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House GOP Supports Cutting Deficit, First Step to Budget Security

HARTFORD – Saying House Republican support for the deficit mitigation plan was a step forward in getting the state’s finances in order, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides today said the GOP was successful in restoring millions for hospitals, preventing cuts to towns and cities and minimizing cuts to social programs.

But Klarides warned that dire budget projections will prove true unless major structural changes in the way Connecticut puts together its fiscal plans are made. Estimates place the red ink next year at $900 million

“Today was a good compromise because towns and cities were spared millions in cuts that Democrats proposed. We all agreed to restore money for hospitals and we succeeded in minimizing deep cuts to the social services safety nets,’’ she said. “But we still face a massive deficit beginning July 1.”

Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the $220 million deficit mitigation plan that will only cover the last three months of the year. With hundreds of state workers protesting outside the Capitol, Klarides again called for state employee unions to negotiate givebacks or else the likelihood of major layoffs becomes a foregone conclusion.

A bipartisan solution to the deficit remained in doubt until the last days leading up to Tuesday’s session because Democrats were still proposing at least $8 million in municipal aid cuts that would have slashed local budgets as the fiscal year was ending June 30. Republicans on Monday pushed for additional negotiations and by Monday night, Democrats decided to join them.

Republicans proposed covering that cut with money from a separate municipal reserve fund that was not even targeted for towns and cities until the next fiscal year. Klarides said it would have been a simple “swap’’ of funds from fiscal year 2017 to 2016, but Democrats did not want to go along. In the end, money from four other off budget accounts were swept to cover the municipal aid loss.

“Republicans were committed to finding money in the budget so that towns and cities would not have to absorb another hit from the state,’’ Klarides said.

The deficit mitigation plan was approved in the House by a 127-16 vote.

Republicans Lay Out Budget Fix, Restore Funding to Hospitals & Maintain Core Government Services

HARTFORD – Senate and House Republicans are proposing a plan to close the 2016 budget deficit and restore funding to Connecticut hospitals.

“We have to maintain the core functions of government. We have to protect those most in need and ensure that our safety net remains intact. People must come before politics, which is why Republicans are taking the lead to put our state on a better path,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “We are facing the byproduct of failed Democrat fiscal policies, not a new economic reality. Republicans have been predicting this fiscal crisis for over six years and offering our ideas to address the problems time and time again. The Democrats got our state into this mess, but it is Republicans who will lead us out,” he said.

“Democrat lawmakers and Governor Malloy have failed to lead our state and have driven us into the ground,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby). “It’s extremely challenging to fix a budget with only a few months left in the year, which is why Republicans asked Democrats to work together at the start of the year to address our imminent deficit. By now, most money has already been spent. This deficit mitigation package enables us to make the most of remaining state funding with targeted cuts, cuts to the legislature, and preservation of the most vital state services.”

The Republican proposal would close the state’s $220 million current year deficit as estimated by the governor’s office and state comptroller. The proposed mitigation package would restore all $140 million in promised funding to hospitals, of which the state’s share totals $31.6 million. This funding is partial reimbursement for hospitals’ Medicaid expenses and the care they provide to those most in need.

The proposal does not include the governor’s suggested layoffs nor does it inflict a harmful 3 percent across the board cut to private providers as proposed by the governor.

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Republicans are instead proposing an alternative to potential layoffs through a two day furlough for targeted state employees and benefit changes in future years, as well as 15 percent cuts to the remaining funds in multiple state accounts and targeted reductions.

Also in the plan are multiple cuts to the state legislature including a 10 percent pay cut for lawmakers, the elimination of remaining legislator franking privileges, the reduction of legislative caucus budgets by $100,000 each, and a reduction of legislative expenditures.

The plan accepts the governor’s proposed forgoing of managerial raises in the executive and judicial branches and elimination of a revenue transfer moving funds from this year to next year’s budget.

