Journal Inquirer

State enters 2nd month without budget
About $1.3 billion of last year’s $18.4 billion state budget went to hundreds of nonprofit social service agencies that provide the bulk of state-sponsored services to people with developmental disabilities, the mentally ill, abused children, drug addicts, prison inmates, and others. For more than a decade the industry — whose social workers are paid on average half of what comparable state employees earn — has maintained that minimal growth in state funding has made it increasingly difficult for small community agencies to operate. And while those agencies usually sign one-year contracts that spell out their compensation, most agreements allow the state to reduce payment in the absence of an approved budget. Most nonprofits in July received a 1 percent cut from 2008-09 payments. And in its August allotments, the Rell administration cut grants by 20 percent for mental health services, early intervention programs for children with learning disabilities, and autism services. It was unclear Friday how those reduced allotments to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Developmental Services would affect payments to nonprofits. But the Connecticut Community Providers Association, an association that represents hundreds of nonprofit agencies, said the reductions almost certainly would mean deeper cuts to programs serving vulnerable clients. “These are deep cuts that make no sense at all in terms of providing proper care for our clients,” CCPA President Terry Edelstein said. “We urge the governor to reconsider these cuts, just as she reconsidered plans to close state parks. By Keith M. Phaneuf Journal Inquirer Saturday, August 1, 2009 HARTFORD — State government began its second month without a new budget today, as Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the legislature remained locked in a fiscal standoff. And while Rell continues to allocate state funds under executive orders, nonprofit social service agencies that serve the mentally ill, drug addicts, and the mentally retarded are bracing for further cuts. Connecticut is now just one of three states in the nation, along with Pennsylvania and North Carolina, that lacks a new budget since the fiscal year began July 1. Rell, who’s a Republican, and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on Thursday unveiled separate revised budget proposals for this fiscal year and next. But the two sides remain far apart — both in terms of spending and taxes — as they grapple with the largest projected deficit in state history. Analysts say the state will run $8.56 billion in the red this fiscal year and next combined. Though Rell on Thursday authorized monthly allotments for state agencies by executive order for the second month in a row, not all accounts are being funded at the level they were in the just-completed 2008-09 fiscal year. Not only did the state run up a nearly $1 billion deficit last fiscal year, but revenue — based on existing tax rates — is expected to drop roughly $1.4 billion in 2009-10 as Connecticut struggles to climb out of a global recession. These services have a much greater impact on quality of life for Connecticut residents than closing a favorite swimming hole.” Another coalition that represents social service groups, the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, noted Friday that the Rell administration did keep a pledge to fund AIDS services in August. Funding for nonprofits that provide those services was due at the end of July, and while it wasn’t included in the July budget allotments, the administration promised it would be included in August, said Liza Andrews, a public policy specialist for the association. Rell has said she has little choice but to reduce funding below 2008-09 levels, given declining revenue. The governor on Thursday proposed cigarette, liquor, and business tax hikes worth about $391 million over two years in hopes of reaching a compromise with Democrats. Democrats are seeking $1.8 billion in new taxes and focusing most of the burden on wealthier households. Rell has said unless Democrats reduce their spending proposals — which exceed her budget by $850 million — and limit tax hikes, the state will take even longer to climb out of the recession. House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, said he expects Democrats will resume a strategy they employed in June — a tactic they suspended as budget negotiations with Rell resumed. Democrats had been waging rallies and news conferences across the state protesting Rell’s cuts in social services and health care for the poor, as well as in higher education. “We’re going to go to the public again,” Donovan said. “The public needs to know what the governor’s proposing.”