Monthly Archives: July 2011

Lieberman’s on the fence in the debt deal, citing concerns about deep defense cuts

Sen. Joseph Lieberman has been one of the most vocal members of the Connecticut delegation when it comes to calling for major fiscal reform in Washington. Any meaningful package, the Democrat-turned-independent has said, must include both tax increases and entitlement cuts. But Lieberman signaled that he might draw a line in the sand Sunday night on a third element–defense cuts–that are on the table in the agreement reached yesterday between the White House and congressional leaders. In a statement released Sunday evening, Lieberman said any defense cuts must be “fair, limited, and mindful of the fact that we live in a very dangerous world.  For these reasons, Senator Lieberman is very concerned about rumors that the debt agreement now being negotiated will disproportionately cut defense spending and result in unacceptably high risk to our national security.” On Monday, surrounded by a swarm of reporters asking how he would vote on the deal, Lieberman said he was on the fence. Continue Reading →

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Subsidy cuts boost Charter Oak Health Plan premiums

More than 9,500 people enrolled in the state-run Charter Oak Health Plan will see their premiums jump by at least 45 percent and possibly as much as 67 percent starting Sept. 1 as the state cuts its subsidies for the program. The premium increases stem from the cost of health care claims in the program and the tight state budget, said David Dearborn, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services. The current biennial budget prohibits the state from subsidizing the cost of covering any new or recent enrollees, requiring the plan’s premiums to reflect the cost of medical claims, which they currently do not. The budget also lowered the premium subsidies that some low-income enrollees receive in the program, which Gov. M. Jodi Rell launched in 2008 as a way to cover uninsured adults. Continue Reading →

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With future uncertain, Hartford celebrates Medicare’s birthday

Medicare turns 46 Saturday, and on Friday, Hartford Hospital and Aetna commemorated the role of the two city institutions in launching the program, with an event that was part history lesson, part appreciation for the insurance program and, at least for the politicians invited, part opportunity to bash proposals to change Medicare. Aetna was an administrator of the health insurance program for seniors when it was launched, and issued the first Medicare benefit payment to Hartford Hospital on July 9, 1966. The $331.71 payment covered the majority of inpatient hospital costs for 68-year-old Mary B. Augustus of Hartford, a surgery patient. “How long was the stay at $331?” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked as he posed holding the check with Aetna head of Medicare Gary Thomas and Jeffrey Flaks, who on Monday will become Hartford Hospital’s president and CEO. Continue Reading →

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Retired FOI czar ready to lead unified watchdog group for free

The leader of Connecticut’s right-to-know agency for three decades, who called Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to merge nine watchdog groups “a disaster” when it was proposed, is one of five finalists to head the unified Office of Governmental Accountability. Mitchell W. Pearlman, who retired in 2005 after 30 years with the Freedom of Information Commission and 28 years as its executive director and general counsel, also pledged to forgo a salary if given the job. He now collects an annual pension of $68,500 and the approved annual pay range for the job he is seeking runs from $95,463 to $145,684. Pearlman was among three candidates interviewed Friday by the division heads within the new Office of Governmental Accountability. Two more interviews are scheduled for Monday. Continue Reading →

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However debt debate is resolved, impact on state will be harsh

WASHINGTON–Connecticut’s got nothing on Washington when it comes to budgetary uncertainty and legislative double-takes. Thursday’s on-again, off-again vote in the U.S. House on a Republican debt-ceiling plan underscored the ambiguity about how, or whether, lawmakers in Washington will be able to resolve the current debt-ceiling standoff. But amid the chaos, one thing is pretty clear: States like Connecticut will take a financial hit in any debt-reduction agreement that Congress comes up with. “I think that’s a real safe thing to say,” said Marcia Howard, executive director of the Federal Funds Information for States, a nonpartisan group that tracks the fiscal impact of federal budget decisions on the states. Howard’s group has been fielding a barrage of questions from governors’ offices around the country seeking data about how the various debt-reduction plans coursing through Congress would impact state budgets. Continue Reading →

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Restraints still cause injuries in DCF psychiatric facilities

Todd was agitated, and the effort of the staff at Riverview Hospital to calm him down weren’t having any effect. As the confrontation escalated, aides did what they were trained to do: physically restrain him, face down against the floor, in hopes that would defuse the situation. But as in many similar cases, during the 25 minutes of being restrained Todd was injured, according to a serious injury report filed by the Department of Children and Families in August. The 14-year old boy with numerous psychiatric disorders was put in a wheelchair and taken to his room to be treated for a sprained ankle and injured wrist. James McGaughey, director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities: ‘This pattern of children being seriously injured at DCF has remained unchanged.’ Continue Reading →

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AAUP chapter’s leadership ratifies concession deal

An American Association of University Professors chapter that represents 1,150 faculty members and others in the four-campus Connecticut State University system has ratified the tentative concession deal. The AAUP chapter’s governing council voted to ratify the deal without another vote by rank-and-file members, who approved the previous tentative agreement by a 9-1 margin. The action was announced in a message posted by the chapter’s president, Vijay Nair, who noted that the new tentative agreement is substantively the same as the previous one. “CSU-AAUP members clearly voted in favor of this agreement and their vote should stand,” Nair wrote. The AAUP chapter is the first of the 15 unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition known to ratify the deal. Continue Reading →