Republicans are also proposing a list of long-term structural changes to implement savings in future years. These long-term changes include capping state bonding to reduce future debt, mandatory approval of labor contracts by the General Assembly, changes to state employee health and pension benefits, implementation of an enforceable state spending cap, the creation of an office of overtime accountability and multiple other changes.

“In January, we asked the Democrats to get together to fix the budget early because the longer they waited to fix the problem, the larger the problem would grow. Democrats’ refusal to act early has resulted in the devastating position Connecticut is in currently,” said Fasano.

“There’s a pattern here. Every time the Democrats put out a budget we’re driven further into financial trouble. Then, when a problem unsurprisingly appears, they come to Republicans asking for help to clean up their mess. We give ideas, they ignore them, and then they pass another budget that drives us further into the ground. It’s a cycle that is failing our state. It’s a cycle that must be broken. We urge Democrats to hear us now. We need change,” said Klarides.

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GOP Shares Short-Term and Long-Term Proposals to Address Budget Shortfalls

HARTFORD Today House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and released their proposals to close the state’s current budget deficit and make long-term structural changes to help the state avoid future shortfalls. These proposals were shared with Democrat leaders and Governor Dannel P. Malloy in bipartisan budget negotiations yesterday and with the public at a press conference in Hartford this morning.

“In an effort to bring ideas to the table, the proposals we presented to the governor and Democrat legislative leaders aim to restore predictability and sustainability to state finances. The numbers show that Connecticut is not growing the high paying jobs our families need to survive and care for their loved ones. And people are leaving Connecticut for other states. Connecticut lawmakers have a choice. Either we continue to live in a state of permanent fiscal crisis, or we take on a holistic approach to rethink our budget in both the short and long term to protect people from harmful cuts today and to help future generations,” said Sen. Fasano.

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“Together, Representative Klarides and I put together a full plan that would enable our state to address the current deficit, without cutting from hospitals, from Medicaid, from those with developmental disabilities, or from those who need substance abuse treatment. And we do not ask any one group to shoulder the entire burden of addressing our budget problems. Budgeting is about prioritizing. We have to make choices that protect the most vulnerable, and we also have to think long-term,” Fasano continued.

“Connecticut is stuck in a cycle of financial trouble,” said Rep. Klarides. “If nothing changes, our state will continue to see deficit after deficit, with a shortfall of at least $2.9 billion already projected for the near future. Republicans put together these proposals to change that trajectory. These proposals include ideas that we believe Democrats and Governor Malloy also support. We believe all parties must come together and put aside our differences to improve our state. It’s unfortunate that our ideas were not included earlier in the budget process, but we will not shy away from offering serious ideas to help our state get out of the mess that’s been created.”

The Republican proposals include modifications totaling over $370 million in Fiscal Year 2016, enough to close the current year’s projected deficit while also restoring cuts made to social services by the governor’s September rescissions. None of the immediate proposed solutions require labor concessions. The proposals also include tax changes to improve Connecticut’s business environment, including eliminating Unitary Combined Reporting.

The long-term Republican budget proposals include lowering state debt by limiting the amount Connecticut can borrow, identifying and addressing inefficiencies in state government, protecting transportation funding, better managing the state’s pension system, and modest labor modifications.

GOP Deficit Mitigation

House & Senate GOP Submit Petitions Calling for Special Session on Budget

HARTFORD — Following calls by hospitals, advocates for the disabled, and many others for legislative action to address Governor Malloy’s recent devastating budget cuts, Senate and House Republican legislators have all signed a petition seeking a special session of the General Assembly to rebuild the state budget.

Today the lawmakers submitted all 79 petitions to the Office of the Secretary of the State signed by each and every Republican state lawmaker. If a majority of state lawmakers in each chamber sign this petition, it will trigger a special session. To gain a majority, at least 4 Democrats in the Senate and 12 Democrats in the House will need to join Republicans in signing the petition. Thus far, the governor and Democrat leaders have denied Republicans’ requests to hold a special session.

