There will be no budget discussions until Monday, but both Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell were out and about Thursday defending their budgets and other cost savings measures.
Rell stopped by the Department of Motor Vehicles in Wethersfield Thursday morning to tout the success of her executive order to reduce the state fleet of cars and trucks by 20 percent. While Speaker of the House Chris Donovan stopped by a rally in front of the governor’s residence in Hartford to offer his support to the healthcare workers fighting to keep their detox facilities and group homes open during the budget crisis.
When asked about the afternoon rally at the residence, Rell said “we’re making sure no one loses services.” She said as part of the negotiated agreement between the state and its labor unions none of the state employees will lose their jobs or benefits even if the facility they work at is closed.
“No patient will be without the services that they have currently and no one will lose their job or their benefits,” Rell said.
Cedarcrest Hospital in Newington, the Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford, and the Merritt Hall substance abuse facility inside Connecticut Valley Hospital are slated for closure by Rell’s administration.
But it was not their jobs that brought dozens of healthcare workers out into the rain Thursday afternoon. It was their patients.
“Our patients will have no where to go,” Irene Wilson, a nurse at Merritt Hall, said.
She said a person who wants to detox will have to go to the emergency room or return to the hospital on a daily basis for medication if the facilities close and both options come with a certain amount of risk.
She said if they fail to pick up the medication there’s the likelihood they will get very sick and risk death and seizures.
“We’re not here to protect our jobs,’ Wilson said. “Our concern is that it puts the patients at risk.”
“It’s not an answer of money. It’s not an issue of politics. It’s an issue of how you treat someone,” Michael Donnelly, a chaplain at the Blue Hills facility, said.
Maggie Adair, the policy director for the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said budget negotiations have dragged on for months now and the service providers are beginning to see the impact on people.
She said Democratic lawmakers have a solution: an increase income tax on those making $600,000 or more a year. She said she knows these people want to help, but they just haven’t been asked.
The goal is to have a budget in place by the end of the month Rell said Thursday.
However, in case there isn’t a budget agreement, Democratic lawmakers are tentatively reserving Aug. 27 and 28 for a special session.
Rell said if a budget deal isn’t brokered by the end of the month the legislature is expected to borrow the economic recovery notes to cover the $1 billion 2009 deficit. If steps aren’t taken to borrow the money the state’s $1.4 billion rainy day fund would automatically be used on Sept. 1.
Lawmakers and Rell have all agreed to use the rainy day fund for 2010 and 2011.