HARTFORD, Conn. – Hundreds rallied on Tuesday at the state capitol to angrily protest Gov. Rell’s latest proposed budget cuts. The rally, initiated by District 1199 New England, was called to coincide with a special session of the Legislature convened by Rell. Her package to meet the state’s $460 million shortfall places the entire burden on low and middle income working people, and those most vulnerable including children and disabled.
As soon as the session opened, Democratic leaders of the House and Senate rejected the governor’s inhumane cuts and adjourned until they could come up with a different solution.
The largest group protesting were licensed practical nurses (LPNs) nurses, who chanted “We take care of you, now you take care of us.” Gov. Rell’s cuts would eliminate the jobs and educational opportunities of many nurses and the services that they provide.
These educational programs produce 60% of all Connecticut’s licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Gov. Rell proposed cutting these programs despite projections that the state will need 13-16% more LPNs by 2016. The Connecticut Department of Labor cites LPNs as one of the “middle-skill” jobs that the state should foster to rebuild the state workforce and meet the growing need for home health and nursing home care.
Providers of long-term care services have determined that, as a conservative estimate, a 2% cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes, as projected, would result in a loss of 500 to 600 jobs in that heath care sector alone.
Gov. Rell’s budget priorities, which would slash Connecticut jobs in the public and private non-profit sectors, would destabilize the state economy at the very time that more jobs, not fewer are needed.
In the regular session which ended in the summer, the legislature overrode a veto by the governor and established a small surtax on those with incomes of $1 million or more. This was the first time, after years of effort, that the legislature had enough votes to override a governor’s veto of measures to make the income tax more progressive.
Last week, over 300 people turned out to testify against the cuts before the House and Senate Joint Appropriations Committee. The turnout was so large that the group had to be divided in half to testify in adjacent rooms.
In testimony submitted to the Appropriations Committee, the Connecticut CPUSA called the governor’s proposal “a challenge to human decency,” saying, “There is no responsible choice but to decline to carry out the governor’s proposed program. Instead, working with the entire body, pass a progressive tax on the wealthy, restore taxes on corporations, and call upon Congress and the president for aid to states and cities to provide services and create jobs.”
The day before the rally, Connecticut Voices for Children issued a budget analysis showing that 36% of the governor’s cuts directly target children, including early care services, aid to cities and towns that would likely result in cuts to public schools, and increased premiums for children enrolled in the state’s HUSKY health insurance program that would result in thousands of children losing health coverage.
The group proposed several options to cuts including closing corporate tax loopholes, delaying or canceling a reduction in the estate tax that would benefit only very wealthy persons, evaluating the state’s “hidden budget” of tax breaks, and raising income taxes for high-income earners.
The national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that most states have approached the economic hard times by addressing revenue sources as well as budget cuts. This year 30 states raised taxes while also cutting spending.
Nearly every state is confronting a budget shortfall due to the economic downturn. The need for a second stimulus package that would provide assistance to states and cities and help to create green jobs is becoming more and more urgent. In a five point jobs program, the national AFL-CIO includes aid to states and cities as one if the solutions to economic recovery.