HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Connecticut state lawmakers go back into special session in Hartford Wednesday afternoon to consider cuts to close the budget deficit.
Mental health providers said they won’t be able to sustain any more funding cuts and some may be forced to stop providing critical services to those most vulnerable.
WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reports
For years, there have been no cost of living adjustments for non-profits in the state so workers are underpaid, WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported.
Now, lawmakers are looking at cuts of $35 million or more to help close the state’s ballooning deficit.
Marty Schwartz of the Kennedy Center in Trumbull said those kinds of cuts will effectively shut down many of these struggling providers like his.
“These organizations cannot survive. The infrastructure is deteriorating and there’s no place to go for additional resource,” Schwartz told Schneidau.
The special session on the budget deficit began Tuesday with lawmakers finalizing a bipartisan plan to fill a budget shortfall estimated by the governor’s office to be $365 million.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has already ordered $170 million in spending cuts by executive authority and has previously said new taxes or tax increases will not be considered as ways to raise revenue.
The fiscal year 2014 budget shortfall is forecast to top $1 billion, officials said.
Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, said he was “very optimistic but still cautious” about the budget talks.
“Things are moving optimistically, and we’re continuing to talk and narrow numbers down, coming closer to a meeting of minds,” Fasano said. “As we know in this building, nothing is done until it’s done.”
Lawmakers were tight-lipped about the details of the agreement. However, a large portion of the remaining $195 million, after Malloy’s spending cuts are taken into account, is expected to come from a possible $113 million cut over the next six months to hospitals to reimburse health care provided to the uninsured and certain Medicaid expenses. That figure, however, could change before lawmakers vote on Wednesday.
Jennifer Jackson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said cuts of such a magnitude cannot be absorbed through belt-tightening, such as delayed investments in equipment and technology.
“They will result in lost jobs and elimination of critical community programs and services,” she said in a written statement, calling on legislators to reconsider the proposed reductions.
She said the proposed budget cut means the hospitals would be forced to cover 31 percent of the $365 million shortfall while hospital spending comprises only 5 percent of the state budget.
Schwartz urged lawmakers against making short-sighted decisions as they work to close the budget gap.
“We rely heavily on state funding and the state often runs parallel programs. The state programs generally cost twice as much,” Schwartz told Schneidau.
Schwartz argued cuts to non-profits will not be productive or cost-effective since the state wound wind up having to provide the services at much higher cost.
Before the special session gets under way on Wednesday, lawmakers will honor the victims of the Newtown school shooting tragedy with remarks from legislative leaders, Gov. Malloy and members of the clergy.
The names of the 20 young students and six school officials who were killed in the massacre will be read before a moment of silence at the state capitol.
Concerns about cuts to mental health services have been raised in the wake of last week’s elementary school massacre.
Nancy Lanza was her son’s first victim on Friday morning, found shot to death in her bed.
Other former schoolmates of Adam Lanza described him as awkward and shy.
On Wednesday, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner said he will be seeking genetic clues to help explain why Lanza may have gone on the shooting spree.
However, Dr. H. Wayne Carver said Asperger’s is not associated with violent behavior and said he’s not considering it as a reason for Lanza’s rampage on Friday.
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