R-J Editorial: Malloy’s budget hurts “weakest members” of society

R-J Editorial: Malloy’s budget hurts “weakest members” of society

Record-Journal

If, as Gandhi once said, “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members,” then the part of this nation that’s called Connecticut isn’t doing so great.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently announced another round of budget cuts, and the Department of Developmental Services is taking the biggest hit — $8.4 million, on top of the cuts it suffered in 2012 and 2014. The colleges and the courts were also asked to tighten their belts, and that’s certainly a problem; both of those institutions have already had to make cuts.

But when we think of society’s “weakest members,” certainly those with developmental and intellectual disabilities — many of whom depend on DDS — must be counted among that number, for who in our society are less able to stand up for themselves?

We realize that the governor’s power to make discretionary cuts is limited. The secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, Benjamin Barnes, has already said that if the fiscal picture gets worse, they may need to take further action and/or ask the General Assembly to do so.

What’s puzzling to us is that, until shortly after the election last fall, no one on the governor’s team seemed to see any red ink in the budget, but now the deficit manages to keep growing, and the projections for next year are much more dire. If Comptroller Kevin Lembo should decide that this year’s deficit has reached 1 percent of the budget (around $175 million), then Malloy will be required to present lawmakers with a deficit reduction plan, rather than the piecemeal executive cuts we have seen so far.

We realize that no one has a crystal ball that can reliably predict the economic future, and developments that are beyond the governor’s control have contributed to the shortfall. Medicaid costs are up. Revenue from fuel taxes is down — in no small part due to the dramatic drop in the price of gasoline, which turns out not to have been an unalloyed blessing.

But neither has this administration been at all shy about spending taxpayer money in many areas.

Just before Christmas the governor handed out raises of up to 12 percent to 200 appointees, at an annual cost of $1.4 million.

The 9.4-mile busway to Hartford and the high-speed rail project, between them, will cost around $1.4 billion. While there’s no guarantee that investment will ever pay off, transportation infrastructure is arguably a state concern of the first rank.

But there were also the First Five and Next Five programs, which doled out loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses. These expenditures, too, have been characterized as investments in the state’s future, but government’s record of picking winners in the private sector isn’t all that good: Solyndra, a California solar panel maker that President Obama once touted, went bankrupt in 2011; TicketNetwork pulled out of Malloy’s First Five after its CEO was arrested.

Besides, it’s hard to imagine that First Five recipients such as ESPN, for example (which is part of the $157 billion Walt Disney Co., yet qualified for a $1.7 million loan, up to $1.2 million in grants and up to $6 million in tax exemptions from this state) were in real need of such largesse.

While we understand that something’s got to give when income falls below planned expenditures, we wonder how much more Connecticut, one of the nation’s richest states, is willing to take away from those “weakest members” who are already carrying a heavy burden.


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