Monday, April 18, 2011

Foley On Malloy’s Current Services Budget Chicanery

After Tom Foley lost the gubernatorial race to then former Mayor of Stamford Dan Malloy, he did not slink away into that good night in which many losing politicians find their ultimate repose.

Mr. Foley, a former ambassador and business owner, started a research organization that develops public policy proposals, and a recent op-ed piece Mr. Foley wrote for a Hartford paper represents part of the fruit of his post campaign labors.

Mr. Foley’s column vigorously attacks “current services budgets” as a means used by shiftily, non-transparent politicians to foolall of the people some of the time, in Abraham Lincoln’s piercing phrase.

The method of reckoning getting and spending in Connecticut’s current services budget is little more than a partially successful sleight of hand used by professional politicians to “pitch their causes and confuse their constituents to suit their purposes,” according to Mr. Foley.

Governor Malloy’s current services budget first implausibly assumes that tax policy and state services will not change in the new budget year and then uses this dubious assumption to project future revenues. In planning expenses for the new budget, Mr. Foley writes, current services budget writers factor in “anticipated wage and benefit increases for the same number of state workers and inflationary increases in the cost of things the government buys.”

Under the states current services budget in the fiscal year ending in June 2012, spending will increase 9.8 percent, $1.75 billion higher than spending for this year, a figure Mr. Foley characterizes as “ridiculous.”

Using the current services budget as the base year, Mr. Malloy claims in his budget proposal to have cut spending by $1.76 billion. His proposal shows personal income taxes increasing by $879.8 million, while total taxes increase by $1,840 million. The anticipated give backs Mr. Malloy hopes to recover from unions appear in his proposal as Labor Management Savings and are presented as an expense reduction.

Most people suppose that current year budgets serve as the baseline for future budget projections. But using the current year budget as a staring point, spending in the new fiscal year will increase rather than decrease by $263 million; personal income taxes will increase by $1,443 million; and total taxes will increase by$2,466 million.

And spending for the benefit of state workers will according to Mr. Foley remain “approximately even with this year, i.e., no givebacks… On this basis, the budget deficit is being funded entirely with new taxes and no spending reductions. That is a very different story from the shared sacrifice story being used to sell the budget.”

“Sell” is the operative word. To sell his proposed budget both to the general public and union workers from whom Mr. Malloy hopes to realize a “shared sacrifice,” it helps to peddle the notion that union givebacks – i.e. spending reductions -- are a fait accompli in the new budget; they are not. And anyone who believes that real time spending in the new budget has been slashed or that personal income taxes have been increased $879.8 million rather than by $1,443 million or that inflation will not drive up the costs of various state agencies in the new fiscal year has been successfully deluded by number crunches who rely on current services budget persiflage.

“Using the current services budget,” Mr. Foley asserts, “degrades the clarity and quality of debate on the budget. It enables bureaucrats to pad budgets and move the goal line in the hope of achieving ever higher funding. It enables politicians to obscure bad news and fabricate good news. It enables advocates of government spending to demagogue anyone who questions the ever-increasing funding for their causes. It confuses the concerned citizen who is trying to understand what is going on.”

Early in his campaign with Mr. Foley, Mr. Malloy announced that he would move the state towards a new budget accounting process, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), so as to assure transparency and forestall the budget gimmickry that had allowed prior governors and legislatures to present a false picture of budgets though the manipulation and abuse of sound accounting procedures. According to Office of Policy Management Secretary Ben Barnes, GAAP should be operational by July 1 2013 and begin in fiscal year 2014.

Current service budgeting does for political campaigning what dishonest budget accounting does for politicians who survive budget red ink by fooling some of the people all of the time. Democratic governor of New York Mario Cuomo has honestly addressed budget issues by using immediate prior budgets rather than current service budget chicanery in measuring the progress he has made in stemming the flow of red ink.

With a gentle poke in Mr. Malloy’s easily bruised ribs, Mr. Foley asserts that Mr. Malloy’s dark angel in New York got it right and suggests, “It isn't too late for our leaders in Hartford to follow Gov. Cuomo's lead and begin making things clearer for us as they debate next year's very important budget.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The UConn Health Center seems to have little to no respect for the FOI process. In an attempt to gather information since 2008 I have found in emails of the Director of FOI-at the UCHC, Dr.Scott Wetstone seems to feel his role is more to thwart all efforts to comply with foi requests. After a February 2008 request for emails of Labor Relations attorney Karen Duffy Wallace were delayed for months a July 15, 2008 email from Dr.Wetstone to Wallace states in his attempt to again cause a delay in compliance " I had to trade with the- foi- ombusdman to get you off the hook"-the question then becomes why does UCHC not comply with the FOI. In a 2010 ruling after Dr.Wetstone repeatedly gave excuses of family illnesses, vacations,or that the request was too broad as they again attempted to not release the FOIC ordered records a final decision was released. In regards to the release of documents requested under FOI File # 2009-541 -the Director, Dr. Scott Wetstone was to arrange for an FOI Act training session to be conducted by the staff of the FOI Commission. Now in 2011 in total noncompliance UCHC has filed an appeal on the issue. In addition in a criminal proceeding requesting records of Ms.Wallace, attorney Norman Pattis states "Mr. Pattis’ charge is highly plausible: “In this case, an investigative agency of the State was actually fighting the defendant in a separate proceeding to prevent her from obtaining documents about the investigation in this case. A witness in this case [Karen Duffy Wallace] appeared subject to a subpoena and tendered partial compliance with the subpoena without alerting anyone that documents were withheld that the Freedom of Information Commission had ordered disclosed.”

Who will make the fourth arm of the government, UCHC comply with FOI and stop wasting the tax payers money on these constant appearances at FOI. How much of their work hours are spent just trying to figure out how to not be in compliance with the FOI. If fines were greater it would not affect UCHC they have total autonomy over their budgets knowing the tax payers will just continue to fill their well when it runs d

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