Features

Connecticut pays out $13.8 million in longevity payments

Connecticut will pay out $13.8 million in longevity payments to 27,602 unionized state workers this week, up slightly from October’s payment, according to the Comptroller’s Office.

The average eligible employee received $500, a slight increase. The number of employees receiving a payment increased by about 200. In October, the payments totaled $13.6 million.

The state calculates the bonuses – paid in April and October – based on how long an employee has worked for the state.

The General Assembly made the non-union longevity bonuses part of regular salaries starting this year. Over time, this will cost the state more money as these employees earn percentage raises on their new, larger salaries. Gov. Dannel Malloy had already frozen their longevity payments.

 

Jackson Labs avoids local approvals as a ‘state project’

Construction on the Jackson Laboratory facility in Farmington is well on its way to completion thanks in part to unique treatment of the project: the lab didn’t need any local approvals.

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine will receive a $297 million subsidy from the state. Gov. Dannel Malloy has touted the project for its economic-development potential.

If all goes according to plan, the time between legislative approval and grand opening will be almost exactly three years.

In addition to the monetary benefits from the state, treating the lab as a “state project” allowed to it to avoid the time-consuming and costly land-use process faced by other developers. Instead, the project received state approvals.

Mike Hyde, the nonprofit lab’s vice president of external affairs and strategic partnerships, said another developer “would follow the exact same process that we are” – if it was building on state property and had state financial support.

“I don’t know if one is more stringent than the other,” Hyde said. “I couldn’t say it was a privilege because I don’t know what the other experience is like.”

According to a March 2014 update on the project, JGM received about $9 million in state money for research, training and other reimbursable expenses.

By the end of 2013, JGM spent $64 million on construction out of $135 million budgeted. The state gave JGM a $192 million forgivable construction loan.

According to hiring projections, the subsidy amounts to about $42,000 per job per year.

The General Assembly approved Malloy’s incentives for JGM in October 2011. The new law designated Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital fund, to manage the state’s relationship with JGM.

Connecticut Innovations signed an agreement with JGM in January 2012.

JGM awarded the contract to manage construction of the 183,500 square foot lab in January 2013.

Hyde said the lab plans an Oct. 7 grand opening.

In order to maintain its incentives JGM needs to reach 300 employees within 10 years. Hyde said the building could fit up to 320 people. “We’ll hit the 300 employee mark sooner than we had imagined,” Hyde said.

Hyde said JGM has 79 employees in about 11,000 square feet of temporary space and is looking for about 35 new employees. “We’re adding people at a lively clip,” he said.

Some University of Connecticut employees count toward JGM’s hiring goals.

The legal principles that allow JGM to avoid local land-use regulations are the same that allow a contractor for the Department of Transportation to build a road for the state without local approval. These principles have expanded greatly. In 1959, Attorney General Albert Coles wrote an opinion giving the state the ability to give an airport hotel on state property a liquor license instead of following local regulations.

“Therefore, it is my opinion that the airport operation constitutes a governmental function serving the public need and by virtue of its nature is immune to the zoning power of the Town of Windsor Locks,” Coles wrote a half-century ago. “The hotel with a liquor permit would be in furtherance of, rather than a deviation from, the essential airport use and, therefore, exempt from the zoning regulations of the Town of Windsor Locks.”

Update: This  post was updated to clarify that JGM did obtain state-level approvals for construction in place of local approvals.

Connecticut gets top rank in ‘zombie index’

zombie

The Institute for Truth in Accounting finds Connecticut has the highest “zombie index,” meaning the state “may be more likely than others to be taking on higher risk to address their debt problems.”

The index relies on a weighted average of three components – the TIA “Taxpayer Burden” measure (50%), the timeliness of the annual report (25%), and the share of total liabilities estimated by TIA to be ‘not fully disclosed’ (25%).

In turn, we note one other source of risk-taking incentive.  Our “State Data Lab” includes a measure of interstate migration, through the annual United Van Lines migration survey.  This survey, constructed by one of the largest interstate shipping companies in the nation, produces a statistic for “% of outbound shipments” for the lower 48 states.  Looking at how the latest results for this survey (2012) line up with our Zombie Index, there is a tendency for states scoring higher on the Zombie Index to have higher outbound shipments in 2012.  This can be an added source of pressure / risk-taking incentive for states in difficult financial condition, given the implications for tax revenue.

Previously, the institute named Connecticut a “turkey state” and a “sinkhole state.” Truth in Accounting also reports that Connecticut is in debt by about $46,000 per taxpayer.

