Correcting a Dysfunctional Budget Process
Connecticut’s budget process is outdated, inefficient and ineffective in addressing and evaluating state programs. Most of the state programs have no specific goals and are not tied to any performance measures. Therefore, funding for the programs is provided with no real expectations of what that spending will achieve.
It is paramount that state correct the haphazard spending pattern by starting with a blank sheet of paper and building the budget upward to functional programs designed to achieve specific and measurable outcomes. To do this I will:
Having such information will be crucial for developing responsible budgets
Restoring Power to the Citizens
It’s time that resident receive assurances that the state will function in the best interest of the people and not career politicians. I will advocate for
The inefficient and ineffective use of available state and federal funding has cost Connecticut tens of thousands of jobs and economic activity.
Source: 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers Connecticut Infrastructure Report Card
Source: Preserving Connecticut’s Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Connecticut’s Aging Bridge System
Connecticut’s Transportation Infrastructure is one of the costliest in the nation, yet the Department of Transportation has a dismal record to show for its high costs. Construction costs for transportation projects in Connecticut run $497,659 per mile compared to $178,116 nationally.
According to TRIP, Nearly four of every five miles of Connecticut’s major roads are in either poor or mediocre condition. A significant number of Connecticut’s bridges have surpassed or are approaching 50 years old -- some bridges are more than 100 years old. In fact, 59 percent of the state’s bridges are 50 years or older. The average age of all Connecticut’s bridges is 53 years, while the average age of the state’s more than 300 structurally deficient bridges is 69 years These deficient roads and bridges cost Connecticut motorists a total of $6.1 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs, delays, and accidents.
About 400 transportation projects are on hold either because they are not a priority or because funding is short.
The Bridgeport-Stamford area is the second-most congested area of its size in the nation, forcing motorists on average to spend 49 hours in traffic each year. Hartford area ranked 5th nationally for congestion among medium sized cities. Annually, $489 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Connecticut mostly by truck.
The governor and the legislature have done a poor job of making transportation a priority in past budgets. Since 2011, the legislature diverted over $600 million from transportation purposes towards general fund purposes to fill other legislative prerogatives.
If Connecticut’s economy is going to grow, we need a modern and efficient transportation system to support it.
Strategically Prioritize the State’s Transportation Needs:
Connecticut’s Department of Transportation (DOT) needs to thoroughly review its infrastructure plans in a strategic way to ensure that our drivers are on safe roads and bridges, state’s workforce and employers can get connected, and that goods and services get delivered in a timely manner.
Establish Performance Reports
DOT projects should be required to have performance reports to ensure that they are built in a timely manner and in an efficient manner.
The state spends hundreds of millions of dollars bonding projects that are either not a priority or are many years out from completion. It is vital that we focus on shifting those resources where they can be used immediately. Doing so can fund our transportation needs for the next 30 years.
Under my plan, the transportation plan requires:
Modernizing Transportation Programs
One of the troubled state agencies that needs to be looked at carefully is the Department of Motor Vehicles. This agency receives over $65 million a year from transportation funds for its operations. However the agency has been plagued with computer software issues, employee fraud, erroneous motor vehicle tax information and wait times that average 1 hour.
My plan for the troubled Department of Motor Vehicles is for the private sector to provide these services at a more efficient and effective delivery model. This will allow the state to save money and provide people with better and more responsive customer service.
There is also great potential to utilize private partners to perform new infrastructure programs where a provider pays for the design and the construction for a right to operate it. Through careful contract agreements, such partners can help expand Connecticut’s infrastructure needs in a timely and efficient manner.
The operating expenses for the DOT, DMV, and DEEP are paid out of the Special Transportation Fund (STF). The General Assembly has ignored the deficits in the STF by transferring funds from the General Fund to the STF every year. More and more funds have been diverted into the STF.
1. Streamline Transportation Projects by putting certain on hold, while completing priority projects immediately.
-Projects such as widening I-95 from Greenwich to Rhode Island might not be in the cards, but certain sections of 95 can be widened, ramps can be improved, and merge lanes can be made to improve traffic flow. Other projects and existing state infrastructure need to be reimagined
2. Support transportation spending and financing habits that focus on diversifying the transportation of GOODS in order to provide for reduced costs in transporting PEOPLE.
-End raiding the Special Transportation Fund. The governor should ensure that dollars reserved for transportation remain reserved for transportation.
