Two different but potentially catastrophic storms pre-occupied Connecticut’s thoughts last week – one a hurricane and the other a damaging fiscal deadline.
Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, slammed across Florida hardly a week after Harvey devastated Houston and its environs. As folks in Connecticut watched in dismay, another potentially damaging fiscal problem was also looming closer to home – state aid cuts to municipalities scheduled for Oct. 1.
With that in mind, Connecticut House Democratic leaders said they plan to hold a vote on the state budget this week, come hell or high water, so to speak. As of Friday there was no budget ready to place before the House.
The week had opened with a significant concession from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who, in hopes of finding some agreement, scaled back by half his proposed shift of teacher pension costs to cities and towns. Friday he clarified further and issued yet another budget proposal, scaling back his proposed cuts to cities and towns. He also conceded to increases in the sales and hospital taxes.
Lawmakers were getting nowhere on reaching consensus. The House Democratic leadership was, however, developing a plan to redistribute non-education grants to municipalities largely on the basis of wealth.
If lack of a state budget forces the governor to make his cuts, the result will be “crippling,” “devastating,” “punishing,” and “unsustainable,” municipal leaders say. And time is running out. Hartford is about 60 days from insolvency, Mayor Luke Bronin announced.
Tuesday was a day of bitter disappointment for some 800,000 “Dreamers” and their supporters after they got confirmation that President Donald Trump was phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In response Connecticut Dreamers protested in Washington, D.C., and at rallies in various places around the state. One day later, Connecticut joined 14 other states in a lawsuit attempting to invalidate Trump’s decision.
Connecticut’s congressional delegation was pleasantly surprised by the president’s decision to link Hurricane Harvey relief to raising the national debt limit for another three months. And Sen. Chris Murphy was hopeful a senate push to repair the Affordable Care Act could help stabilize its fragile insurance exchanges, though help is not likely for Connecticut’s market this year.
Congressional concern about the Trump administration’s connections to Russia continued unabated, and questioning Thursday of Donald Trump Jr. by the Senate Judiciary Committee raised more questions than answers, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
Lawmakers must also bring new concern to the readiness of the Navy, which a hearing disclosed this week to be unprepared for war-related operations. Government officials cited a lack of adequate training in the at-sea collisions that cost the lives of 17 sailors, including Navy Electronics Technician 2nd Class Petty Officer Dustin Doyon, 26, of Suffield; and Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc “Tan” Truong Huynh, 25, of Watertown.
On the education front there were several developments: A panel investigating barriers to properly evaluating the needs of special education students said it needs more time to work; and officials got a preview of new state standards for educating students expelled from public school. Meanwhile, a state teachers’ union and some college officials were resisting the state’s plan to address a shortage of teachers by changing the requirements for certification.