Monthly Archives: February 2011

Don’t close Riverview Hospital. Make it better.

In a curious coincidence, the editorial boards of two major Connecticut newspapers recently published articles on the same day calling for the closure of Riverview Hospital, our state’s only publicly-funded mental health hospital for children. I represent an organization that calls for the improvement and expansion of mental health services in the child’s natural environment – a continuum of care that spans the home, school, and community. However, I cannot ignore the growing rhetoric to close Riverview Hospital. To start, the numbers published in one of the editorials were not presented clearly. A bed and accompanying treatment at Riverview Hospital costs $816,000 per year; each bed serves four children every year, yielding an average cost of $204,000 per hospital stay. Continue Reading →

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Top lawmakers question UConn’s exclusion from higher education shakeup

Two top state lawmakers are asking why the University of Connecticut is not included in the governor’s plan to merge the state’s other public colleges and universities under a single governing board. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal would merge the Connecticut State University Systems’ four regional universities, the dozen community colleges, the online Charter Oak State College and the existing state Department of Higher Education into a newly-created Board of Regents. The institutions collectively have almost 100,000 students. The University of Connecticut–which has 30,000 students–is not affected by Malloy’s proposal. “I feel the UConn system needs to be in the same umbrella,” said Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven and co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. Continue Reading →

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Malloy budget leaves legislative commissions uncertain about the future

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s new budget leaves the state’s six legislative commissions designed to serve specific ethnic and other demographic groups pondering their futures. While Malloy didn’t recommend any consolidation or elimination of these panels, he said during a recent interview that merging all six into one makes sense. And while the governor’s budget was required to include the commission’s budget requests — several of which would dramatically increase their funding next fiscal year–Malloy did recommend a new savings target for the Legislative Branch that effectively would eat up most of that potential funding growth. “I think there’s a better way to do those commissions,” Malloy told The Mirror in an interview last week, referring to the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, the Commissions on African American Affairs, Aging, Children and Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs, as well as the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. “I think that a level of consolidation is highly appropriate.” Continue Reading →

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Tom Scott, a 90s tax protester, notches a win in Meriden

Tom Scott hung back Monday as Len Suzio, the upset Republican winner of a special election in Democratic Meriden, took the oath Monday as a state senator. Scott, the manager of Suzio’s campaign, remains the self-styled outsider. Scott, who clashed with plenty of Republicans as a GOP state senator and leader of an anti-income tax movement that surrounded the State Capitol in 1991 with more than 40,000 protesters, is wary of a GOP establishment that now praises him. Tom Scott (r) hangs back as Len Suzio takes oath. Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, saluted Scott for the campaign he mapped out for Suzio, who won a Democratic seat with what Scott calls a coalition of GOP regulars, Tea Party activists and “values voters.” Continue Reading →

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Panel recommends expanding early education to address achievement gap

The co-chair of the state’s budget-writing committee is proposing requiring the state’s poorest school districts provide full-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten for all low-income students by July 2013 — with the state and communities sharing the bill. Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said early education is key to helping close the education achievement gap that has long plagued the state. Harp, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, is proposing the early education expansion as leader of the Achievement Gap Task Force. “We see universal pre-kindergarten as an essential part of a sound educational foundation,” Harp said. “We are convinced full-day kindergarten will also contribute to early success.” Continue Reading →

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Veterans of ’95 shutdown assess the current budget battle

WASHINGTON–How does the percolating showdown over federal spending compare to the one in 1995, which resulted in a government shutdown? The fiscal problems are worse, the proposed solutions less sweeping–and the outcome is similarly unpredictable and volatile. That’s the assessment, at least, from two former Connecticut lawmakers–one Republican and one Democrat–who served during that 1995 clash and who are watching this one from the sidelines. Ex-Reps. Chris Shays, a Republican who represented Connecticut’s 4th District, and Barbara Kennelly, a Democrat from the 1st, each played a role in that earlier spending battle. Continue Reading →

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AG, auditors close Dautrich case with no action against Rell

A joint investigation by the attorney general’s office and the state auditors found no cause to take action against former Gov. M. Jodi Rell or her staff in connection with controversial polling advice she obtained from a University of Connecticut professor, Ken Dautrich
In a letter today to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the attorney general and the auditors said they have completed their investigation into a complaint that Rell’s office misused state resources to obtain advice from Dautrich for campaign purposes deciding not to run for re-election in 2010. UConn and the State Elections Enforcement Commission investigated the same complaint without finding evidence that Rell’s office violated the law in hiring Dautrich for an efficiency study that a Democrat, Jonathan Pelto, alleged was a pretext to use state funds to subsidize a poll. “The factual findings of our joint investigation were consistent with the findings of the UConn and SEEC investigations,” read the letter by Attorney General George Jepsen and the two auditors, Democrat John C. Geragosian and Republican Robert Ward. While state law bars classified employees from campaign activity on state time, no one involved in the polling was a classified employee, they found. Further, the evidence showed that Dautrich produced an efficiency study, as contracted by Rell’s office. Continue Reading →

