Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lembo locks up the nerd vote

Kevin Lembo has been labeled a nerd his whole life, and he’s OK with that. He’s even been campaigning to become the next chief fiscal watchdog on his nerd-like ways. “I take it as a compliment,” Lembo said, the endorsed Democrat candidate for state comptroller. “I enjoy being a nerd and diving into these policies and budgets.” As if to solidify his ownership of the label, he recently tweeted, “Lunchtime activity: reviewing old voting records — an interesting and enlightening exercise.” Continue Reading →

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Kevin Lembo is locking up the nerd vote

Kevin Lembo has been labeled a nerd his whole life, and he’s OK with that. He’s even been campaigning to become the next chief fiscal watchdog on his nerd-like ways. “I take it as a compliment,” Lembo said, the Democrat endorsed candidate for state comptroller. “I enjoy being a nerd and diving into these policies and budgets.” As if to solidify his ownership of the label, he recently tweeted, “Lunchtime activity: reviewing old voting records — an interesting and enlightening exercise.” Continue Reading →

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Five more pictures go up on state Capitol’s ‘Wall of Honor’

They began with 42 photographs in 2007. No chiseled granite or cast bronze, just inexpensively framed photos of men and women on a gray wall in a concourse connecting the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol. Formal portraits of young Marines in dress blues. Snapshots of soldiers in desert fatigues, one grinning under a helmet and dark glasses. A black-and-white photo of a bearded airman holding a wide-eyed Afghan child. Continue Reading →

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First audit finds problems at campaign finance agency

The state agency responsible for dispensing millions of dollars in public grants for candidates to finance their campaigns received a harsh audit last week. State Auditor Robert G. Jaekle said several findings in the 15-page audit of the State Elections Enforcement Commission are common, but three critiques stand out. Among other things, the auditors found that nearly $200,000 in expenses for equipment or services lacked documentation. In a review of 25 expenditures during the first three fiscal years of the campaign finance system, SEEC did not have the proper receipts and paperwork on two occasions, or 8 percent of the time. The state paid $192,261 to a private contractor for information technology, and no SEEC supervisor approved the purchase or verified that the amount billed represented services rendered, according to the audit. Continue Reading →

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Pooling municipal health benefits is a good start

A new bill passed by the General Assembly and now before Gov. M. Jodi Rell for signature could offer fiscal relief as municipalities all over Connecticut stare down a current budget crisis that will become even more daunting in fiscal year 2011- 2012 and beyond. House Bill 5424 allows towns and boards of education a no-strings-attached option to pool their healthcare benefits-and thereby better control soaring benefit costs. This bill confirms that the previous legislative action, which allowed municipalities to “jointly perform any function that each municipality may perform separately,” specifically applies to the financing of employee healthcare benefits. Many towns now understand that this law opens up a necessary cost-control opportunity, and none too soon. This is not the first time such pooling arrangements have been green-lighted in New England. Continue Reading →

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Buoyed by a poll, Blumenthal still steps carefully toward Memorial Day

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal marched softly Thursday toward Memorial Day, an awkward holiday for a politician struggling to live down a controversy over misrepresenting his Vietnam-era military record. He is skipping public observances over the weekend, a tacit admission that his presence could disrupt memorials and generate fresh headlines by drawing hecklers. But he is not hiding, either. On Thursday, Blumenthal spoke at a ceremony hosted by conservative radio host Brad Davis, who has pummeled the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate ever since the controversy erupted last week. The two men shook hands on stage. Continue Reading →

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SustiNet board responds to federal health reform and provides details for ‘public option’ for health coverage in Connecticut

A report on how the new federal health care law effects the future of a public health care option in Connecticut – dubbed SustiNet – was released today, including a rough draft on how to proceed. “It’s an outline of what we are looking at,” said state Comptroller Nancy Wyman, also the co-chairwoman of the SustiNet Health Partnership Board that released the report. “We are ahead of most states. We have a plan that fits perfectly with the federal law. It’s amazing. Continue Reading →

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Q-poll: Blumenthal leads McMahon; Lamont and Foley ahead in party gubernatorial primaries

A new poll shows that Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal is weathering his military-record controversy and that Republican Linda McMahon’s candidacy is provoking doubts among Connecticut voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released today has Blumenthal leading McMahon, 56 percent to 31 percent, a modest tightening of the race since the university’s last poll in March, when his lead was 61 percent to 28 percent. Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Ned Lamont are leading their primaries for governor. Douglas Schwartz explains latest poll. (Mark Pazniokas)
A majority of voters, 54 percent, say they believe Blumenthal’s explanation that he misspoke on occasion about his Vietnam-era service record, while 38 percent say he lied when referring to service in Vietnam. Continue Reading →

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Lamont, Foley lead primary races for governor

Tom Foley leads a three-way Republican field for governor, while Ned Lamont tops Dan Malloy in the Democratic race, 41 percent to 24 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. In the GOP race, Foley is supported by 37 percent of Republicans, followed by Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele with 11 percent and Hartford-area business leader Oz Griebel with 5 percent. But the Republican race could be volatile as 42 percent of Republicans are undecided and most voters still know little about the field: the percentage of voters who don’t know enough about the candidates to form an opinion ranges from 58 percent to 88 percent. In the Democratic primary, 30 percent are undecided and voters still are unfamiliar with the endorsed candidate, Malloy. Lamont gets a 46 – 12 percent favorability rating among Democrats, with 39 percent who haven’t heard enough to form an opinion.  For Malloy, 65 percent haven’t heard enough. Continue Reading →