-Using Federal Funding and Financing programs more effectively for projects.
3. Capitalize and Diversify Existing Assets To Reduce Traffic
-Increased use of Freight Rail: Connecticut has miles of underutilized rail lines that should be attractive to mid-sized and large manufacturers and distributors.
-Increased use of Maritime Transportation: Long Island Sound and the state’s larger ports provide a large maritime highway for goods.
-Increased use of AirFreight: With a runway extension in New Haven, air freight traffic could be balanced between Tweed and Bradley airports.
Health and Human Services
Protecting our seniors, disabled and children is a vital role of government. Unfortunately Connecticut has seen a trend of cutting services that are actually needed and ignoring problems that could save hundreds of millions.
Under Governor Malloy, important services that working families depended on were drastically cut in his budget. He cut funding to, mental health, substance abuse, elderly nutrition, and developmental services. Meanwhile, he increased funding to enhance meals for prisoners.
Telehealth: Using technology to care for loved ones
To bring savings to our Medicaid program, I would establish coverage for telehealth services, which improves a patient's health by allowing minute by minute communication between the patient and their doctor. The use of such services have been shown to produce significant reductions in emergency visits and medicaid costs while still allowing seniors and the disabled to live in a community setting.
Private Providers: Partnership for Better Results
Private providers serve as the backbone to many of our health and social service programs. They know the communities, the needs of those they serve, and have a passion for the work they do. Just for the human services providers alone, a savings of $1.3 billion can be achieved over three years with no reduction in quality or benefit of services.
Accountability: Preserving Programs for the Vulnerable
Unfortunately, with any social service program for which benefits are significant, there is a potential for fraud and abuse. The US Government Accountability Office estimates that in FY 17, $36 billion in payments were improperly made. Waste in our social service programs take away valuable resources from those who need it. It is vital that the state better examine our programs to ensure that unscrupulous people, whether is providers who overbill, or individuals who misreport income, don’t abuse our generous benefits. This requires a full review of all our programs, examine other states investigative and enforcement measures and legal action against those who purposely defraud our taxpayers
Connecticut only has six insurance carriers in the market today. About 66 percent of our residents’ health coverage comes from self-insured plans usually through their employers and the remainder are fully insured plans purchased through the exchange. Part of the reason insurance costs are high are due to our high taxes on medical providers and hospitals that push costs up, low medicaid reimbursements that shift the burden to private coverage, insurance mandates, and general trends and high utilization rates.
There need to be more carriers in the insurance market. I will appoint a well-respected regulator as insurance commissioner who understands the insurance market and its complexities: residents deserve a subject matter expert on these issues.
I will task the commissioner with exploring the benefits of a 1332 waiver and encourage the use of value-based insurance designs that allow insurers to mitigate risks and reduce premiums
Connecticut also needs a true mandate review process that looks at the effects of the mandates and comes back to the legislature with a full impact review/statements. Mandates have unintended consequences.
My administration will work with the federal government to combat high drug prices in the state of Connecticut. High drug prices and a system that rewards list price increases, are burdening our residents. Senior citizens pay more in Medicare Part B and Part D because laws prevent health plans and vendors from engaging in tough negotiations.
Tackling Future Issues
It is important the government is forward thinking in its approach to healthcare. CT has an aging population and one issue that has not been discussed much but will be a major cost to the state is Alzheimer's. It is estimated that the number of people over the age of 65 affected by Alzheimer’s will increase 21.3% by 2025 to about 91,000. That may increase Medicaid costs by as much as 30.8%. Alzheimer’s has a devastating effect on families and caregivers who go towards extraordinary efforts to provide care for those suffering from the disease. It is vital that we partner with the medical community, private providers, and the Department of Social Services to properly plan for the proper care needed to address this issue.
One of the key functions of government is to ensure the safety and peace of its residents.
Law Enforcement: Protecting those that protect us
In the course of their jobs, law enforcement officers often respond to scenes that can be mentally traumatizing. However, many officers fear seeking mental health services because they fear that they will be unable to return back to their job. Our law enforcement should not be subjected to this kind of fear and should be able to seek mental health services knowing that their jobs are protected.
Protecting our Citizens: Eliminate the Early-Release Program
One of Governor Malloy’s failed policies includes the early-release program that reduces the time offenders serve in jail. This program even allows violent offenders to get months shaved off their sentence. There are countless articles about offenders who were released under this program only to commit more heinous crimes. It’s time violent offenders serve their full sentence.
