As Connecticut struggles to a more than $3.3 billion budget deficit Republican lawmakers are talking about consolidating the six legislative commissions that serve Latinos, African-Americans, Asians, women, elderly, and children.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made small cuts to the six legislative commissions which represent minority communities in his budget proposal, but Republican lawmakers like House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero believe its time to consolidate them under one umbrella.
He said he just doesn’t understand why these constituencies each need their own executive director and staff in many cases. Collectively the six legislative commissions will receive about $2.7 million next year under the governor’s proposed budget.
But Republicans are proposing putting each of the commissions under the Commission on the Status of Protected Citizens with one executive director and two support staff for each division.
It’s a position the legislature’s Democratic majority doesn’t share.
As hundreds of Latinos gathered for the second annual Latino Advocacy Day at the Capitol Wednesday, the co-chairs of the Appropriations Committee said they support the work the Latino Puerto Rican Affairs Commission does for the state and its close to 500,000 Latinos.
Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said the community and its commission is under attack every year. She said she simply doesn’t supports eliminating the good work the commission does.
“It always sort of insults us every time we see cuts to our community,” Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said. “This is our state, we will be here and we expect you to fund us just like everybody else.”
“It is no longer acceptable to be oppressed. We are here,” Walker said.
Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said “some people think in good times we create these agencies and in bad times we should cut these agencies.”
He said what people need to understand is that “we tend not to create things that are not productive.”
While he agrees it’s always good to review the mission of these commissions, “we usually get it right.” He said the Latino Puerto Rican Affairs Commission is one of those agencies the state needs to support.
“There are some people who view the Latino community as being something other and separate from the rest of the state of Connecticut,” Sharkey said. “All we have to do is look at the population numbers that came out in the last two weeks—you are the state of Connecticut.”
The Latino population in the state increased 49.6 percent from 320,323 in 2000 to 479,086 in 2010. It now accounts for about 13.4 percent of the state’s population.
Carmen Sierra, executive director of CAUSA Inc., which represents 18 social service agencies thanked Malloy for attending Latino Advocacy Day.
She said it’s the first time she can recall that a governor stood side-by-side with the Latino community.
In his opening remarks Malloy joked that if he wasn’t Irish, he’s be Latino.
Malloy plugged his legislation which allows undocumented students pay in-state tuition rates at the states colleges and universities. He also touted his appointment of the first Latina to the Appellate Court bench.