(Updated 2:44 p.m.) Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell may be on vacation in South Carolina, but that hasn’t stopped her administration from letting legislative leaders know exactly what she wants to see in the budget bills this week.
Rell’s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario wrote a letter to legislative leaders Wednesday letting them know what was or wasn’t acceptable to the governor.
In this letter Genuario detailed the specific sections of the bill which is still in draft form and outlined the governor’s concerns.
Some of the items Rell opposes include a $650,000 earmark for a study concerning children of incarcerated parents, a $50,000 earmark for the Connecticut Pardon Team Inc., a private nonprofit organization, and a $75,000 earmark for the Connecticut Sentencing Commission.
She also opposes a permanent moratorium on the sale or lease of any group home, psychiatric hospital, or drug treatment facility. Rell’s administration has proposed privatizing 17 group homes and closing two psychiatric hospitals and two drug treatment facilities.
In his letter Genuario said the moratorium would “thwart the administration’s efforts to achieve the savings specified in the budget.”
Also Rell’s opposed to revising the formula used to distribute the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund to municipalities.
Republican lawmakers expressed concern about this last week because under the new formula, 168 out of 169 towns lose money. The only town to gain money would be Mansfield, the town represented by Majority Leader Denise Merrill.
When asked about the change last week, Merrill said Mansfield doesn’t benefit under the new formula it just gets treated like every other town. She said when the University of Connecticut’s population doubled two years ago, Mansfield’s funding under the formula was cut in half because it didn’t count the entire population.
When the university’s population exceeded 40 percent of the total population, the grant was cut in half, she said.
“We just eliminated the cliff,” Merrill said. “So we aren’t disadvantaged by it anymore.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, disagreed. He said the plan was cooked up behind closed doors to benefit the home town of the majority leader.
“There is no other explanation other than this ‘rat’ was put into a budget implementation bill for the sole benefit of Mansfield,” Cafero said.
In his letter to legislative leaders, Genuario said even though Rell vetoed the revenue bill last week it did contain come “meritorious” sections she would like legislators to include in other bills. According to the letter Rell would like to revive tax credits for green buildings, elimination of the per-bushel shellfish harvesting fee, reversal of the annual fee increase for nurses, and offsetting fees on in-state and out-of-state insurance company agents.
Rell still opposes exempting the Judicial branch from reductions in “other expenses,” since all the other branches of government have participated. “It is particularly unconscionable to provide a blanket exception to one branch of government at the same time that other state agencies are being burdened with budgetary reductions,” Genuario wrote.
Finally Genuario said the governor is amenable to changing the Department of Public Health statutes regarding charitable food donations to allow churches and other organizations to provide potluck dinners prepared in home kitchens to the homeless.
Click here to read about the Food Not Bombs incident in Middletown which prompted the desire to make the above change.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Tuesday that the legislature still plans on returning this week to work out the final budget details.
“Since Governor Rell is out of state on vacation while we are working to implement the budget, it is nice to hear from Secretary Genuario,” Donovan said. “We will review his letter and take his requests under advisement.”