Fix the Backlog on Background Checks
It is important that background checks on licensed daycare providers, health care professionals, bus drivers, and other critical jobs, get done in a timely manner. It is unfair to the businesses or the prospective employees to wait months for such background checks to be performed.
Deploying Well Trained Firefighters
In CT, there are about 30,000 firefighters and about 70% of them are volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters depend on Regional Fire Schools to provide the extensive training needed to prepare them for the real call. Regional Fire Schools serve a vital purpose for our communities and funding must be preserved.
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
In 2017, CT had experienced over 1,000 deaths resulting from opioid use. Nationally, opioid deaths had risen 7% and there seems to be no slowing down. Yet Governor Malloy proposed cutting substance abuse grants by more than $1.4 million and Mental Health Service Grants by $3.2 million at a time the state was facing a drug epidemic. It is important that the future governor preserve funding for these programs so help remains available.
It is also important that we provide a punishment commensurate with the crime for those who deal opioids. There should be no plea bargains allowed and the prison term for selling these drugs should not be less than 15 years.
Educating Connecticut’s Next Generation Workforce
-There is a $689 million gap in estimated school construction costs
-Connecticut is AVERAGE when compared to national scoring for education, yet the average per pupil expenditure is nearly TWICE the national average.
-Only 17 of the state’s 229 high schools are technical high schools
-Almost every manufacturer of the 157 CBIA surveyed in Connecticut expects to grow their workforce in the next three years. Of those companies that provide employee training, onsite training is most common (95%). Less frequent is classroom training outside of work hours (54%) or during work hours (47%). Manufacturers are slightly more likely to offer online training outside of work hours (35%) than during work hours (32%). (CBIA 2017 Report Card of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs)
Connecticut needs a 21st century workforce in order to be ready for a 21st century economy. We must change the way we approach workforce development. The next generation of software, life sciences, additive manufacturing, and technology-enabled businesses require workers with new skills. Eliminating the income tax will help attract and retain innovators who are currently leaving for low tax states. However, these job creators will only stay and grow in Connecticut if we have a well prepared workforce. Listed below are labor force reforms that a Stefanowski Administration will enact to make our children more competitive -- both here in Connecticut and abroad.
-We must ensure that all parents have the ability to choose K-12 education options that best fit their child.
-We must ensure that Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding continue to exists for Connecticut cities and towns.
-Create evening courses in state trade schools for older members of the workforce to retrain or discover new schools.
-Streamline regulations on existing accreditation and certification programs for technical and vocational training providers and their instructors
-Open computer programming and information technology programs in vocational school systems.
wider breadth of course offerings through online classes.
-Encourage school systems to partner up and share resources where possible in order to reduce costs and provide equal opportunities for all students.
-Partner with the state’s mid-sized manufacturers to provide the skills needed in a more efficient and timely fashion
-Evaluate all schools in Connecticut to ensure they are achieving goals in an efficient manner.
-Work with school systems to create an improvement model which helps individual schools close the achievement gap.
-We need to offer students better ways to finance their college tuition. Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has pioneered the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs) at Purdue University as a means to help students finance college without taking on excessive debt. Income Share Agreements are different from loans because students do not have to start paying them back until they get a paying job. These agreements align colleges around the goal of securing jobs for their students. We will work to ensure that all state-run colleges and private universities offer students the option to finance a portion of their tuition with ISAs.
-The state of Florida instituted statewide career and technical education articulation agreements that provide students and employers with a set of standards and agreements to achieve industry certification. The policy mandates that the agreements are a minimum guarantee and allow institutions to offer more credit based on local agreements in order to customize solutions to fit needs.
Controlling State Costs
Prioritizing State Borrowing
Connecticut has over $36.9 billion in borrowed debt, the second highest debt of any state. The state has put that burden on every resident in the amount of $10,310. The annual minimum payment to pay of this debt costs $2.9 billion and represents 13% of the overall budget. Rating agencies have already downgraded Connecticut’s bond ratings leading to higher interest costs for the state for future borrowing.
It is imperative that the governor holds the line on not borrowing any more.
Addressing Unfunded Liabilities
Connecticut has over $77 billion of liabilities that the state is unable to properly pay for and if taking into consideration the poor investment returns, those unfunded liabilities may be as high as $120 billion. It is imperative that the state corrects the failed policies of the Malloy administration and tackles these issues or risk retirement benefits for teachers and state employees going bankrupt.
