuees — a bipartisan effort that would require getting Connecticut’s elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to pressure the White House.

Guy Smith, former CEO of Americares and a liquor distribution company, said he’d stand up to the Trump administration.

“In my administration,” he said, “we’re going to have serious diversity and serious candidates from your community, and I will protect every citizen in Connecticut from you-know-who in Washington.” The line implied non-citizens wouldn’t get the same protections, earning a tepid response from the audience, at best.

The biggest applause of the night went to Kevin Lembo, the state comptroller. He originally launched an effort to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, then surprised everyone when he dropped outciting personal reasons. He’s running for reelection.

In the attorney general race, Chris Mattei, a former federal prosecutor, and Clare Kindall, a former assistant attorney general, described different approaches to how they’d respond to Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Mattei said he’d “run to the courthouse” to challenge any threats to the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who’ve been raised in this country and received special protections under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “This is a community that, in some ways, feels under siege,” he said. “I’m here to stand in solidarity.”

Kindall said she, too, would try to help the Dreamers by “doing everything permissible,” but she pointed out the limits of that strategy in a courtroom. “The state does not set immigration policy,” she said. “I wish I had a magic bullet.” Kindall said the resources of the attorney general’s office could be best used by defending sanctuary cities from retaliation and by looking into funding public defenders in immigration court, if they could get insurance.

Some candidates — including gubernatorial hopeful Luke Bronin and attorney general candidate Paul Doyle — arrived too late to make presentations, but in time for some last-minute schmoozing. Gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sent representatives in his stead; Joe Ganim, another gubernatorial hopeful, later said he hadn’t received the invitation.

This story originally appeared April 5, 2018, in the New Haven Independent.

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LAZ CEO Joins National NAACP


HARTFORD — The founder of a Hartford-based parking garage was recently elected to the NAACP Board of directors.

Alan Lazowski, chairman and chief executive of LAZ parking, joined the longtime civil rights organization in February.

NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell said Lazowski’s “convictions and experiences advocating for positive social change” made him a good addition to the national NAACP board.

Lazowski was nominated by President Barack Obama as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is the founding chairman of Voices of Hope, which shares the experiences of Holocaust survivors.

Lawoski said he feels an obligation to fight against “bigotry and racism of all kinds.”

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John Blankley Announces Run for State Treasurer


GREENWICH — A Connecticut business owner announced on Tuesday that he is running for Connecticut State Treasurer.

Democrat John Blankley, 70, released a statement after nearly a year speaking with residents across the state and raising funds for Connecticut’s Citizens’ Election Program,

“When my family came to America 35 years ago, as immigrants, we chose Connecticut for its great schools, natural beauty and great people. No one talked about financial problems. But today we face the daunting task of addressing budget deficits and 50 years of unfunded pension liabilities.

Blankley ran for First Selectman in 2011, the State Assembly in 2012 and the State Senate in 2016.

Blankley, who was born and raised in England, moved his family here in 1983, and became a U.S. citizen in 1997. He was executive vice president and chief financial officer for BP North America and chief financial officer and board member of various shipping companies before starting Flagship Networks Inc., a computer consulting company. He is a former member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation.

The Greenwich businessman said he is prepared for the role.

“It seems as if my entire life’s journey has been preparing for this job. As the son of a coal miner who grew up in tough times, I’ve learned that we must always search for light in the bleakest moments of history. I’ve learned that we must not step forward out of ambition but rather out of a genuine desire to help. My lifetime of financial experience can help our State, and that is why I am running. My experience will help restore a climate of fiscal calm in Connecticut that can accelerate new business creation and put our State on a path to recovery,” Blankley said.

State Treasurer Denise Nappier announced in January that she will not be seeking a sixth term in office.

