New State ‘Department on Aging’ Quietly Comes Into Existence

Even with the state looking to close a potential $1 billion budget deficit, a new state department stealthily came in existence early this month with no announcement from the Malloy administration.

As of January 1st, Connecticut has a new state Department on Aging, technically anyway. The department has yet to be constituted and no appointments have been made. It’s an ongoing process for the Malloy administration which fully expects to move forward in fleshing out the new body.

The timing of forming a new state department may raise eyebrows because Gov. Malloy and the legislature must craft a new, two-year budget in the current session. Painful cuts and serious belt tightening are expected.

However, the new department has a very modest budget compared to other state departments. $100,000 is budgeted for the aging department in fiscal year 2013 which ends June 30. In addition, the Malloy administration still plans consolidation of other state agencies. In other words, just because there is a new state department, it doesn’t mean state government is necessarily growing.

There is always the chance that the new department will be short-lived and get the ax in the new two-year budget although it did survive last month’s deficit mitigation plan.

The Department on Aging has a long and colorful history. For years, the chief advocate for the department was former state Sen. Edith Prague. In 1991, then-Gov. Lowell Weicker appointed Prague the department’s commissioner. But anyone who knows Prague, is keenly aware of her independent streak. The wheels came off that version of the Department on Aging when after Prague rebelled against Weicker. He fired her and the department was eventually folded in the massive state Department of Social Services.

Prague’s efforts to reestablish the department resulted in language to do just that being put in the state budget in 2005. The language has been in there in every budget since, but was always pushed off, never making in the final spending plan—until now. The Shad was in the caucus room when reestablishment was postponed year after year, much to the consternation of Sen. Prague.

It’s pretty clear that the new department is a crowning achievement for Prague who is recovering from serious injuries suffered in a fall.