Holding Cities and Towns Accountable for Mismanagement
Municipal leaders need to be held accountable for financial mismanagement. While state assistance may be acceptable to help restructure their finances, it is unacceptable for Governor Malloy to pay of the City of Hartford’s entire debt in the amount of $534 million in contrast to the intended $40 million plan the legislature intended. I support helping municipalities find solutions to their financial problems so they can become vibrant and grow, but the deal that Hartford received is not in the best interest of taxpayers.
For too long, politicians in Hartford have made decisions about municipalities without understanding each region’s own preferences, challenges and opportunities. Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns are distinct in their needs: the shoreline town of Stonington’s needs are different than that of the hilly town of Salisbury. My administration will give more power back to successful municipalities to make their own decisions.
Businesses on Main Street should be able to work with municipal officials instead of a bureaucratic state government when making decisions. Teachers in classrooms shouldn’t be forced to teach to the test in order to meet arbitrary standards set for other school systems. Seniors should have needed rides and other resources that fit the town they live in.
In the case of underperforming municipalities, we need to use existing state infrastructure such as the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) to right the ship BEFORE cities and towns become insolvent. MARB is an 11-person board that was created by the state legislature in 2017. It’s charged with providing fiscal oversight, advice, requirements, and aid to eligible distressed municipalities. The financial burdens of Hartford and West Haven may just be the tip of the iceberg, and my administration will use the constitutional powers of the Governor to help set standards for cities whose Mill Rates are too high and whose finances are not in order. Sixty-one Connecticut towns and cities, home to 2.1 million people, were found to have elevated credit risk in an analysis performed for the Yankee Institute.
Rightsizing state government begins with giving more power and control to responsible local leadership. Through the years, politicians in Hartford have centralized more and more decision-making and permitting processes. We need to give more power back to communities that prove they are capable of fiscal responsibility, while making sure communities that do not follow prudent policies are steered in a better direction
There are nearly 200,000 Connecticut Veterans -- my administration will make sure that those Connecticut residents who have served our country in uniform and their families are given the best treatment here at home in the Constitution State.
This includes working with federal partners to expand access to private healthcare through programs such as the VA Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek healthcare outside the VA hospital system in underserved areas. In rural areas, this program saves hours in commute times for basic medical services and an extra tank of gas that could be spent on groceries instead. As today’s veterans continue to struggle with PTSD and other mental health issues, we owe it to them to create access to healthcare that is as stress and hassle free as possible.
Veterans have skills that are needed in both the private sector and in government. Partnering with businesses and state agencies, a Stefanowski administration will make sure that Connecticut’s brightest military leaders become our brightest CEO’s, job creators, and inventors. Further, my administration will work with the private sector to not only encourage the hiring of veterans -- but also their spouses -- who are often discriminated against in the job market due to multiple moves and gaps in employment.
My administration remains committed to providing reasonably affordable technical and college education for members of the armed forces. With degrees from Connecticut educational institutions, our Veterans will continue to succeed -- further building communities we can be proud to call home.
Preserving Connecticut’s Natural Beauty
Connecticut’s natural beauty and diverse geography is one of our state’s unique characteristics. From miles of coastline, to numerous lakes, endless hiking trails, and more -- Connecticut’s landscape offers a little bit of everything. Public lands, beaches and parks are a great source of pride for our residents and I plan to keep it that way. Under the Malloy Administration, several properties owned by the state were sold off or leased -- without the knowledge and consent of the public. I support the ballot initiative that you will see in November which would block the state from selling land without public knowledge. These lands are ours to share, not the state’s to raid.
In 2017, roughly $150 million was diverted from energy efficiency programs to fill gaps in the budget. Lawmakers transferred ratepayer dollars from the Energy Conservation and Load Management funds to the General Fund. A bill from the past legislative session would have blocked this type of action -- which has been done across state government. Our environment must be protected, and lawmakers should not be using dollars reserved for environmental purposes to make up for budget shortfalls.
Our state parks are a great tourism asset and give visitors a reason to visit Connecticut. From hiking, to swimming, fishing, to cross-country skiing, and everything in between these parks offer the opportunity to leverage our assets and provide opportunities for small businesses to thrive. We can balance environmental sustainability and economic growth by working hand-in-hand with private partners and making sure that environmental regulations exist that make sense and not just a few extra cents.