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Why Black Immigrant Lives Matter


By Marc Morial
This is how Opal Tometi of Black Alliance for Just Immigration put it in “Why The Black Immigrant Experience is Central to Lasting Social Change,” in State of Black America 2017: “As we move forward in dialogue and action, as we question the legitimacy of documents, policies, and practices that render some bodies legal and others ‘alien’ we must also push ourselves to acknowledge and address the intersections of immigrant identities. Over the past decade, as the immigrant rights movement in our country has expanded, our understanding of immigration has narrowed to the non-Black, Latino experience.”
We are long overdue for a discussion about immigration as it relates to Black immigrants, particularly at this moment as the current presidential administration clamors to end legal protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and congressional leaders lurch from one proposed bipartisan solution to another in search of a permanent legislative fix. To be sure, to live in this country as an undocumented person is to live a life overshadowed by fear, but combine that fear with the harsh realities of race in our nation and you have a volatile mix.
The numbers are troubling—and telling. Black immigrants make up a small percentage of DACA recipients. They are an estimated 12,000 of 700,000 recipients, and comprise less than 10% of all our nation’s entire immigrant population, but at 21%, they are predictably overrepresented in deportation proceedings as a result of criminal convictions, and according to the deputy director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the same yawning disparity holds true for detention rates. BAJI’s State of Black Immigrants report estimates that “one out of every five noncitizens facing deportation on criminal grounds before the Executive Office for Immigration Review is Black.”
While undocumented Black immigrants share a universal story of migration, struggle, and survival, they must also contend with the heightened risk of social vulnerability commonly tied to race in our nation. As we enter the proverbial ring to fight for the civil and human rights of those brought to this country as children, recognize no other home, and as President Obama once noted, are “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” we must ensure that solutions that benefit one immigrant community do not derail the opportunities of another. Therefore, the stories and voices of Black immigrants must remain top-of-mind and relevant throughout this debate.
The Trump administration recently left the fate of these 700,000 undocumented immigrants in the hands of the Supreme Court. A decision to allow the Trump administration to end the DACA program—which currently shields those young men and women from deportation—would have resulted in the near immediate loss of that protection. The added travesty for Black immigrants is that over-policing in their communities and increased engagement with the criminal justice system would have increased their risk of deportation. But in a widely expected setback, the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s request to hear the case. While the court’s decision offers a timely lifeline to DACA recipients, who faced the imminent expiration of the program’s legal protections, the reprieve is temporary.

The disturbing language said to come from the White House claiming that Nigerians live in huts, that all Haitians have AIDS, or that Africans should return to their slur-worthy countries, would evidence a disdain for immigrants who come from majority Black countries. Various proposed congressional resolutions have highlighted the urgency of amplifying the experiences of Black immigrants. There are bipartisan proposals on the table that offer a permanent fix for DACA recipients and DREAMers (undocumented immigrants who are eligible, but have not applied for DACA), in exchange for ending established channels to legal immigration such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), protections for immigrants who come from countries experiencing environmental or social upheaval, the visa diversity lottery program, and family-based immigration programs—some of the very programs that created and create legal pathways for Black immigration. 

We are stronger together. The immigrants’ rights movement needs to be inclusive and incorporate the realities of its diverse constituencies. Now is the time for rights groups, advocates, and allies to begin to specifically look at and address the complicated needs and reality of Black undocumented immigrants whose stories and voices are rarely heard above prevailing media narratives. It is time to affirm that their lives matter, too.
Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of National Urban League.

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Yes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott Is Breaking Ranks With the NRA and Trump. No, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Just Yet


By Anne Branigin

The student-led push to finally bring a semblance of gun control appears to be working in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and other state lawmakers on Friday offered a series of proposals that would mark “the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades.”

The proposed gun laws defy the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump, who have suggested arming educators as a way to fight the epidemic of school shootings, the New York Times reports.

According to NBC News, Scott explicitly said that he disagrees with arming school teachers.

“My focus is on bringing in law enforcement,” Scott said. “I think you need to have individuals who are trained, well trained.”

Scott’s plan includes the following:

  • Raising the minimum age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21 (currently, 18-year-olds can purchase semi-automatic rifles but not handguns);
  • Outlawing bump stocks, a kind of modification that allows gun users to fire their weapons faster;
  • Requiring more safety and mental health training for school personnel;
  • Establishing improved processes for authorities to share information about potential at-risk students and security threats;
  • Increasing law enforcement presence in schools;
  • Making it more difficult for individuals with mental health issues to access weapons.