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Quinnipiac Poll has Blumenthal over McMahon, 56-31

A new poll shows that Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal is weathering his military-record controversy and that Republican Linda McMahon’s candidacy is provoking doubts among Connecticut voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released today has Blumenthal leading McMahon, 56 percent to 31 percent, a modest tightening of the race since the university’s last poll in March, when his lead was 61 percent to 28 percent. A majority of voters, 54 percent, say they believe Blumenthal’s explanation that he misspoke on occasion about his Vietnam-era service record, while 38 percent say he lied when referring to service in Vietnam. He was a stateside Marine Reservist during the war. “It looks like Connecticut voters forgive Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, or feel that there is nothing to forgive in the Vietnam service flap.  While he has taken a hit with voters, his poll numbers were so high to begin with that he still maintains a commanding lead over Linda McMahon,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers challenge CSU policy following Norton removal

A new policy that allowed Connecticut State University System Chancellor David G. Carter to quietly remove a campus president last fall was designed to keep such matters private, Carter told state lawmakers Wednesday. So private, in fact, that several members of the CSU Board of Trustees did not know until afterwards of Carter’s decision to force Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl Norton to step down. “I was not aware,” trustee Gail Williams told a legislative committee in Hartford, saying that she and some other trustees have often been left out of major policy decisions. CSU Chancellor David Carter, left, and trustee John Sholtis take questions from the legislature’s higher education committee (Jacqueline Rabe)
Williams’ remarks, along with testimony from Carter and other officials, led lawmakers to sharply criticize Carter and the board for their handling of Norton’s removal. At issue was a policy that allows the chancellor to remove campus presidents without a vote of the board and with the consent only of the board chairman. Continue Reading →

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Businesses fear increase coming in state unemployment tax

State government has relied on $500 million in interest-free, federal loans to keep its unemployment compensation trust fund afloat since mid-October, and legislators made no changes this year to the system for providing aid to jobless residents.But with that interest waiver set to expire at year's end and state labor officials still handing out 150,000 unemployment checks each week, the state's  business community is worried that it's being set up for a major tax hike after the November election."Businesses are going to get hit with a big punch, one-two," said Kia Murrell, assistant counsel to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. "You've got a variety of factors out there and, when taken together, they make tax increases inevitable" if they are not addressed.State Labor Department spokeswoman Nancy Steffens said the agency provided 157,000 unemployment checks to residents last week, and routinely has been providing more than 150,000 per week over much of the past year. By comparison, when the state's unemployment rate is closer to the 4 percent mark it usually enjoys in good economic times, about 60,000 checks are issued per week.Connecticut, like many other states, struggled to keep up with the demand for unemployment benefits as the jobless rate rose above 9 percent. Economists estimate the state lost close to 100,000 jobs since the recession began in March 2008 and has regained only about 10,000 of them.Businesses pay two employment rates to generate the funds normally used to provide jobless benefits.The first tax, which ranges from 0.5 to 5.4 percent, is levied against the first $15,000 in wages a business has paid to each of its workers over the prior three years. Typically called the "experience tax," it applies higher rates to those companies that have laid off larger numbers of workers.Connecticut also can levy a "solvency tax" of as much as 1.4 percent – again on the first $15,000 of each worker's wages – when extra revenue is needed.Even with that solvency tax, some state officials estimate Connecticut may have to borrow $900 million by 2012 to keep its trust fund fiscally afloat based on current tax rates and projected unemployment levels.The state Department of Labor suggested earlier this year that increasing the taxable wage base from $15,000 to $20,000 would be necessary to make the fund solvent again.Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and House Majority Leader Denise W. Merrill, D-Mansfield, spearheaded a working group this past session that helped produce new tax incentives designed to spur job growth.The group did not recommend any changes to the unemployment fund, and no legislation was sent to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's desk."That really wasn't part of the focus," Looney said, adding that majority Democrats in the legislature hope to relieve pressure on the unemployment fund over the long haul by creating new jobs. Continue Reading →

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With call for debates, Malloy embraces the underdog role

By challenging Ned Lamont to an unprecedented series of 17 debates, Dan Malloy cast himself Wednesday as the de facto challenger in the Democratic primary for governor. Malloy won the Democratic endorsement by a 2-1 margin at last week’s state convention, but Lamont has a higher profile from his 2006 run for U.S. Senate and is better-financed. Without apology, Malloy is the aggressor in the early days of the primary campaign with Lamont, pressing for any advantage that can neutralize his challenger’s wealth. “I’m absolutely the underdog in this race,” said Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford. “I claim it. Continue Reading →

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Biden blunders into Blumenthal story

Richard Blumenthal’s U.S. Senate campaign took friendly fire today. Vice President Joe Biden, who by his own admission often misfires with his humor and commentary, zinged his fellow Democrat over Blumenthal’s Vietnam controversy at an event for wounded soldiers. “I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,” Biden said according to a pool report, as reported by The Hill. “Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.” Continue Reading →

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Malloy proposes 17 debates with Lamont

Lincoln and Douglas got by with seven in 1858.  Will Malloy and Lamont do 17 in 2010? Dan Malloy, the endorsed Democratic candidate for governor, proposed today that he and his primary challenger, Ned Lamont, hold debates in every city and town with a daily newspaper. Malloy said he and Lamont – for different reasons – do not have to spend hours locked away raising money. So, why not debate? “I’m prepared to go to every community that has a daily newspaper and without precondition, without knowing what the standards would be, to enter into a debate about issues,” Malloy said. Continue Reading →

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