Can Primary Voters Handle Handler?

Paul Bass PhotoMike Handler has a general election message honed. He’ll have to find a way to get Republican primary voters to let him deliver it.

Handler’s pitch: The number-one challenge facing Connecticut is to solve its long-term structural budget woes by reining in government salaries, pensions and health care benefits. He has dealt with these problems as Stamford’s chief financial officer, working under both Democratic and Republican mayors and in concert with public-sector unions in Stamford. So he can do it as governor.

“I’m a numbers guy. I’m not a career politician,” he said in an interview on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program. “I have the hands-on experience of having turned around a city financially.”

Handler, 47, describes himself as a fiscal conservative — and a “moderate Republican” on social issues. He’s pro-choice. (“I trust women to make what decision’s right for them.”) He supports preserving public financing of elections.

He even says that climate change is real. “I believe the science,” he said. “We have an obligation to leave this planet better than we found it.”

Rather than vote for a Republican for president in 2016, he wrote in Michael Bloomberg.

Not too long ago, when Connecticut elected Republicans like Lowell Weicker to the U.S. Senate and Stewart McKinney to the U.S. House of Representatives, those were safe positions for GOP candidates to take. They could survive primaries, if they even had any, and prevail in general elections.

Handler’s candidacy for next year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination will test the proposition of whether a Republican can still win a party primary in 2018 with what have become heretical positions elsewhere in the country. And whether voters are ready to put the blame for the state’s fiscal condition squarely on the Democrats.

The Trump Effect

Contributed PhotoRepublicans clearly sense that voters are blaming Democrats, buoyed by some private polls apparently showing Any Generic Republican beating Any Top-Name Democrat next year.  Even though Democrats control all federal elected offices in the state. And even though Connecticut’s 481,336 Republicans constitute under 21 percent of registered voters statewide, compared to 37 percent for (848,493) Democrats, according to the most recently available figures. The 956,463 unaffiliated voters — at 41 percent of the electorate — are the big prize, and the betting money, at least for now, is that they’re leaning red for state government elections in light of ongoing structural deficits. Already this past year Republicans pulled even in the State Senate and close enough in the state House to win a governing hand with the help of conservative Democrats

Twenty-two Republicans have already entered the 2018 gubernatorial race. And 2018 hasn’t even started yet. Eleven have already demonstrated “significant” funding to run campaigns, noted state GOP Chair J.R. Romano.

Some of the candidates are pitching directly to Trump voters on issues like immigration (Danbury’s Mark Boughton, for instance) At a gubernatorial candidate debate this week, Tim Herbst of Trumbull struck Trumpian notes by calling for a return to capital punishment and a reversal of criminal-justice reform policies that have enjoyed bipartisan support in other states. He and another candidate, Peter Lumaj, staked out anti-gun control positions including opposition to bipartisan measures passed in response to the Sandy Hook massacre.

Some other candidates — Handler, Steve Obsitnik, Prasad Srinivasan, all members of the “top 11” club in the candidate pack — have focused on fiscal issues and aimed for the general-election voter. They’re not running from Trump, but they admit they disagree with him on some issues. (Note: In earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Srinivasan did not vote for Trump. He did.)

As a result, they have no chance of winning the party’s nomination, predicted one longtime party stalwart who’s still active in state campaigns.

“Impossible,” said the party stalwart. “The right wing of the party is going to dominate. Twenty-five percent of the Republicans are going to vote on primary date. Whoever is the right-wing Republican candidate is the odds-on favorite. The ones to the left may be outstanding people in the general election, but they’re not going to get the nomination.

“Trump was the ultimate game-changer in Connecticut politics. I say this quite frankly —  the Republicans who [don’t embrace] Trump do so only at their own political expense.”

GOP State Chair Romano warned against viewing the campaign through an outdated lens. Conventional calculations — that primary voters risk pushing candidates too far right to be able to appeal to general-election voters — reflect a misunderstanding of the Trump phenomenon, he argued.

“Fifty thousand new registered Republicans joined the party” because of Trump, he said. “We had a lot of party switchers.”