The Times reports that other Florida lawmakers have proposed creating a “marshal” program that would let teachers who have enough hours of training with law enforcement to carry a weapon on campus.

The proposals do stop short of the sort of gun reform that student-activists have been pleading for, which includes a ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

“Banning specific weapons is not going to fix this,” said Scott, a man who proposed banning a specific modification because he believed that would “fix” things.

Some of the proposals put forward by the governor are concerning for other reasons.

As many mental health advocates have noted, most gun violence is not attributable to mental illness. “Mental health professionals welcome more resources and attention,” as noted in a recent PBS article, “but they say the administration is ignoring the real problem”—that of easy access to guns.

American Medical Association President David Barbe also emphasized this in his interview with PBS, saying that improved access to mental health care was important, but “to blame this all just on mental illness is not sufficient.”

The proposed laws also place a heavy emphasis on putting more law enforcement inside schools. Gov. Scott requested $500 million to implement mental health and school-safety programs and to ensure that each Florida public school had at least one armed officer for every 1,000 students.

But the recent example of the Florida deputy who failed to respond to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should reveal the limitations of this plan. In addition, the disproportionate policing and punishment of students of color by school police means that Florida schools could actually become more dangerous places for black students.

So what sorts of gun reform should be on the table?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been barred from researching gun violence since the mid-1990s, there is some data suggesting that certain policies are more effective than others. According to Scientific American, these include:

  • requiring a permit to purchase a firearm that must be applied for, in person, at a local law enforcement agency
  • banning individuals convicted of any violent crime from gun purchase
  • making all domestic violence offenders surrender their guns
  • temporarily banning active alcohol abusers from owning firearms

As for an assault weapons ban, the New York Times writes that Florida Senate Democrats have promised to amend any GOP gun bill with the addition of an assault weapon ban, but since they’re outnumbered in both chambers of the state Legislature, those measures would be unlikely to pass.

Anne Branigin is a News Fellow with The Root.

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Connecticut Kid Governor to be Sworn In


HARTFORD —  Connecticut’s 2018  Kid Governor Megan Kasperowski of Portland will be sworn in on Jan. 19 at the Old State House.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill will deliver the Oath of Office in front of a
gathering of students, teachers, legislative leaders and Portland officials at a ceremony beginning 9:55 a.m. in the historic Old State House Courtroom.

Those in attendance will include students and teachers from schools who had a final candidate in the 2017 CTKG Statewide Election, State Senator Art Linares, State Representative Christie Carpino, Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell, Supreme Court Justice Emeritus Dennis Eveleigh, Portland Selectwoman Susan Bransfield, and Portland Superintendent Dr. Philip O’Reilly, as well as other dignitaries.

After the inauguration, students will then participate in a day-long educational program where they
will explore Connecticut’s Old State House, meet representatives from the state’s three branches of government and take part in other civics-related activities.

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Malloy Would Veto Medicare Program fix as ‘budget gimmickry’


HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pledged Friday to veto the budget adjustment bill legislators are expected to adopt Monday, saying their plan to reverse health care program cuts  exacerbates deficits already plaguing state finances.

The changes to the Medicare Savings Program, which could affect benefits for as many as 113,000 seniors and disabled, won’t take affect for six more months.

“This isn’t a long bill, and yet it embodies all the bad practices that have imperiled Connecticut’s state budget for decades,” Malloy wrote in a statement. “In terms of budget gimmickry, it shoots the moon: wishful thinking, pushing problems off into the future, and shoddy math – most egregiously in the form of double-counting savings in our already underfunded teachers’ pension system.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, responded Friday that “There is unified bipartisan consensus among the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the legislature on preserving eligibility levels for the Medicare Savings Program, albeit a different approach and perspective than the Governor. Despite a veto threat, I expect we will move forward Monday to ensure those affected can continue to rely on this important program.”

