Monthly Archives: June 2010

DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie resigns to spend more time with family, Rell reports

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie resigned today, and will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Parker, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced this morning. In a written statement, the governor’s office indicated Marie resigned “to pursue long-term employment opportunities and spend more time with his family.” “I thank Joe Marie for his service to the state of Connecticut and wish him well as he pursues other opportunities. Joe made a significant contribution to DOT over the last two years and his leadership will be missed,” said Rell, who is not seeking re-election and whose term ends in early January. “I have full confidence that Jeff Parker will continue moving the DOT in the dynamic new direction that I have set.” Continue Reading →

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Gubernatorial contenders spar on jobs, roads, taxes

Let it not be said that Connecticut Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything. It took about five minutes for the three Republicans and two Democrats running for governor to agree during Tuesday’s debate that Connecticut is a poor place in which to do business. And about the only thing harder than trying to grow a business in the state, they further agreed, was trying to drive in it. What the five major party candidates who squared off at the Stamford Plaza Hotel couldn’t find consensus on was the role tax increases should play in resolving the largest budget deficit in state history. Tom Foley and Michael Fedele insisted they can close the $3.4 billion gap built into 2011-12 — a shortfall equal to nearly 20 percent of the current budget — without any tax hikes. Continue Reading →

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Congressmen troubled by war progress as funding vote nears

WASHINGTON–Connecticut lawmakers say that Gen. David Petraeus, tapped by President Barack Obama last week to be the new Afghanistan war commander, is the best possible choice to execute the Administration’s strategy in the nine-year-old war. But whether that strategy is a good one, they are not so sure. Petraeus was on Capitol Hill Tuesday for confirmation hearings and his nomination was quickly approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, paving the way for him to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last week over derisive comments he and his aides made about top U.S. civilian leaders. The change in military leadership–along with a looming House vote on a war funding bill–has highlighted growing unease in Congress about Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. “I was more than willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt,” said Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, who is also chair of the Democratic Caucus. Continue Reading →

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Study says state employee pension fund will be broke by 2019

Connecticut is one of seven states that will run out of money to pay state employee pensions over the next decade, coming up short in 2019 due to poor savings habits and generous guaranteed benefit levels, according to a recent study by Northwestern University. And Connecticut’s pension fund could become insolvent sooner than that, according to Joshua D. Rauh, an associate professor of finance at the university’s Kellogg School of Management, if the 8 percent return on investments this state and most others typically count on are not realized in the near future. The collapse also could be accelerated by retirement incentive programs and deferred annual contributions — two fiscal shortcuts Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the General Assembly have employed over the past two years to mitigate tax hikes and programmatic spending cuts. “States face the risk that higher inflation and low asset returns could make their systems even more vulnerable,” Rauh wrote. “State governments face a choice between taking more risk today and funding the liabilities to a greater extent.” Continue Reading →

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Job growth, taxes, transportation issues dominate gubernatorial debate in Stamford

As the 2010 gubernatorial candidates squared off in Connecticut’s wealthy southwestern corner this afternoon, the debate quickly focused on taxes, an oppressive business climate and a congested transportation network. “We’re doing business pretty much the same way now as we did” two decades ago, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont said in the five-candidate debate sponsored by business and transportation advocacy groups at the Stamford Plaza Hotel. “And our competitors are starting to eat our lunch.” Lamont, the Democratic frontrunner according to a late May poll from Quinnipiac University, continued a theme he launched in a television ad this past weekend, comparing himself to Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Connecticut’s former third-party governor who led the state through a recession in the early 1990s. Lamont said he is “not afraid to shake things up, not afraid to take on the Democrats and the Republicans.” Continue Reading →

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After retiring under fire, Dodd leaving Senate on a high note

WASHINGTON–Just about a year ago, Sen. Christopher Dodd was at a political and personal nadir. His poll numbers had tanked, the Senate ethics committee was examining allegations that he’d gotten a special mortgage deal, and two of the people he was closest to, his sister Martha and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., were dying of cancer. On July 10, as mourners streamed into the pews for his sister’s funeral, Dodd seemed completely drained. “I looked over at him and thought, ‘How is this guy going to get through this?'” recalls former Rep. Toby Moffett, another Connecticut Democrat and a longtime friend. “His sister, Teddy, the (mortgage) thing–2009 was brutal, brutal for him.” Continue Reading →

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Auditors: Inadequate computer could hamper abuse probes

An inadequate computer system is jeopardizing efforts to investigate accusations of abuse or neglect of adults with mental retardation, state auditors say. “Some cases could be lost and deadlines are definitely at-risk of not being met,” State Auditor Kevin P. Johnston said. The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities handles about 1,300 complaints annually, of which some 400 are found to be actual incidents of neglect or abuse, said James D. McGaughey, the state agency’s director. And while McGaughey agrees that there are flaws in the decade-old computer system being used to track these cases, he believes his 10-person staff investigating complaints has launched the “appropriate work-arounds” to ensure no accusation is lost in the system. “The numbers don’t always add up, and we know that about it, so we are careful. Continue Reading →

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Malloy outlines education plans–but where’s the money?