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Malloy pays $30 parking ticket to New Haven

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave a quick lesson today in how to keep a cute story about a small gaffe from turning into a problem. The story: the governor, or more accurately, his state police driver, got a $30 parking ticket Thursday in New Haven
Naturally, the ticket was the second topic raised at a press conference today, right after the trivial issue of how the debt crisis might impact Connecticut. “Already paid,” Malloy said briskly. Did you pay it out of your pocket? “I did.” Continue Reading →

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Auditors say state’s computer systems aren’t ready for GAAP

The state’s bipartisan auditors warned this week that technical issues with state government’s core financial computer network “represent a significant problem” for the conversion to a more transparent and accountable budgeting system, but Comptroller Kevin Lembo said the issues are “fixable.” Auditors John C. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward also warned that the failure to fully implement the CORE-CT system across all of state government also could hinder the transition to generally accepted accounting porincipals, or GAAP–a linchpin of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to improve fiscal accountability. “There are significant costs and difficulties involved,” the auditors wrote in their latest audit of state financial operations, though they didn’t detail specific expenses. Lembo, however, said Thursday that he’s convinced modifications to the CORE-CT system not only can be completed to allow full conversion to GAAP by the July 1, 2013 statutory deadline, but most of the costs should be covered by a previously planned upgrade that starts later this year. CORE-CT was launched in 2003 under Lembo’s predecessor, Nancy Wyman, who was Malloy’s running mate last fall and now serves as lieutenant governor. Continue Reading →

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Vo-tech students, parents and staff rally against budget cuts

Standing outside the State Capitol Thursday, with about 50 vocational-technical school students, parents and teachers, Darlene Riquier said they can’t help but feel like their schools are being unfairly targeted for cuts. “It’s been a constant slap in the face to these kids,” said the mother of a senior at Windham Tech and president of the Parent Teacher Organization. “These kids have really low morale right now.” Darlene Riquier at the microphone surrounded by vo-tech students: ‘We will always be at the front of the line for cuts and that’s unfortunate’
Parents, teachers, students and officials of the state’s 16 vocational technical high schools say they have been on an emotional roller coaster as state lawmakers work to close a massive budget deficit. “We are particularly concerned if we can maintain the system,” Acting Education Commissioner George Coleman said earlier this month following a grim budget presentation on the vo-techs to the State Board of Education. Continue Reading →

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Malloy is definitely running again, but he’ll be wearing shorts

He is low in the polls, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he definitely is running again–about 25 minutes a day, five to seven times a week. The political stuff is a decision for another day. Malloy, who turned 56 a week ago, has managed to resume an exercise routine disrupted by 24/7 campaigning last year, then a crash program of organizing a new administration and crafting his initial budget. “I can run. I’m blessed with good knees and good hips. Continue Reading →

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Backers of concession deal struggle to sell its long-term benefits

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says the challenge of winning ratification of a new concession deal is plain to anyone with his habit of religiously reading online comments. No one, he says, seems to see the disaster just over the horizon if ratification fails. The impetus for the concessions is a short-term crisis: How to fill a $1.6 billion gap in state’s current biennial budget. But Malloy, backed by union leaders, says the real value of the deal lies in the structural changes that could stabilize finances and benefits for a decade or more. It’s been a tough sell. Continue Reading →

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Jepsen finds no security breaches in probe of anti-concession e-mails

An inquiry by the office of Attorney General George Jepsen has concluded without finding any evidence the state computer or e-mail systems were compromised by opponents of the labor concession deal. The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition had complained that the Yankee Institute, a conservative think tank, had tried to unfairly influent state employees with e-mail blasts. Jepsen’s office found no evidence that the state email system had been “compromised, hacked or used without authority.” “We appreciate this full and speedy exoneration by Attorney General Jepsen,” said Fergus Cullen, the executive director of the Yankee Institute. “We regret that SEBAC’s wild accusations wasted his time, the Auditor’s time, and that of their staffs. Continue Reading →

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Boehner won’t get any votes for his debt plan from CT lawmakers

No one knows yet how the debt-ceiling standoff in Washington will end. But we can at least report that Connecticut lawmakers have lined up against the plan put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, which will come up for a cliffhanger vote later this evening. Boehner’s plan would raise the debt ceiling in two stages: the first one triggered by immediate spending cut of about $900 billion and the second in six months, to be triggered by another package of still-to-be-determined cuts. At last check, Boehner was still rounding up Republican votes for his plan, and he wasn’t likely to get many, or perhaps any, Democratic “yes” votes. And certainly not from Connecticut’s all-Democratic delegation. Continue Reading →

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Studies find climate change jeopardizing national parks

Two new studies say global warming is threatening national parks in the West and Midwest, including the nation’s oldest park, Yellowstone. Ecologists say climate change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will increase the frequency of wildfires and alter the composition of the forests by 2050, US News reports. Using historic fire data to project future conditions, the researchers found that years with no major fires, which are common historically, become rare approaching 2050 and almost non-existent between 2050 and 2099. One uncertainty is how increased fire frequency might change the forests in the area, which now are predominantly lodgepole pine. Some areas might become forests of other trees, or permanent grasslands. Continue Reading →

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