“Governor Malloy needs to stop letting his partisan politics stand in the way of a responsible, bipartisan plan to give thousands of seniors and disabled individuals the peace of mind they deserve,” said Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven. “He has spent seven years destroying our state. We cannot look to him for leadership.”

Fasano added that “Despite the governor’s best efforts to try to stop us, lawmakers will be convening on Monday to pass this bill. If Governor Malloy wants to veto it, just like he threatened with the bipartisan budget, he can have at it. But lawmakers have the power to override his veto and do what is right for the thousands of seniors who need lawmakers to take action.”

“We understand how profoundly difficult it must be for Senator Fasano to finally vote for a budget after all these years, only to realize it was almost immediately out of balance, just as the governor had warned,” Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly responded.  We know he’s struggling with that fact.  You might say it’s Senator Fasano’s ‘new emotional reality.’  But despite how hard this is for him, and despite how little he wants to face facts, the bill he wants to run on Monday will only exacerbate the deficit in his budget.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, called Malloy’s veto threat “childish.”

“We have much work ahead of us, and this message from the governor does nothing to improve the prospects of working together with the executive branch,” Klarides added.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said legislative leaders have reached a bipartisan consensus to restore funds for the Medicare Savings Program, but added that mitigating the budget deficit remains a priority.

“We also agree that it is critically important that we continue our bipartisan work on a deficit mitigation package to bring the budget back into balance,” Looney said. “That’s why I am calling on the legislative leaders to reconvene negotiations following the release of the January 15 consensus revenue report.”

The leaders are recommending several budget adjustments for approval Monday to free up the $54 million needed to reverse new eligibility restrictions the General Assembly ordered this year to the Medicare Savings Program.

This program uses Medicaid funds to pay medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover for poor seniors and the disabled.

Malloy already has said he would defer implementing the new eligibility rules, which were supposed to begin on Jan. 1, until July 1.

Legislative leaders nonetheless said they wanted to reverse the cutbacks in special session now.

Their plan to find an extra $54 million for the Medicare Savings Program this fiscal year, though, creates several problems.

It would cancel a previously ordered transfer of $17.8 million from this fiscal year to the next. But state finances next fiscal year already are at risk of deficit. A Nov. 13 forecast warned revenues in 2018-19 probably would be about $150 million less than originally anticipated.

It also would reduce the state’s contribution this fiscal year to the teachers’ pension fund by $19.4 million. But the budget already assumes the state will save $19.4 million in this area because it increases what teachers must set aside for their pensions.

In other words, the new adjustments would build the same $19.4 million in savings into the budget twice. This could worsen the $224 million deficit projected for the current fiscal year — which is already half over — unless the governor can find $19.4 million in savings elsewhere in the budget before June 30.

The final $17.3 million earmarked in the bill to reverse cutbacks to the health care program would come from reductions to accounts for executive appointments, miscellaneous agency expenses and from the Department of Administrative Services.

The administration also has questioned whether these cutbacks can be achieved in the remaining six months of the fiscal year, since the new budget already has forced major cutbacks in these areas.

That’s because the legislature directed Malloy to achieve more than $872 million in savings after the budget was in force. This already has led agencies to cut back significantly on hiring and spending from “other expenses” accounts.

“Ironically, this (budget adjustment bill) is supposedly being done to justify delaying changes to the Medicare Savings Plan until July 1, something my administration has already done through executive action,” Malloy added. “The bottom line is that this is posturing at best and bad budgeting at worst, and if it comes to my desk in its current form, I will veto it. Connecticut’s elected officials can and should do better.”

The House and Senate both are scheduled to convene at 10:30 a.m. Monday to act on the proposed budget adjustment bill.

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Malloy to Legislators: Don’t Force me to run CT Without a New Budget


HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave legislators a clear message Thursday: Don’t force him to run Connecticut after July 1 under the very tight restrictions the law mandates when a new budget is not in place.

And one of the top Democrats in the House of Representatives issued a similar warning to both parties, with the new fiscal year now just one month away.

