The mid-year budget cuts proposed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy target many of the legislature’s priorities and include many cuts he’s pitched in the past.
Malloy’s 36-page plan released Thursday reduces funding for Legislative Management by about $2.6 million and zeroes out funding for all six legislative commissions. The commissions, established by the legislature, have been a perennial target of the governor, but somehow always find a way to survive the budget axe.
“This is disappointing, to say the least,” said Carolyn Treiss, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, one of the six commissions targeted for elimination. “We expected more from a governor whose track record would seem to indicate he understands the urgency of defending women’s rights.”
Malloy’s budget plan also eliminated funding for several museums, art organizations, regional tourism groups, and theaters across the state. Some of the funding was new this year and most of the money hasn’t even left the state treasury yet. As of Oct. 15, no payments have been made to many of the organizations.
Another of Malloy’s favorite targets for budget cuts is the fish hatcheries. Malloy proposed closing the state’s three fish hatcheries and laying off the 17 staff that work there. The $1.1 million in savings from the measure would require them to close by Jan. 1, 2016.
Malloy also targeted some new programs for elimination including the tattoo technician licensure program first implemented in 2014 and Community Care Teams, which were established to help provide emergency behavioral health services and alleviate the crowding in emergency departments.
He also would eliminate established programs like Project Access of New Haven, which partners with local doctors to identify underserved patients with medical needs. And his proposal would reduce funding for AIDS/HIV services, which will impact housing for 36 clients and utilities for 18 clients.
The cuts would close 20 beds at Connecticut Valley Hospital and reduce funding for the Connecticut Mental Health Center. In addition, it reduces about $500,000 in funding for Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services implemented as part of the legislation strengthening Connecticut’s gun laws in the wake of Sandy Hook.
Funding would be reduced for mental health service grants as well. That funding was partially restored as part of the budget process this year.
Heather Gates, CEO of Community Health Resources, which offers mental health services and operates nine outpatient clinics, said Malloy’s budget proposal “goes straight back to the same accounts” that it has targeted in the past.
She said the restoration of some of the funding in the budget passed in June brought things back to “a fragile level of funding, but kept things whole.” Now, the future of some of these services, especially adults with mental health or substance abuse issues, is unknown.
If the funding isn’t restored during the budget negotiations, Gates said the discussion at her organization will be which clinic do they shut down, not how to scale back services.
She said her organization and others that provide similar services are totally dependent on state funding for their survival and if they can’t treat the patients they see, then those patients will end up in emergency rooms or become homeless — both of which are more costly scenarios for the state.
Gates said the one good thing Malloy’s proposal does is transfer 10 residential group homes for those with developmental or intellectual disabilities to the private sector. She said that recognizes the good job community providers are doing at providing these services.
The proposal released Thursday also reduces municipal aid by about $10 million and eliminates a $16.5 million supplemental Medicaid payment to hospitals. Legislative leaders have said they will fight to restore the initial $63.5 million hospital cut, but Malloy had been unapologetic about his distrust of hospital executives.
Malloy also targeted funding for religious organizations in his proposed cuts.
Funding for the Covenant Soup Kitchen, Manchester Area Conference of Churches, Christian Community Action, and the Fatherhood Initiative would be suspended under Malloy’s proposal.
Malloy reduces $15 million in funding for the transportation of school children and thinks he can find $2.3 million in savings in the charter school account because the number of seats approved was fewer than initially budgeted.
The bigger savings come from suggestions like closing the Enfield Correctional Institution and redeploying the Correction Officers to other facilities to reduce overtime. That will save the state about $4.8 million. Closing courthouses in Bristol and Meriden would save about $1 million.
In total, Malloy’s proposal obtained Thursday through a Freedom of Information request cuts spending an additional $213.6 million. That’s in addition to the $103 million he already rescinded back in September.