He pointed to Republican George Logan’s unseating last year of Democratic State Sen. Joe Crisco in the 17th District as reflective of the new Trump voter’s impact. That district includes such different communities as Hamden, Ansonia, Derby, Woodbridge, Bethany, and Beacon Falls. Naugatuck Valley voters went for Trump and for Logan — and for the most prominent elected official in the state from the Democratic Party’s left wing, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Romano noted. Logan, a New Haven-raised son of Guatemalan immigrants, calls himself a fiscal conservative and social moderate.

“At the end of the day, what most liberals don’t understand, Republicans are the big tent party,” Romano claimed. “We have candidates who are pro-life. We have candidates who are pro-choice. We don’t have a litmus test the way the Democrats do. We don’t do that. These people will run on the merit.”

An “Educator”

Mike Handler is running on having tackled what he described as Connecticut’s structural fiscal problems on an urban scale.

“If you look at our state budget, over a third of our budget are these fixed costs —pensions, retiree health benefits, debt service,” he said. “We know what happens if we do nothing here. We’re all feeling it. There’s a palpable fear of what happens in our state.”

Stamford, too, had spiraling pension and benefits costs baked in union contracts that the government couldn’t afford to pay when Handler began working as that city’s director of administration (comparable to chief administrative and chief financial officer). He claimed that he oversaw dramatic reform not by fighting with municipal unions, but by working with them — spending time understanding their needs (riding in patrol cars, for instance) while “educating” and “explaining” to labor leaders about the unsustainability of paying benefits that far exceed those in the private sector.

Exhibit A for the Handler campaign is the Smith House nursing home. Stamford owned the home. It was losing over $5 million a year, Handler said. Ninety of its 128 patients were on Medicaid, which reimbursed the home $450 a day for the $800 cost of each patient bed. “We were losing our shirts. We weren’t investing in business,” he said.

Stamford turned the home over to a private operator, Center Management Group. Now it has a waiting list and better facilities — along with a guarantee that it will remain a nursing home and that the existing employees keep their jobs at the same salaries.

The catch: Their benefits went from public-sector standards, like defined-benefit retirement plans, to private-sector standards, like 401(k)s.

In the end, the workers benefit because they’ll still have jobs, because the home stays in business, he argued.

Handler said he’s sure he can convince state unions to ditch the long-term agreements they’ve struck with the Malloy administration and accept trading in some of their “unsustainable” benefits in order to avoid a fiscal catastrophe that will hurt their members along with everyone else.

“Paying out benefits that total 50 to 60 percent of your total compensation is unsustainable,” he said. Workers’ pensions are more at risk if the state’s finances collapse, he argued.

“It’s not threatening. It’s educating. It’s sharing what we’re all facing. The state pension system is no better funded than the city of Hartford’s. We’re fooling ourselves. How many of your listeners have free retiree health in the private sector? Do you know anybody?” Handler said.

Handler also predicted that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling next year in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — over whether public-sector unions can require non-member workers to pay dues toward collective bargaining — will set a pro-management precedent and give Connecticut’s next governor added power in negotiations. He predicted that Connecticut will move toward having the legislature vote on union contracts.

State labor unions have called those ideas a non-starter. Citing concessions they’ve already made twice since Malloy’s election, they accuse advocates of those positions of blaming workers for a mess that both parties’ politicians have created and of wanting to punish working families rather than tax the rich.

Handler, like other leading Republicans, argues that more taxes on wealthy Nutmeggers will not produce more revenue because they’ll leave the state. “Connecticut has more millionaires and billionaires in 2017 than in 2007,” responded state AFSCME spokesman Larry Dorman.

Markeshia Ricks PhotoDorman (at right in photo) argued that Connecticut has a “revenue problem,” not a spending problem — that the failure to tax the wealthy more and close loopholes (like carried interest, which gets taxed as capital gains rather than income) — leads to disinvestment in health care, public safety, and K-12 and higher education, all crucial to an infrastructure for job creation. He also decried the move to switch public workers to less reliable and predictable 401(k)-style defined contribution plans.

“I appreciate Mr. Handler’s ‘educating’ workers,” Dorman said. “Ultimately he’s advocating policies that would constrict, not expand, the working and middle class I don’t think anybody should be bragging about making retirement worse for people who put their lives on the line.”