“We are urging all lawmakers who disagree with Governor Malloy’s cuts to stand up and take action,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “Our hospitals, our mental health programs, and our developmentally disabled services cannot wait until next year. The governor’s cuts will have a devastating impact on health care across the state. And we fear these cuts are only the beginning as the deficit is likely to continue growing. We cannot continue to budget month to month. We cannot continue to cut funding for hospitals and other vital services making the most vulnerable among us pay for failed budget policies. We need to get into a room together now and work collaboratively to rethink this budget to prevent a health care crisis. I know there are many Democrats who want to join us in protecting the most vulnerable. I know we all want to preserve health care quality and access. I hope all lawmakers will put politics aside and do the right thing.”

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“It’s not enough to simply disagree with the governor’s cuts. If we want to see change, we need to act together. Democrats and Republicans have the power to override the governor, but only if we work collaboratively, the legislature cannot sit idly by while its policy priorities are ignored and the governor wreaks havoc on our health care system. This is a long term problem that requires a long term solution and we cannot wait until the next session when three quarters of the fiscal year will be gone and our options diminished. By then, many hospital workers will have lost their jobs and the disabled and others lost services,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby).

The petition calls for a session, “To make adjustments to the state budget for the biennium beginning July 1, 2015, including adjustments to restore Medicaid funding and other state support for hospitals, health care and other services.”

The General Assembly can be called in to a special session by the governor or by majority party legislative leaders. However, if rank and file legislators demonstrate that a majority in both chambers deem it necessary to meet in special session, they can initiate a session themselves.

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The governor’s $103 million in cuts include millions in cuts to mental health and substance abuse services and programs that help those with disabilities – all areas that were already slashed in the Democrats’ budget. It also includes $64 million in Medicaid cuts that directly affect hospitals and translate to a loss of $128 million in federal dollars, for a total loss of $192 million in funding for Connecticut’s hospitals. The result is hospitals become net taxpayers to the state of approximately a half a billion dollars.

Families Impacted by Governor’s Cuts to Developmental Services Speak Out

Today Republican lawmakers joined families impacted by Governor Malloy’s recent budget cuts to renew their call for a special session to restore funding for health care and social services. The governor’s $103 million worth of rescissions released last month include reductions to programs that provide direct services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

At a press conference this morning, Senate and House Republicans welcomed parents from CT DDS Families First to the Capitol to share their stories. The group includes parents and family members of those in need of care who will be hurt by cuts to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The families will all be impacted by cuts made to the following programs:

  • Employment Opportunities and Day Services – Funding in this account pays for all day
    program services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Community Residential Services – Funding in this account covers all residential
    expenditures for individuals with developmental disabilities including transitioning
    individuals from the Southbury Training School to other less costly residential programs.
  • Cooperative Placements Program – This program funds court ordered placements for
    individuals in need and mainly funds private providers.
  • Voluntary Services/Behavioral Services – This program provides services to individuals
    with significant behavioral issues.

As of September, 2,102 individuals were on the DDS waitlist; this is a group of people in need of services who have yet to receive any from the state due to lack of funding and capacity. The governor’s new rescissions and funding holdbacks include a $3 million cut from employment opportunities and day services, a $1.8 million cut from community residential services, a nearly $700,000 cut from the Cooperative Placements Program, and a nearly $300,000 cut from voluntary and behavioral services.

In total, combining the governor’s rescissions with the cuts made in this year’s budget, compared to the funds requested by the agency, that’s a $10.8 million cut to employment opportunities and day services, a $10.7 million cut to community residential services, a nearly $1.3 million cut to the Cooperative Placements Program, and a $3.5 million cut to voluntary and behavioral services.

