Friday, July 15, 2011

State Budget Cuts

 I've just been reading the budget cuts proposed by Governor Malloy. If the cuts are approved, they will be disastrous. Ironically, people outside Connecticut think this is a wealthy, prosperous state. After all, Fairfield County is full of millionaires and Fortune 500 companies. But the wealthiest and most successful have very good accountants who find all the tax loopholes for them. Which is why GE in Stamford does not pay income tax.

Here's the rundown of the proposed cuts that have caught my attention. They might not be the cuts that will be getting the most media attention; they are the cuts that resonate most for me. They are the tip of the iceberg. My comments are italicized. I'm pretty cranky about the economy and the total failure of the state and federal governments to focus their energies on job creation, so my comments are loaded with attitude and sarcasm.

Office of Governmental Accountability
Citizens' Election Fund Admin: -$377,149 in 2012; -$471,507 in 2013
Elections Enforcement Commission: -$97,851 in 2012 and in 2013
Freedom of Information Commission: -$148,967 in 2012; -$178,176 in 2013

Attorney General
Layoff of 8 people. Don't we need them?

Department of Consumer Protection
Eliminate 49 positions: -$2,425,871 in 2012; -$3,094,963

Department of Labor
Reduce CETC Workforce, which assists in developing and maintaining an educated and skilled workforce.

Reduce Youth Employment in 2013, applies to eligible youth whose family income is below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. In other words, stop providing opportunities for youth growing up poor to escape from the cycle of poverty.

Reduce 21st Century Jobs, which helps to sustain Connecticut's high growth occupations and economically vital industries and assists workers in obtaining skills to start or move up the career ladder. Oh good, let's cut programs that strenghten the state's economy.

Reduce STRIVE, which is an intensive job-readiness program for ex-offenders, non-custodial parents, veterans and people with disabilities. Why are we cutting programs that reduce the number of people needing welfare?

Reduce Apprenticeship program: -$81,349 in 2012; -$127,920 in 2013. We could support programs that teach skills. Or we could hand out more welfare checks to people who were never given the chance to succeed.

Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities
Close the Waterbury Regional Office, laying off 9 people who work to eliminate discrimination by using and enforcing civil and human rights laws. There are four regional offices; if you live in Waterbury and your rights have been violated, I hope you have a way to leave town to seek help!

Department of Economic and Community Development
Reduce Basic Cultural Resources Grant and Culture & Tourism Grant: -$782,349 in 2013. Do you know what this funds? This funds museum exhibits and publication which teach our history. It funds After School Arts Programs.

Reduce Economic Development Grants. Oh yeah, that makes sense. Hey, we're in financial trouble because our economy is struggling. I know! Let's cut programs that help the economy!

Eliminate 21 positions by reducing museum hours and associated staffing. It's always the arts and humanities that get cut first. The things that make our lives richer and give them more meaning. 

Reduce Small Business Incubator Program: -$275,000 in 2012.

Phase out Line-Item Funding for Certain Grants (I'm listing only a few). These cuts will almost certainly result in more people collecting unemployment checks, and/or the elimination of public programs and education programs. Some of these cuts are large enough to threaten the continued existence of the organizations. I recently attended a workshop on nonprofit fundraising. Fewer people are donating now than they were in the past. Maybe because of the high unemployment rate and rotten economy? Anyway, this is the worst time to cut these funds.
Discovery Museum: -$53,235 in 2012; -$378,712 in 2013.
Connecticut Science Center: -$76,987 in 2012; -$630,603 in 2013.
Amistad Vessel: -$72,432 in 2012; -$378,712 in 2013.
New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas: -$123,687 in 2012; -$797,287 in 2013.
Palace Theater: -$53,235 in 2012; -$378,712 in 2013.

Eliminate Funding for Main Street programs in New Haven and Ansonia. The Main Street program is a proven economic generator. The only justification I can see for this cut is the example set by Main Street Waterbury, which is doing very well with fundraising at the Brass City Brewfest.

Reduce funding for the CCAT-CT Manufacturing Supply Chain program that assists at-risk small and medium manufacturers. Ooo, another brilliant plan--cut programs that help keep manufacturers in business.

Eliminate Subsidies for Culture and Tourism Line Items:
CT Trust for Historic Preservation: -$210,396 in 2012 and in 2013.
Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe Homes: -$95,674 in 2012 and in 2013.

Reduce Tax Abatements for privately owned non-profit and low and moderate housing projects.

Eliminate Funding for the Connecticut Humanities Council: -$2,157,633 in 2012 and in 2013.
This one really upsets me. The Humanities Council is one of the most important nonprofit organizations in Connecticut. They fund exhibits and programs in possibly every museum in the state. They provide educational resources for our public schools. They have provided vital funding for almost every museum exhibit and project I've ever worked on. In Waterbury, at the Mattatuck Museum, they have provided funding for the Fortune's Story website, for the "Ties that Bind" traveling exhibit created from the African American History Project, for the exhibit and website about Waterbury's Jewish communities, the exhibit and website about John F. Kensett, the exhibit and website about artists of the Northwest Corner, and many aspects of the new history exhibit at the Mattatuck. 

Eliminate State Subsidies for Local Tourism Districts: -$1,660,000 in 2012 and in 2013. Remember when Malloy was getting good press about funding tourism in Connecticut? So much for that.

Department of Public Health
Reduce funding for HIV prevention services: -$819,420 in 2012; -$851,406 in 2013.
Reduce Lead Testing for Uninsured Children: -$76,984 in 2012 and in 2013.

Department of Education
Eliminate the 16 Library Media Department Heads at the Vo-Tech Schools.
Eliminate 7 social workers in the Vo-Tech Schools.
Eliminate Music and Art from the Vo-Tech Schools.
Reduce Head Start funding for the Bridgeport ABCD program: -$1,000,000 in 2012 and 2013.
Reduce funding for Neighborhood Youth Centers, including Boys' Clubs, Girls' Clubs and YMCAs.
Eliminate New Charter School funding.
Suspend athletics at Vo-Tech schools.

State Library
Eliminate funding for program providing refurbished computers to low income families.
Eliminate Grants for Public Libraries.
Reduce Funding for state-wide database program, and eliminate the union catalogue providing libraries and residents with the location of library materials throughout the state.

There are also millions of dollars in cuts to the colleges, to the department of corrections and the DMV.

The Shore Line East train service will canceled between New Haven and Old Saybrook on weekends.

The plan for night service on the Waterbury bus system is "delayed", even though there 80% is funded by a federal grant.

MetroNorth tickets will cost 15% more.

As depressing as all of this is, I don't lay the blame solely at Malloy's feet. We had many years of Connecticut's government spending money without worrying too much about where to find the income to support the programs. Now that the entire country has hit hard times, everyone's in trouble.

During the Great Depression, the WPA was created to provide jobs and help stimulate the economy. We could use something like that again. Creating a land full of unemployed people will only cause harm.

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