College is a time of great excitement and endless possibilities. However, as thousands of University of Connecticut students returned to campus this fall, there was an ugly sore that marked the start of the new term. On September 16th, UConn president Susan Herbst sent out an email to all students and faculty of the university outlining all of the cuts they would soon face as a result of an impending 300 million dollar cut to state funding. Just a few of the many programs on the chopping block included the elimination of dozens of majors and graduate programs, many Division I athletics programs, student health services and mental health services, and study abroad programs. Furthermore, the university was faced with the possibility of closing UConn Health, which is home to John Dempsey Hospital, the university’s medical and dental school, as well as countless other vital facilities.
How did Connecticut end up in such a dire state that it was faced with the possible elimination of UConn basketball, the pride and joy of all Nutmeggers? The issues stem from a variety of reasons and are fiercely disputed across the aisle. It is clear, however, that everyone seems to be in a rush to get out of Connecticut.
Over the last few years, the state has watched as major corporations have left Connecticut for nearby states. Just last year, GE announced that they would be moving their headquarters to Boston. Perhaps the most painful blow was when Aetna announced they would be moving their headquarters to New York. Without Aetna, Hartford, which was once referred to as the “insurance capital of the country” is just a shadowy ghost of what it once was.
What caused the mass migration of corporations vital to the success of the state? In a statement to the press, Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini explained he was “frustrated with the fiscal problems and the leadership of our state.”
Perhaps that leads us to the core of the issue at hand. Connecticut’s governor, Dannel Malloy (D) has been in office since 2011 and has been polled as one of the least popular governors in the US (behind Gov. Chris Christie of course). Besides him sits a bitterly divided house where the attempts for bipartisanship are pitiful at best. On September 15th, after many long months of fruitless debate, Connecticut Congress was finally able to pass a state budget. The budget, labeled as “bipartisanship” thanks to several democrats swinging right, was the one that promised the 300 million dollar cuts to the University of Connecticut outlined above, along with many more devastating cuts to crucial state programs. Malloy was slow to veto the passed budget, but finally did on September 28th.
So where does the state sit now? Currently, the state is being operated under a set of executive orders made by Gov. Malloy while the state legislature frantically tries to piece together a budget. As the money situation grows more dire, Hartford must seriously consider being the first capital city to file for bankruptcy. UConn is freed from such drastic cuts for now but is bracing itself for the next blow. Across Connecticut 3.5 million people hold their breath, and wait for the next word from the capital.
Photo Credit: Hartford Courant