Connecticut eyes on, hearts out to Houston

All eyes were on Houston this week, and Connecticut hearts went out to the thousands of Texans displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

The “Flying Yankees,” otherwise known as the 103rd Airlift Wing, took off for Texas in a C-130 Hercules cargo plane to help bring emergency supplies, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent a dozen reservists from the Long Island Sound sector to help. There were citizen volunteers to the rescue, too.

Later in the week, as the enormity of the devastation became clearer, Connecticut’s U.S. senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, said they are ready to vote for a federal relief package even though Texas lawmakers voted against funding for Superstorm Sandy relief for the Northeast.

Not that the discord between political outlooks has really abated.

In the weekly Democratic address, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, opened the week by saying President Donald Trump’s approach to governing “nurtures fear, paints a dark picture of the future, and blames immigrants, Muslims, Democrats and the media” for the country’s problems.

Trump’s immigration policies certainly continue to vex some Connecticut people. Concern that he will abandon his support of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program prompted thousands of  immigrant youths to renew their call for him to stand firm. At least one member of Congress has a proposal that would save them if he can bring it to a vote.

Meanwhile, State Attorney General George Jepsen has asked U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions to clarify his new rules cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Will the president’s call for streamlining the income tax law include eliminating the deductions for state and local taxes – provisions that disproportionately benefit states like Connecticut with high taxes and incomes? No one will say.

The Trump administration’s ambivalence on enforcing the Affordable Care Act also continues to unsettle the health insurance market and caused Connecticut’s exchange, Access Health CT, to give its two providers more time to decide whether to participate next year. One thing is clear, however: If the administration discontinues its subsidy payments to insurers, they are seeking rate increases on ACA “silver” plans of 40 to 50 percent.

It remains to be seen whether renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program covering 17,000 Connecticut children, will become entangled in the larger healthcare politicking.

In Connecticut, of course, there was the steady drumbeat of problems and hardships caused by the state legislature’s ongoing inability to adopt a state budget.

Keith M. Phaneuf /

Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser (at microphone) backed by more than 20 other municipal leaders, speaks to Capitol reporters

The debate continues on how the state will make up a $3.5 billion deficit – either through spending cuts, higher state sales taxes, or shifting tax burden to municipalities by several different means. Gov. Dannel Malloy had begun taking inventory on the number of towns likely to run out of money soon when once again arose the notion of raising taxes on the rich.

Municipal officials are making their dissatisfaction with the governor’s cost-shifting known, calling it “a major property tax increase.”

Five applications to open new charter schools also may be part of the legislature’s budget dilemma, since funding for local schools already is being redistributed and cut – in some cases completely.

Connecticut’s opioid crisis obeys no political boundaries or deadlines, however, and continues to worsen. An average of nearly three people die of overdoses every day.

Comptroller Kevin Lembo, meanwhile, has decided not to seek the governor’s office in the next election, citing personal reasons. He will seek re-election instead.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited a deficit of $2.6 billion. The story now uses the correct figure based on earlier reporting