If Dan Malloy is to win support for his ambitious plan to revitalize Connecticut’s education system, he will have to persuade some doubters. The Democratic candidate for governor outlined ideas such as expanding preschool classes, promoting innovation and increasing college graduation rates, but the 15-page education plan released Monday is likely to face steep challenges. The biggest challenge is how to pay for it. Many educators remain fearful that the state budget crisis and the end of federal stimulus funds will mean more layoffs, larger class sizes and additional school closings, but Malloy pledged to work to stabilize school budgets. Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman talk about their education proposals (Robert A. Frahm)
“I remain committed to building a different way, a fairer way of supporting education in the state of Connecticut,” Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford, said at a press conference in Hartford. Continue Reading →

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Lamont channels Weicker in new TV ad

Despite being locked in a primary battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont has launched a new television ad billing himself as an “independent voice” and even stealing a favorite line from Connecticut’s last third-party governor, Lowell P. Weicker Jr.
“What you want to do is go up to Hartford and be your own man, be independent, with no strings attached,” Lamont said in the 60-second spot released over the weekend. “And that’s one of the promises I’m making to the people of Connecticut, you know. I’m going to be nobody’s man but yours.” It’s an unusual strategy for a candidate in a primary, where success often depends on motivating the party base. In the case of Democrats that means labor, activists and other liberals.Those constituencies could be critical in deciding whether to give the nomination to Lamont, the challenger, or stick with party-endorsed candidate Dan Malloy. Continue Reading →

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Rowland to serve as fill-in radio talk show host on WTIC AM

Former Gov. John G. Rowland will return to the limelight later this week in a new capacity –  as a fill-in talk show host on WTIC 1080-AM radio in Farmington. Rowland, who resigned six years ago amid an impeachment inquiry and later served 10 months in federal prison on corruption charges, will serve as a replacement for vacationing talk show host Jim Vicevich. Steven Salhany, WTIC’s operations manager, confirmed this afternoon that Rowland would cover Vicevich’s 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. time slot on Friday, and then again on July 6 and 7. “We had some discussions when Jim wasn’t here” in April, Salhany said, referring to a period when Vicevich temporary left the show after his contract had expired and before a new deal was struck. Those talks with Rowland didn’t lead to an immediate deal and Vicevich returned after a few weeks off the air, but Salhany said the radio station and the ex-governor remained in contact. Continue Reading →

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Lamont bills himself as ‘independent voice’ in latest campaign ad

Despite being embroiled in a primary battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont has launched a new television ad billing himself as an “independent voice” and even stealing a favorite line from Connecticut’s last third-party governor, Lowell P. Weicker Jr.
“What you want to do is go up to Hartford and be your own man, be independent, with no strings attached,” Lamont said in the 60-second spot released over the weekend. “And that’s one of the promises I’m making to the people of Connecticut, you know. I’m going to be nobody’s man but yours.” The latter line was a favorite of Weicker’s a former Republican who left his party two years after his ouster from the U.S. Senate in 1988 to run for governor. Weicker won the 1990 gubernatorial contest with about 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race against two sitting congressmen, Republican John G. Rowland and Democrat Bruce Morrison. Continue Reading →

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Competition for state legislative seats reaches 12-year high.

There’s more competition for state legislative seats than in any election year since 1998, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced today. Connecticut’s chief elections official reported that 54 of the 187 races for state House and Senate, or nearly 29 percent, lack a Democratic or a Republican candidate. That’s down from the 60 races that lacked major party competition two years ago. It’s also the lowest ratio since 1998, when 26.7 percent lacked a major party candidate. “This decline in uncontested General Assembly races means more Connecticut citizens are interested in the electoral process and running for office,” Bysiewicz said today. Continue Reading →

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As office jobs were cut, salaries rose for top CSU administrators

When Connecticut State University Chancellor David Carter came under fire from legislators last month, the head of CSU’s Board of Trustees issued a memo defending him, saying, among other things, that Carter had trimmed central office staff by nearly a third since his appointment in 2006. And in fact Carter cut the staff by more than 28 percent as of this fiscal year, according to the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis. But personal services costs for the central office still increased by 14 percent in the same period, fueled in part by double-digit raises for Carter and top members of his staff. The raises far outpaced the rate of inflation and the growth in pay for faculty and other employees. The largest raises went to Carter, whose annual base salary rose from $247,505 in 2006-2007 to $362,733 two years later, a 46.6 percent increase. Continue Reading →

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The I-95 campaign: An election turns on Greenwich and Stamford

Grumbling in lower Fairfield County about how Hartford sets or neglects economic, transportation and tax policies is a staple of Connecticut politics. So it will be striking to see three Republican and two Democratic gubernatorial candidates appear Tuesday at a forum in Stamford: all but one live in Stamford or neighboring Greenwich. It is hard for the Gold Coast say it is misunderstood this year. But what does it mean, besides the fact that only Oz Griebel, a Republican candidate from suburban Hartford, can open at the Stamford Chamber of Commerce with a joke about how long it took him to negotiate I-95? Of Connecticut’s 87 governors, only one has been from Greenwich and one from Stamford, two communities better linked to New York by rail than to Hartford by highway. Continue Reading →

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Malloy says it’s time for a ‘grown up’ debate on the state’s budget crisis

Dan Malloy says it’s time for the gubernatorial candidates to have a grown-up conversation about the state’s budget crisis. “I’ll say what every other politician is saying, that taxes need to be a last resort,” Malloy said. “But I think somebody’s got to be the big guy in the room, the big boy in the room, and say: ‘You know, this is a pretty desperate situation.'”
That means no more pretending a looming deficit equal to about one-fifth of all current spending can be solved solely with spending cuts. The same goes for talking about job growth – an important long-term solution to the crisis – as an immediate savior. Facing the budget crisis: Third in a series

 
What it does mean, the former Stamford mayor said during an interview last week in his Hartford campaign headquarters, is an unpleasant-but-necessary mix of tax hikes, labor concessions, program cuts – and maybe even more borrowing. Continue Reading →

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