“Republicans are united in our opposition to the governor’s cuts to programs that help some of the most vulnerable individuals in our state. The central role of government should be to protect and empower citizens. Reducing these services so drastically year after year skirts the state’s basic responsibility to help those in need. These rescissions are devastating for families waiting for care,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “While the legislature was successful in restoring many of the debilitating cuts the governor initially proposed in February, this round of cuts sets us back again. Governor Malloy initially proposed much larger cuts to DDS in his February budget proposal including cutting voluntary and behavioral services by over 60%. In the negotiated budget that passed the legislature, many of these funds were restored.

“I hope state leaders realize the brutal effects of these cuts on Connecticut families. Clearly, we all saw the damage that would be caused by the governor’s initial cuts. Now that more cuts are back on the table we need a special session to completely rethink our state’s priorities. We all need to be a part of a much larger conversation to move Connecticut forward without hurting those most in need,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby).

Klarides, Woodbridge Officials Kick Off “Heat Kills” Campaign

WOODBRIDGE — House Republican Leader Themis Klarides on Monday joined officials from this community and others to kick off an awareness and response campaign that will have business owners help remind people about the dangers of leaving children and pets unattended inside their vehicles when it’s warm outside.

The “Heat Kills” campaign, unveiled at a Town Hall news conference, will see business owners put stickers in their shop windows that remind customers: “if you love’em, don’t leave’em.” The stickers direct residents to contact Woodbridge Animal Control if they see a child or pet unattended in a vehicle.

“We’re here in a unified fight for the defenseless—it takes just a few minutes for the temperature inside a vehicle to skyrocket, sometimes causing tragedies that are entirely preventable,” said Klarides, who serves the 114th House District covering Woodbridge, Derby and a section of Orange. “By partnering with businesses, places where we all go day in and day out, we’ll be able to get this important message to so many more people.”

Ellen Scalettar, first selectman in Woodbridge, hailed the partnership between several communities

“Woodbridge is happy to participate in the ‘Heat Kills’ campaign,” she said. “So many groups—Woodbridge District Animal Control, the Woodbridge Police Department, the Woodbridge business community and our partners in Bethany and Derby—are working together to spread this message to help keep children and animals safe.”

The program launched in Woodbridge is modeled after one started earlier this year in Fairfield by state Rep. Brenda Kupchick and supported by that community’s police department.

“I’m thrilled to see another town pick this up and, really, the goal would be to see every town pick this up,” said Kupchick, whose effort in Fairfield was inspired by the heat-related death of a baby in Ridgefield last year.

Beth Heller, deputy first selectman in Woodbridge, was at the news conference and recounted the case of a dog two years ago that died after being left in a car here for two hours.

Also looking to prevent that type of tragedy is Seymour, which is considering launching a program and was represented Monday by Deputy First Selectman Nicole Klarides-Ditria. Derby’s Chief of Police, Gerald Narowski, was at the “Heat Kills” kick-off as well as Woodbridge police officer Joseph Kubik. Bethany’s State Representative, Lezlye Zupkus, was at the event too.

“The only way we make this better is by doing it together,” Rep. Themis Klarides said.

Any business owner who wants a sticker should call Woodbridge Animal Control at 203-389-5991.

Klarides, Perillo and McGorty Announce Bond Funds for Derby-Shelton Bridge

HARTFORD – House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), and State Representatives Jason Perillo (R-113) and Ben McGorty (R-122) have announced that at today’s meeting the State Bond Commission has authorized $2 million for rehabilitation of the Derby-Shelton Bridge.

The funds will provide grant-in-aid to the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (VCOG) to finance the rehabilitation of the bridge, which spans the Housatonic River between the two towns.  The project includes resurfacing of the bridge’s deck, installation of new lighting, and the addition of bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

“This span is vital to the entire region for both commuters and for economic expansion. Thousands of motorists rely on this bridge to get back and forth to work and to home. We appreciate the investment in this project,’’ Rep. Klarides said.