Finally, Dorman argued that Handler “is showing his ignorance of what state employees have” given up in the deal struck with the governor in July: $1.57 billion worth of concessions over two years, totaling $24 billion over 20 years, including three years of wage increases and higher contributions to their health and pension plans. (Click here to read the full agreement.)

Besides labor relations, Handler promised a new direction on government borrowing, especially restructuring debt. Cities as well as the state government put off fiscal challenges — and endanger long-term finances — by refinancing debt and taking all the benefits up front, he argued. He said in Stamford he created new rules under which any up-front benefits from bond sales are reserved for capital purchases over time, and under which the terms of refinancing cannot extend beyond the years of the current financing.

A Door In Mexico

Handler rounded out the case for his candidacy by citing other parts of his resume. Chair of the authority for Stamford’s wastewater treatment plant. Fourteen years as an investment manager in the private sector before beginning government work, as senior portfolio manager at SAC Capital Management and as executive vice president at Jefferies Asset Management. A sideline career as a volunteer certified EMT in New Canaan, where he lives.

As an EMT, he has at times had to perform triage — decide which injured people needed to be attended to first, a process he likened to dealing with Connecticut’s finances. “I think triage is a very important skill to have, especially in a state that’s on fiscal life support.”

Asked about one time he had to make a quick life-saving decision, he cited an episode that occurred during a vacation in Mexico in the 1990s. He was traveling on a dirt road when he came across a “traumatic” motorcycle crash that critically hurt a husband and wife.

“What was really amazing was what you didn’t hear: sirens,” he recalled. “Here we are in Mexico without sirens, and we’ve got to treat [them].”

A pick-up truck was at the scene too, filled with lumber. Handler noticed a door in that woodpile. “We took the door off the back of the truck and transported the patient to the hospital on that door.”

Anyone happen to notice any lumber parked along Capitol Avenue?

Click on or download the above audio file or on the Facebook Live video to below to hear the full interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Handler on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

 

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Prasad Srinivasan on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about that interview.

 

Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear a previous WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven"interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik. Click here to read a story about that interview.

 

Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH FM “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim. Click here for a story about that interview.

Click on or download the above audio file to a previous WNHH “Dateline New Haven”  interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program; and click here to read a story about that interview.

Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew; and click here to read a story about the interview.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 8, 2017  10:11pm

“It’s not threatening. It’s educating. It’s sharing what we’re all facing. The state pension system is no better funded than the city of Hartford’s. We’re fooling ourselves. How many of your listeners have free retiree health in the private sector? Do you know anybody?” Handler said.

Snake-Oil and Threecard Monte Being sold.Public Sector workers do not get free health care.I will say it again.The Blame is on the state for unfunded the pensions om there part.I have a New York State Pension.Take a look at the worth.


A Look Inside NYSLRS


Want an inside view of NYSLRS and the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund)? Curious about how the Fund is managed and how well its investments are performing? Then check out the latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).The 2017 CAFR, which covers the state fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2017, is chock full of facts and figures that offer a detailed look at the Retirement System and the Fund. The biggest story is the financial health of the Fund. The Fund’s assets were valued at $192.4 billion at the end of the fiscal year and continued to grow, reaching an estimated value of $201.3 billion as of September 30, 2017. The average return on Fund investments in fiscal year 2017 was 11.48 percent, well above the long-term expected rate of return of 7 percent.The soundness of NYSLRS was confirmed by several recent independent studies, which concluded that the New York State’s pension system is one of the best-funded public pension systems in the nation. And that means NYSLRS’ 652,324 members and 452,455 retirees and beneficiaries can rest assured their pensions will be there for them in retirement.


http://www.nyretirementnews.com/a-look-inside-nyslrs/

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 8, 2017  10:31pm

Part Two.

The catch: Their benefits went from public-sector standards, like defined-benefit retirement plans, to private-sector standards, like 401(k)s.

Keep drinking the 401K kool-Aid.

New York state comptroller blasts gov’s 401(k) plan

Coordinated, sustained attacks by anti-pension advocates have falsely cast public pensions as costly, unsustainable giveaways that are bankrupting states and localities,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in prepared remarks for a pension forum in Washington, D.C.included a proposal to give new hires 401k retirement accounts similar to those used by employees in the private sector as a way to cut benefit costs.“What I think is unacceptable is promoting the more extreme change of replacing defined benefit plans with 401(k)s.”New York’s $146.5 billion pension plan is a rarity in the United States because it is fully funded. Many other states are struggling with huge unfunded liabilities, sometimes because they skipped contributions during economic downturns.

