Like two Republican governors before him, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is trying to consolidate state commissions in an attempt to save money.
Malloy is trying to eliminate the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and five other commissions in order to create a new agency that would be called the Commission on Citizen Advocacy. The six commissions currently have a combined 26 employees, while Malloy’s new entity would have 18 and save more than $1.6 million.
Malloy’s plan is similar to those offered several times in the past by Republican governors John G. Rowland and M. Jodi Rell, along with Republican legislators. Each time, the Democratic-controlled legislature rejected the ideas, saying that the nonpartisan commissions regarding women, children, aging, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos and Puerto Ricans should remain as independent, standalone agencies.
The leaders of those agencies – one by one – testified Tuesday morning in front of the powerful budget-writing appropriations committee that is analyzing Malloy’s overall $21.5 billion budget proposal.
“The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women rejects the governor’s recommendation,’’ said Teresa C. Younger, the group’s executive director. “It is important to have diversity at the table. The merger of these organizations would be detrimental.’’
Created in 1973, the 40-year-old agency focuses on gender discrimination, pay equity, gender inequities and other issues of concern to women.
“We’re specifically concerned about transparency in the budget or the lack thereof in the streamlining of proposals,’’ Younger said. “For us, the average reader, it makes it hard and unclear for us to be able to determine whether programs are receiving full funding or not and what is happening at the end of the day.’’
The two Democratic co-chairs of the budget committee – Sen. Toni Harp and Rep. Toni Walker – both offered warm words to Younger, saying they wanted to thank her for her work for the state.
“You certainly distinguish us as a state,’’ Harp told Younger. “Given that we are 51 percent of the population, why do we still have this inequity?’’
Younger responded that 30 percent of state legislators are women, but all of the top six leaders – including the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem – are men.
“Often women are told we should look good and be quiet and not challenge too much,’’ Younger told Harp.
Malloy received support on the restructuring and cost savings Tuesday from Republicans, who have offered the same consolidation ideas.
“I don’t think he’s gone far enough,’’ said Rep. Pam Sawyer, a veteran who ranks among the top five House Republican leaders. “It makes sense to look at all of the commissions under one umbrella.’’
She said the commissions have many overlapping interests, saying they do not need to be broken into separate groups that distinguish women from children and other groups.
“Don’t they all have children?’’ Sawyer asked.