Christine Stuart file photo

Aside from vetoing the health care pooling bill Friday, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell stunned lawmakers by vetoing a bill that overwhelmingly passed in both the House and the Senate, without one Republican voting against it.

The bill would have created a 24-member cabinet to identify funding issues and develop state budget recommendations regarding nonprofit community providers that service about 500,000 individuals with disabilities and other needs.

Rell said the bill “establishes an unnecessary new level of administration and costs while interfering in the powers of both the legislative and executive branches of government.” However, Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, said Monday that he was “surprised and disappointed” in the governor’s veto because it specifically states twice in the bill that there is absolutely no cost to establishing the cabinet.

In fact, Harris said “the impetus for the bill to establish a cabinet in this area was based on the success of the governor’s Early Childhood cabinet.” Harris said the legislature “wanted to try and do the same thing for the community providers.”

He said the governor either didn’t read the bill or someone is advising her poorly.

Rell seemed to want to give the nonprofit organizations that serve children and adults with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders, some tough love.

“Like many in both the public and private sectors, some of these providers have been struggling due to financial constraints. However, another bureaucracy will not solve these financial problems. It will only lead to additional costs for state government – and taxpayers,” Rell said in a press release. She said the efforts of the cabinet would infringe “upon executive branch and legislative authority.”

“A new Cabinet only becomes duplicative,” she said.

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said “This was not a bureaucracy; this was a diagnostic tool and a means to keep nonprofits afloat and protect the state from incurring even greater costs.”

She said, “It’s unfortunate that, instead of being part of the solution, the governor is choosing to put her head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. That’s a loss for the state of Connecticut.”

Harris said the veto was a “slap in the face to private providers,” that provide services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens for less money than the state would be able to, if it had to take over these services.

Harris said it was a constructive way, at no cost to the taxpayers, to deal with the lack of funding the community providers have received over the past few years.

The Community Providers Association sent out a press release Monday afternoon asking the legislature to address this bill during its June 23 veto session.

Terry Edelstein, president and CEO of the Community Providers Association, said “Governor Rell’s continued reluctance to help provide proper funding to help our clients is troubling particularly at a time when these services are in greatest demand.”
 
She said, “Despite the Governor’s decision, we will continue to work with legislators of both parties to over-ride her veto and work toward a model that provides adequate funding for programs that serve our clients.”

In addition Edelstein said the group will continue to ask for a meeting with the governor to explain its clients’ needs to her directly.

Click here to read Rell’s veto message.