Advocates held a press conference Wednesday to denounce plans by Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to consolidate six legislative commissions into two. But their concerns went largely ignored because of the size of the state’s budget problem.
Under the budget released late Tuesday, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Children’s Commission, and Aging Commission would be consolidated under one umbrella, while the African American Affairs Commission, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, and Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission would be under another.
The consolidation plan was put forth by Democratic leaders in an effort to help close a nearly $1 billion budget gap in 2017. The consolidation saves the state about $714,000.
However, advocates for those issues called the plan “regressive” and offensive to suggest that women’s issues are more deeply intertwined with those of children and aging populations.
“While some budget cuts may be necessary, we think that these commissions should be allowed to continue to work independently so as to best represent the interests of their constituents,” advocates said in a statement.
According to Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, “These commissions were created decades ago, precisely to guarantee that the voices of disenfranchised individuals and communities were not only heard at the State Capitol, but were also recognized as critical to preserving the equitable, tolerant society we value in Connecticut.
“Consolidating these commissions is a step in the wrong direction for our state,” Tabar continued. “The savings seen as a result of merging the commissions would be minimal, while the lost voices of these increasingly important constituencies would be immeasurable.”
Cindy Wolfe Boynton, president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization for Women, added her opposition to the consolidation.
“The proposed elimination of PCSW as a dedicated, standalone agency sends the clear and disturbing message that Connecticut women and their issues are no longer important or valued here,” she said.
Boynton credited the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women with helping to increase the minimum wage; advancing the number of women in Connecticut’s workforce; expanding affordable, quality daycare options for working families; and ensuring that both Connecticut women and men are better protected against threats of sexual assault and human trafficking.
“PCSW’s impact has been huge, but there is still so much work to do,” Boynton said. “And PCSW needs to be here to do it. Connecticut markets itself to tourists as being ‘revolutionary.’ But I’d say that right now, our leaders are showing we’re anything but.”
Donna Haghighat, American Association of University Women CT Co-President, urged lawmakers and the governor to avoid consolidating the commissioners.
“I realize that the current budget crisis calls for some drastic measures,” Haghighat said. “Consolidating all of the standing commissions into two commissions is not the correct approach.”
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said she wishes they could keep the focus of the six commissions, “but we can’t.”
“We’re hoping that by consolidating them we’re giving them an opportunity to get grant money and fund themselves that way,” Bye said. “They’re just tough cuts that we had to make.”
Meg Green, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said the budget compromise involves long-term spending reductions that don’t raise taxes.
“Tough but necessary decisions have been made to accomplish that goal,” Green said.