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Nappier hospitalized

Treasurer Denise L. Nappier remains hospitalized today after seeking help Friday for what her staff described only as “a hyper-tension-related illness.” The treasurer’s office issued a brief statement today saying that Nappier sought treatment Friday afternoon at Hartford Hospital. “She is resting comfortably and handling work-related matters as necessary,” the statement said. “Treasurer Nappier asks for privacy as she recovers fully.” Christine Shaw, a spokesman, said Nappier remains hospitalized, but she declined to answer questions about the symptoms that sent Nappier to the hospital, the precise nature of her problem or how long she expects to be in the hospital. Continue Reading →

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Massachusetts now grappling with the cost of its own health reform

In addition to closing a budget gap of close to $2 billion, Massachusetts is tackling another tough fiscal issue: reining in the costs of its first-in-the-nation universal health insurance law. Five years after the law, similar in many ways to the federal reform measure, was enacted in 2006, 98 percent of adults and nearly 100 percent of children have health insurance coverage, Christine Vestal reports at But costs have soared, and Massachusetts now spends 40 percent of its budget on health care. Gov. Deval Patrick has introduced legislation to impose price controls on hospitals and other medical providers, but he warned that the job won’t be easy. “If you think [achieving universal] access was hard, wait until you take on cost control.” Continue Reading →

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Bargain hunters, are you ready for a 26 percent sales tax?

With deep markdowns and a coupon, I bought two brand-name sport coats at Macy’s over the weekend for $89. If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had his way, those purchases would have been taxed at their original prices of more than $400. That would mean a sales tax of about $24 — or 26 percent of the price paid. The sport coats still would have been a bargain, but I can imagine the ugly conversation at the cash register. So can the retail merchants, which is one reason why they are lobbying against the taxing at the original price, not the actual price. Continue Reading →

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Comprehensive action needed to balance state budget

When it comes to balancing state budgets there is a right way and a wrong way. There is agreement across the political spectrum that all states face serious financial problems. We must find a way to lower the operating costs of government, just as companies have had to do for the past decade and longer. To do so we cannot simply mandate across the board cuts: We need a sensible plan of action. We did not get into this mess overnight and we will not be able to get out overnight. As a matter of fact, an overly aggressive plan to reduce expenses will run the risk of sending our fragile economy, which is still recovering from the great recession, into a tailspin. Continue Reading →

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Malloy pursuing federal dollars during DC visit

WASHINGTON–Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made an in-person pitch to top White House officials Friday for federal help with two major state projects: a $1 billion high-speed rail line and the planned expansion of the UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital. On the high-speed rail line, which would run from New Haven through Hartford to Springfield, Malloy said he’s been lobbying federal Department of Transportation officials for Connecticut get some of the federal money that Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected for its planned rail project. “I’ll take anything, [but] I’d like to get at least $100 million,” Malloy told reporters after a White House meeting Friday. He noted that he’s scheduled to be on CNN’s “State of the Union” this Sunday opposite Scott. “It would really make my day if they would award us the money before that,” Malloy said. Continue Reading →

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Taking the measure of a new governor

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget is being picked apart, in hearing rooms at the state Capitol, on talk radio and the web, and in town hall meetings across Connecticut. But the real debate is about the essence of the man, not the details of his budget. Malloy: ‘I’m the new quantity here.’ Is the first Democratic governor in 20 years really intent on demanding $1 billion in labor savings — a 20-percent giveback? His tax package is a political disaster, seemingly calculated to mobilize as many opponents as possible, raising income and sales taxes and whacking a popular property tax credit. Continue Reading →

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Malloy embraces health reform, but cautious about SustiNet

The Malloy administration says it’s fully committed to health reform, with work underway to meet the requirements of last year’s federal reform law and capture as much federal money as possible. But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is taking a more cautious approach when it comes to SustiNet, the proposed state-run health plan that has in many ways galvanized more support and opposition in Connecticut than federal reform has. Malloy addresses SustiNet supporters in December
Administration officials say they share the goals of SustiNet, which was created to produce universal health care and is now being pitched as a public insurance option that could promote delivery system changes and reduce health care costs. But they say they’re looking to the federal reforms to achieve those goals, and say SustiNet needs to be re-examined in light of the federal law. “The goals haven’t changed,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, a senior advisor to Malloy. Continue Reading →

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On inaugural tour of DCF, Katz urges staff to risk change

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz having dinner with the boys at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School.

The young men having dinner with Joette Katz recently may not have had fond memories of their own courtroom experiences, but they couldn’t help but be impressed with her stories of life as a judge. “Oh man, that’s what I want to be. I want to be a judge,” said one, a 15-year-old inmate at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown. And what about Katz’s new job, as head of the Department of Children and Families? Had his experiences in DCF custody made him want to run the agency someday? Continue Reading →

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