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“The Derby-Shelton Bridge has tremendous historic value,” said Rep. Perillo.  “It was built in 1918 and is one of only a dozen concrete arch bridges in the state. It originally carried two sets of trolley tracks in addition to the vehicular lanes. This work will help restore the bridge to its original historic feel and will complement in-process redevelopment efforts in Shelton. I am pleased we were able to secure the funds, and I want to thank the Bond Commission for its assistance in making this grant a reality. I’d also like to thank Rick Dunne, Executive Director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments and Jim Ryan, President of the Shelton Economic Development Corporation for their invaluable assistance in moving this project forward.””

“The rehabilitation of this bridge is one of the key elements to revitalizing the downtowns in both Shelton and Derby,” said Rep. McGorty.  “By creating greater accessibility on this bridge for foot and bike traffic we are expanding access to our local shops and restaurants.  Having a viable conduit between the two of them will vastly improve economic development in both towns.”

A study unveiled last autumn by the VCOG noted that Derby and Shelton should do more to link their respective downtown areas, particularly by improving the connection between them with “transit-oriented development” including making the area friendlier to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  The improvements to the bridge are a critical element to the overall plan.

The three legislators worked in concert with the Department of Transportation and administration officials to secure the funding.  The planned improvements are expected to begin in 2017.

Klarides in End-of-Session Wrap-up News Conference

Klarides, House & Senate GOP Unveil A Better Budget Plan for Conn.

House & Senate Republicans Urge Legislators to Adopt Clean Election Proposals

HARTFORD – Connecticut House and Senate Republicans slammed Democrats for their failure to lead on the important issue of campaign finance reform. Democrats are pushing forward a campaign finance bill that fails to close clean election loopholes and address the flaws exposed during the last election cycle.

The proposed legislation, SB 1126 An Act Concerning Revisions to Campaign Finance Laws, drafted by Democrats in the Government Affairs and Elections (GAE) Committee, also excludes all of the Republicans’ campaign finance proposals made this year in an effort to strengthen the Citizen’s Election Program.

“Connecticut’s Citizen’s Election Program is broken, and so is Connecticut’s promise to taxpayers,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “Nearly a decade ago, Connecticut made a deal with taxpayers: fund state campaigns with taxpayer money in exchange for clean elections untouched by the influence of special interest groups. But after years of attacks on this program, Connecticut is unable to uphold its end of the bargain. We have an obligation to right this wrong. Unfortunately, the legislation now under consideration by the GAE Committee does not go far enough to plug the holes in this quickly sinking ship.”

“Republicans have offered five sensible fixes to Connecticut’s broken campaign finance system to close loopholes and once again eliminate pay-to-play for state contractors. They were ignored. And the bill up for consideration makes things worse,” House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) said. “This bill does nothing to regain the public’s expectation of clean elections in Connecticut,” Klarides added.

Senate and House Republicans proposed a package of reforms to election laws this year, including the following changes:
1) Cap organizational expenditures by state parties (SB 612)
2) Reduce individual donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000 (HB 6084)
3) Stop state contractor funds from being used in state races (SB 385)
4) Eliminate grants to unopposed candidates (SB 224)
5) Reduce all Citizens’ Election Program grants by 25% (SB 225)

None of the above proposals were included in the overarching committee bill.

Republicans also took issue with two sections of the Democrats’ proposal that would further weaken clean election laws. One section would change regulations to limit the time the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) can conduct an audit to three months and would prohibit audits on candidates who were audited in the previous election cycle, which could foster system abuse. Another section would eliminate an SEEC regulation which would open the door to allow candidates to funnel their unused campaign funds to another candidate through coordinated campaign expenditures, thereby circumventing the intention of public financing.

“Those who want more transparency in Connecticut political campaigns will be sadly disappointed if this legislation passes in its current form,” said Sen. Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury), Ranking Member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. “If this bill becomes law, money will continue to trump sunlight, and Connecticut will continue down the wrong path. Our campaign laws already have gaping loopholes, but those loopholes will grow even larger with this legislation.”

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