Bemoaning the $150 million budget cut that Connecticut social advocacy groups say has already hit the state’s social services this fiscal year, 65 nonprofit organizations across the state are now mobilizing under the name One Connecticut to fight Gov. John Rowland’s proposals for further cuts in next year’s budget for health care, education and social aid programs.
The organizers of One Connecticut are now looking for support from the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project. In a presentation last night at Dwight Hall, they painted the state as grappling with a serious split between the haves and the have-nots.
The state’s current $350 million deficit, projected to balloon to $650 million by next year, is forcing the state to trim a host of programs in order to balance the budget. The threat of more state budget cuts, social advocates said, has forced nonprofit groups to work together to find less harmful ways of balancing the budget.
“If you were talking about a family budget, your first reaction would not be to cut health care for your children or pull them out of college,” said Shelley Geballe, a co-president of Connecticut Voices for Children.
But the governor’s spokesman, Dean Pagani, said the governor has cut far less than what social advocacy groups are claiming. Out of the state’s total $13.5 billion budget, Pagani said that the governor this month only cut $28 million from all state programs — and social services are not the only ones getting hit.
“It’s hard to make the argument that major cuts are being made,” Pagani said. “The advocate groups tend to look at everything as a cut regardless of what they’re getting to spend on their programs.”
Pagani added that the cuts are reductions in proposed increases, not in real spending.
“Almost every program is getting at least, if not more, than what it got last year,” Pagani said.
But Matthew Rowland, a program associate with Connecticut Voices for Children, said those increases were approved by the state legislature because they were desperately needed.
“Yes, they’re increases,” Rowland said. “But it’s not like they’re bonuses you can just cut and it doesn’t matter.”
One Connecticut formed three years ago with only six groups. It plans on opening an office soon with a new director, Cheri Quickmire, who is currently a co-director of Social Justice Project, a nonprofit group.
“The more people we have, the more likely we can make some real changes,” Quickmire said.