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Majoring in Fiction: Fund-Slashing CT Gov Touts Higher Ed at Press Conference

"I am not talking about what happened in the past. I am talking about what needs to happen in the future."  (Governor Dannel Malloy 2-12-14)

Governor Malloy held a press conference at Manchester Community College on Wednesday in which he touted the "major investment" he was making in Connecticut's institutions of public education.

As the article reports:

Calling his recently announced higher education investments a good first step, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday he's committed to additional funding increases even as he nears the end of his current term as governor.

This "commitment" comes from the same Governor Malloy who has pushed through the deepest budget cuts in state history at Connecticut's public colleges and universities.

At the University of Connecticut (UConn), for example, before Malloy became governor, the Connecticut state budget accounted for 33% of the total cost required to operate UConn. Three years into his term and after his record budget cuts at UConn, Connecticut State University and at the State's Community Colleges, the state now only provides 27.9% of the amount necessary to keep UConn operating.

As a direct result of Malloy's budget cuts, the burden on students and their families has increased by 17.3%, with tuition and fees rising by double digits since Malloy became governor.

In 2010, candidate Dan Malloy promised to make Connecticut's public college and universities a priority. Since being sworn in 2011, Malloy has done exactly – and intentionally – the opposite.

The reality is that it is getting harder and harder for middle class families to afford to send their children to college in Connecticut.  Since 2000, the cost of attending UConn has increased 118%.

And no Connecticut governor in living memory has done as much damage to higher education than Malloy.

But in what has now become typical fashion, Malloy failed to let the truth get in the way of a good press opportunity.

According to the CT News Junkie article, Malloy called his new funding initiative:

"Not a bad start" and added, "This is only a down payment, I've said it to members of the Regents Board. As this plan becomes further identified, there will in fact be increased investments in this system. That's why this is really a celebration . . . of what is to come in the future."

As Malloy put it, "I'm making a personal commitment and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues...I want to be very clear, this is just the beginning of the investments we need to make in this system."

However, the "new investment" that Malloy is making is based on a sly budget gimmick and is not an ongoing effort to improve funding at Connecticut's public colleges and universities.

As the CT Mirror explains, "Malloy is proposing to pay for this initiative using a budget loophole to get around the state's constitutional spending limits."

In a related budget story the CT Mirror laid out Malloy's plan:

...the $60 million Malloy would provide to cover the operating expenses...rely and the buy-one-get-one-free course for dropouts would come from a "one-time revenue transfer," according to the administration.

What Malloy has proposed commonly is known in fiscal analyst circles as an "intercept" - a loophole used to move funds off budget and outside the purview of the constitutional spending cap.

After pledging for weeks that his new budget would comply with the cap, Malloy sent lawmakers a $19 billion plan that falls a razor-thin $8 million under the cap - and that's before the Transform CSCU 2020 initiative is included.

The Democratic governor has been loathe to approve a legal exception to the cap - having criticized his GOP predecessors for frequently going that route. That option also is more complicated, requiring a 60 percent vote of approval in both the House and Senate.

Malloy instead turned to a loophole.

The cap system technically applies only to tax receipts and other revenues assigned to the state budget. Malloy will ask lawmakers to "intercept" $60 million of those revenues - which means that before the money "arrives" in the state treasury, it has been assigned to a new purpose outside of the budget.

Effectively, there would be no difference in how the money is spent in the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the expenditure wouldn't be counted for spending cap purposes.

Traditionally though, state payments to cover higher education costs have been included within the budget.

Governor Malloy's entire "commitment" to higher education has been a farce and his latest "commitment" is even more absurd than his previous ones.

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