Access Health CT CEO Recognized for Valiant Efforts

Last Saturday a group of local college students known as the Wesleyan Young Advocates teamed up with the Middletown Community Health Center to honor the CEO of Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act portal, Kevin Counihan.

Flyers distributed by the studenaca bruncht group (pictured left) espoused Counihan and his underlings at Access Health CT for their “valiant contributions toward CT enrollment.”

Apparently the standard for what would constitute a valorous act has been lowered or is at least being misinterpreted by the WYA, who since September has been working to get Middletonians enrolled in the state healthcare exchange. I mean c’mon, does enrolling people in crummy government experiment that only 40% of people agree with really constitute an act of valor?

What surely was left unmentioned at this Left Wing love fest was the valor and courage it took to spend $79,000 on three pieces of artwork. Last December Raising Hale reported that Access Health CT, who is entrusted with the responsible management of private information on every enrollee, very responsibly used taxpayer dollars to have artwork commissioned and installed at various offices. Don’t worry though; Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman assures us that this is “a creative way for us to express that commitment to building healthier communities.”

Connecticut officials have boasted about the successes they have achieved enrolling people into the government controlled insurance marketplace in comparison with other state run exchanges. The Access Health CT exchange was also one of the first to reach completion, which of course is no surprise coming from a state that conceits to the President’s every wish.  

Meanwhile this week as millions instantly qualified for the Obamacare IRS penalty (supposedly), the President self-proclaimed the debate on repealing the healthcare law to be officially over. The achievement of the deadline enrollment goal of 7 million people apparently gives the president and the Left veto power over any argument concerning the successes or failures of Obamacare.

However what has not been reported by the administration is the amount of people that have actually paid for any of these healthcare purchases, the amount people who actually received healthcare for the first time or the amount of people that were forced off their existing coverage. Not to mention whether or not a sufficient amount of young “invincibles,” who are expected to shoulder the burden of healthcare costs, have enrolled to offset enrollees who will be totally subsidized.  

I guess when expectations for success are lowered to whether or not a multi-million dollar website actually functions one can easily be impressed.

Andrew is a Political Science Major at CCSU and a veteran of the USMC. 

Candidate treasurer pleads guilty to stealing from state-funded campaign

The 2010 campaign manager and treasurer for Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree larceny for stealing $3,854.07 from the campaign.

Tanzania Cooper, 43, of Bloomfield, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge under the Alford doctrine. Previously, she faced first- and sixth-degree larceny charges.

Judge Jason Lobo sentenced Cooper to two years of probation, two years of suspended jail time and to pay restitution.

Prosecutor Christopher Alexy from the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office said Cooper “appropriated for herself campaign funds provided by the state.”

McCrory’s campaign paid Cooper $6,600 as manager.

An Alford plea means the defendant disputes some of the facts alleged by the prosecution, but admits the state likely has enough evidence to convict.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Cooper said McCrory “had no knowledge” and “was not involved.”

“Cooper never denied using campaign funds for personal and other unauthorized reasons,” the affidavit said. “She disputed the amount.”

According to the affidavit, Cooper said the amount was “closer to $2,000.”

“Cooper also indicated that other campaign members were involved with the illegal use of campaign funds but would not provide any further details saying, ‘Everyone has families,’ ‘It’s already a mess, it’s embarrassing,’ and ‘It’s going to be a circus,’” the affidavit said.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission referred evidence Cooper embezzled about $4,600 to the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney in August, prompting an investigation.

According to the affidavit, about 23 debit card withdrawals appear on the campaign’s bank statements but not on its expense reports.

McCrory participated in the Citizens’ Election Program, which provides state grants to campaigns. On July 26, 2010, his campaign received $25,980 in public funds.

Three of Cooper’s alleged cash withdrawals occurred before that date, leading to the charge of sixth-degree larceny. According to the affidavit, at least 19 unauthorized debits diverted funds from the state grant, leading to the felony first-degree charge.

According to the affidavit, Shawn Council was the first treasurer for the McCrory campaign and Cooper took over that role after she left.

Inspector Matthew Schroeder, who conducted the investigation and wrote the affidavit, also found evidence of expenditures that were never received by the recipient reported by the campaign.

Aziel Brown, the campaign’s deputy treasurer, told Schroeder “he never attended any meetings or performed any tasks for the McCrory campaign in any capacity.”

Cooper admitted to falsely claiming to have paid Brown $450, which he never received, to cover up her withdrawals, according to the affidavit.