As New Session Begins, Dem Leaders Unsure How Malloy is Paying for his Education Reforms

Tune in this morning for a preview of the 2012 session of the Connecticut General Assembly.  NBC-Connecticut at 6:30 am; FOX-Connecticut in the 7 am hour.  And then for an update on the Connecticut US Senate race during the 8 am hour on FOX-Connecticut.

 

In the lead up to the start of the 2012 session of the General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy has made it clear education reform is his top priority; it will likely be the centerpiece of his state of the state address today at noon. But after announcing a number of initiatives, it’s still not clear how he plans to pay for them—and the Democratic leaders of the legislature don’t know either. This morning, the Hartford Courant reports that the governor wants to pump an additional $50 million into state education aid to cities and towns.

State Senate President Don Williams and House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey both tell The Hanging Shad says the administration has not indicated where the money will come from. Malloy has rolled out some big plans including the building of five new charter schools, increasing the number of preschool slots by 500, changing teacher certification, and plans to improve low-performing schools. All of that costs money and with a stark disagreement as to whether Malloy’s budget is on target to finish with a deficit or a surplus, it will be interesting to see how he proposes funding it.

Both Williams and Sharkey as well as Senate Minority Leader John McKinney expressed support for much of the education reforms Malloy’s proposing. McKinney says his caucus will be watching the state’s pocketbook on this and other budget-impacting issues. Beyond the announced reforms, Sharkey says there will likely be no time for addressing the Education Cost Sharing formula (state education aid to cities and towns) or special education reform which he says is “critically important.”

Among the high-profile issues that are likely to come up this session:
• An increase in the state minimum wage. House Democrats are proposing raising it from the current $8.25 an hour to $9 this year, to $9.75 next year and then indexing it to the increase in the cost of living. Republicans say it’s a job killer in a tough economy and yet another burden on business.
• Storm response. Customers of CL&P and other utilities are still stinging from the pre-Halloween snow storm. At least two groups empanelled by the governor have made recommendations.
• Revamping the allowed hours of operation of liquor stores including on Sundays and until 10 pm during the week. The governor supports it.
• Abolishing the death penalty. Two state senators who support repealing the death penalty in the state refused to vote for it last year in deference to Dr. Williams Petit, the sole survivor of the Cheshire home invasion. Gov. Malloy supports the repeal but only prospectively or, going forward.

Williams says the Senate Democrats are making jobs their number one issue for the session which is an off-year, “short” budget session scheduled to last four months. He says pushing Connecticut business to business activity is great for the economy. He compares it to the successful “Connecticut-Grown” program for state agricultural. The Senate Dems have laid out much of what they plan to do.

Williams says that it’s an ambitious session. “It will be like we’re shot of a gun with plenty of issues to tackle in a short time. But our focus will be on jobs.”

 

You can now follow us on twitter @TheHangingShad