Hartford Courant – Jon Lender

1/13/2010

The director of a state agency intended to combat sex discrimination said Tuesday that she will run out of money to pay employees on Jan. 29 if the Rell administration keeps blocking a financial panel from acting on her request to transfer $100,000 inside her agency’s budget.

But late Wednesday, Teresa Younger, director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget office was displaying what she interpeted as a willingness to let the state Financial Advisory Committee consider her transfer request.

Younger based that on a Wednesday conversation with an official in Rell’s budget office, the Office of Policy and Management – and from what she knew of communications between Democratic House Speaker Christopher Donovan’s office staff and OPM, also on Wednesday.

Younger originally had asked that her request be put on the agenda for consideration by the advisory committee at a meeting Thursday. That has proved impossible for procedural reasons, she said Wednesday. But she added that OPM now has indicated a willingness – but not promised – to have the matter considered at a special meeting of the advisory committee in time to address her agency’s pay issue before Jan. 29.

She said that what OPM wants first is assurance by her agency – and three other agencies, which also are seeking such internal transfers – that they will not overspend their budgets for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Younger wrote a letter Wednesday to OPM Secretary Robert Genuario, affirming that her agency “will neither require nor request additional funding for the current fiscal year.” She added: “It is our understanding that these affirmations address your concerns.”

A top OPM deputy, Jeffrey Beckham, gave no commitment on that later Wednesday. He said in an interview that his boss, Genuario, has told him “the matter is under review,” but Genuario hasn’t decided yet “what he will recommend” to Rell.

The issue emerged publicly Tuesday when Younger told The Courant that she needs to transfer the $100,000 from one account to a “personal services” account inside her agency, but cannot do so unless the advisory committee approves. That committee must OK internal transfers exceeding $50,000, but cannot act on them unless OPM puts them on the advisory committee’s agenda based on a recommendation from the governor.

Rell and OPM last year targeted a number of legislatively established agencies for elimination — not only Younger’s, but also commissions focusing on issues concerning African Americans, Latinos, the elderly and children. But, after last year’s protracted state budget battle, the Democrat-controlled legislature saved the commissions in September – although their budgets were cut in half.

Three of those other commissions – seeking internal transfers in their budgets, too – also provided written assurances Wednesday to OPM that they will not exceed their budgets.

Younger said she needs the internal transfer to adjust to her reduced budget of less than $500,000. “We’ve done these kinds of transfers in previous years,” she had said Tuesday night. “I don’t know why we’re not on the agenda” for Thursday’s meeting. She said it might be a Rell administration tactic to starve her agency financially and accomplish “what they weren’t able to do through legislative action.”

Beckham Tuesday had denied the suggestion that this is a tactic by the administration to starve the agency of money.

“This is not ‘us trying to get rid of them,'” he said. “Even if we gave them everything they are asking for, they’re not going to make it to the end of the fiscal year” on June 30 “at the rate that they have spent to date.”

The agency was given $375,000 to pay employees “with the intent that they stay within their line-item for personal services,” Beckham said. “They could have, and should have made adjustments,” he said, adding that even if the requested transfer were approved, “it would merely be a stopgap.”

Original Article