The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle: What Exactly is Malloy Doing on Hospitals, Budget Cuts?

It’s Halloween season. Maybe a zombie has eaten Gov. Malloy’s brain. How else can we explain the schizophrenic behavior the governor has shown to hospitals? One minute he’s whacking them with cuts reducing their Medicaid payments, the next he’s picking some of them to help out. All the while he’s pulling the old, “Hey, look over there at the shiny salaries the hospital CEOs are getting…” as he smacks the closest sickbay.

The legal reality is that Malloy has the authority to make cuts anywhere he wants (except with certain local aid). The “rescission” power is usually used when the state is nearing the end of the fiscal year and needs some cuts to balance the budget.

In this case, however, Malloy has acted not three months into the fiscal year with his cuts landing on the hospitals and social service programs that make up the safety net for the most vulnerable.

Malloy’s usual Democratic compadres in the legislature are incrementally voicing gentle outrage over the governor’s moves. Both Senate President Martin Looney and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey are personally outraged that Malloy would hit core, Democratic constituencies.

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Looney, probably the smartest and most politically astute lawmaker in the General Assembly, has been his trademark self, letting it be known that the cuts are unacceptable. But he won’t cave to the repeated calls by the Republicans to call a special session. Looney knows that the GOP will likely not support whatever end result comes from budget adjustment negotiations, so why bother?

Sharkey has been more verbose in his call for restoring the governor’s cuts. But he calls out the Republicans, labeling their now-repetitive demands for a special session, saying it’s “political grandstanding.” Both Looney and Sharkey have a point. If the GOP wants to be in on the cut-restoring process, they should pledge to produce votes for the end product, not just their boring and useless, “no!” response.

Rank and file Democrats in the legislature are on the front lines of constituent service and their peeps are not happy with Malloy’s cuts. Those courageous enough to speak out do so at their own peril. Malloy has Irish Alzheimer’s—he forgets everything but the grudges.

State Rep. Cathy Abercrombie was the first to break ranks, doing so probably by mistakenly speaking the truth. Sen. Beth Bye made the courageous (and calculated) decision to challenge Malloy because she can. Further, she even suggested state employee furloughs might be part of a solution. Bye’s well-respected and the chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee. She wouldn’t cross Malloy with a good sense that it won’t come back to bite her.

Malloy insulted the Republicans and by saying he would listen to “serious ideas from serious people”—the intimation being the Republicans are a bunch of juggling clowns.

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The governor pulled a stunner on Friday by restoring some Medicaid payments to smaller hospitals. Here’s the problem. Helping small hospitals versus larger ones is not the same as helping small business versus big ones. In fact, it can be argued that medical corporations like Hartford Healthcare and Yale-New Haven are busier, face far more serious cases and would be more damaged by cuts. (It doesn’t help Malloy that Looney is from New Haven and is loath is see Y-NH get its ox gored.)

The Republicans are playing Groundhog Day with their pleas for a special session. “This time we really, really mean it.” But they certainly have a point. Rather than fix the structural problem in the budget, Malloy seems content in going month by month, snipping here and there, axing here and there, obliterating here and there.

The whole thing is a problem. Malloy should stay away from the undead.