“I think that they (legislators) might consider it a worst-case scenario,” Malloy said of the prospect that he might have to administer state government starting July 1 under the prior year’s budget — if the General Assembly fails to enact a new one by then. “I consider it a worst-case scenario.”

The governor quickly added that, “I’m not inviting that to happen. What I’m inviting is for people to do the job and get a budget.”

Legislative leaders acknowledged after a mid-morning meeting Thursday with the governor that they would not adopt a new two-year budget before the regular legislative session ends at midnight June 7.

Malloy has been pressing legislators since he delivered his first budget in February to get started early on a plan for the next two fiscal years.

Democrats and Republicans are split 18-18 in the Senate, while Democrats hold a narrow 79-72 edge in the House. Given that partisan split, and huge deficit forecasts for the upcoming biennium, officials from both parties have been predicting a protracted and contentious budget adoption process.

But the Democratic governor reminded legislators Thursday that there’s something worse than a heated budget battle awaiting Connecticut a little over four weeks from now.

Why is it problematic to run the state in July under the previous fiscal year’s spending and revenue guidelines?

It’s because those budget components are going in opposite directions.

Contractual obligations are going to force Connecticut to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more next fiscal year on pension contributions, other retirement benefits and debt service.

So if the overall bottom line can’t change, but the debt-related segments of the budget — roughly one-third of the General Fund — are surging because of inadequate savings habits over prior decades, the rest of the budget must make do with significantly less.

Further complicating matters, revenues in the outgoing fiscal year never reached the levels anticipated when this year’s budget was adopted last May.

The administration says Connecticut can expect $17.5 billion in General Fund revenues this fiscal year, $403 million less than anticipated. Most of that shortfall is tied to eroding state income tax receipts.

And analysts say those revenues likely will plunge another $400 million next fiscal year — or $800 million below the level assumed when the current budget was adopted last May.

Malloy also would have to adjust spending dramatically to compensate for that revenue shortfall.

The governor said his administration already has begun preparing for that scenario.

We are studying how the state has been run in the past,” he said. “What are the legal confines of how that happens? What are the options that people might have?”

Connecticut has been in this situation twice in the past two decades.

In 2003, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate and Republican Gov. John G. Rowland debated until July 31 — one month into the new fiscal year — over how to adjust spending as Connecticut slowly emerged from recession.

And in 2009, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a Democratic legislature battled for more than two months over a new two-year budget as Connecticut was slipping deeply into The Great Recession.

The Rell administration eventually agreed to $1 billion tax increase that included a major income tax hike on wealthy households. But she refused to sign the deal, taking advantage of a provision in state law that allowed it to take effect without her signature after a week-long waiting period.

That budget became law on Sept. 8.

In both instances, governors quickly used their authority to limit payments to private, nonprofit social service providers, who deliver the bulk of state-funded social services in Connecticut.

Initial funding to those agencies typically is transmitted shortly after the fiscal year begins in July.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, warned legislators from both parties Thursday not to miss the new deadline of June 30 for budget adoption.

“A lot of people in this chamber have not enjoyed some of the governor’s ideas, whether its municipal cuts or (reductions to) hospitals,” Ritter said. “And I’m not criticizing him.”

Ritter noted that the governor, if without a new budget on July 1 “is “so limited in what he can do.”

The majority leader added that both parties should be equally motivated to resolve the budget, since payments to municipalities, hospitals and nonprofit social service agencies are a priority in every community.

Ritter’s counterpart, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Democratic legislators would be best served by seeking ways to reduce spending rather than discussing adding tolls or legalizing marijuana to prop up the next budget.

When you are using tolls and marijuana to balance a budget, these are revenue grabs,” she said. “If nothing changes, if this continues, this downward spiral will never stop.”

“We’re confident we can get there by (June 30,)” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, pointed to the challenge of reaching a deal when the budget proposals are only “25 percent in agreement” on the numbers, according to an assessment by the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analysts.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, was optimistic, saying that while the caucuses’ various budget proposals differ on the numbers, he stands by his statement earlier in the session that the parties are 85 percent in agreement on what concepts must be changed.

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