Notice( Many other states are struggling with huge unfunded liabilities, sometimes because they skipped contributions during economic downturns.)There is the problem.They skipped contributions during economic downturns.Defined benefit plans, which pay retirees a set benefit for life, cost less than thrift plans, DiNapoli said, citing a variety of factors, including the higher fees individuals pay and their need to make investment decisions based on when they will retire instead of market conditions.

New York State Pension Fund Creates Credit Program for NY-Based Companies
To date, the state pension fund has invested $820 million into more than 300 companies across the state. And, in partnership with the New York Business Development Corporation, loaned $362 million to more than 1,000 small businesses across the state.

https://youtu.be/mvd95nCRTfk

How come Connecticut can not do the same thing with it’s pension Fund?

posted by: CharlesLynch on December 9, 2017  12:59am

He publicly admits he didn’t vote for the Republican nominee for president.  This guy has no chance of winning a Republican primary, he should just pack it in now and stop wasting his time.

posted by: 1644 on December 10, 2017  7:03am

3/5s:  What relevance does blame have?  The favorite phrase these days from Malloy and Klarides is, “The reality is….”  The reality is that pensions and OPEB are woefully underfunded.  Properly funding them at present benefit rates is crowding out other spending, and this effect is increases as time goes on.  Those who propose simply raising taxes “on the rich” need to talk to Sullivan and others at DRS.  The empirical evidence shows that we are at the point of diminishing returns on the Laffer curve: increases in tax rates result in reduced total revenues.  Harp conceded this on her latest Mayor Monday talk, and, as she and Ray Dalio have said, this effect will be magnified by federal tax changes which limit or eliminate deduction for state and local taxes (“SALT”).  The reality is we need to reduce our expenses, and one of the very biggest is public employee compensation, particularly pensions and other post-employment benefits.

posted by: 1644 on December 10, 2017  7:13am

Charles: As a Republican voter, I am more concerned about his Stamford and Malloy associations than who he voted for in 2018.  For all of Malloy’s present protests that he is properly funding pensions,  the fact is that he supported massive new spending programs such as pre-school and a state earned income tax credit (really a wage subsidy), sucking up funds needed to shore up pensions.  He, also, supported, and continues to support bonding of unnecessary projects.  If I want a green eyeshades guy, I would be better off with Dave Walker, who is untainted by Stamford and Malloy.

posted by: 1644 on December 10, 2017  7:24am

3/5’s. We cannot engage in programs like NYS’s because our pension fund is so underfunded.  We need to go for maximum return.  Politicized investments lead to lower returns.  For example, the state pension invested in Colt to help settle a strike and bribe Colt to give union workers jobs, screwing replacement workers.  From the union’s perspective, this was a good investment, but Colt wound up going bankrupt anyway, and the state pension fund lost its investment.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 10, 2017  6:15pm

3/5’s. We cannot engage in programs like NYS’s because our pension fund is so underfunded.

Thai is my point.Even Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Many other states are struggling with huge unfunded liabilities, sometimes because they skipped contributions during economic downturns.)So how is this the fault. of the public sector workers who paid there part into the fund and the state did not?

3/5s:  What relevance does blame have?

A whole lot.Case and point.You have real estate.If your tenants did not pay the rent you agreed upon.Who is at fault?

The reality is that pensions and OPEB are woefully underfunded.  Properly funding them at present benefit rates is crowding out other spending, and this effect is increases as time goes on. 

Again I go to the New York State Pension.System.The Fund’s assets were valued at $192.4 billion at the end of the fiscal year and continued to grow, reaching an estimated value of $201.3 billion as of September 30, 2017. In fact there are There are 10 States that follow the model of the New York Pension System >also there was A hearing in Hartford and The report said that Connecticut shaould look at how other states are funding there pension system.

For example, the state pension invested in Colt to help settle a strike and bribe Colt to give union workers jobs, screwing replacement workers.  From the union’s perspective, this was a good For example, the state pension invested in Colt to help settle a strike and bribe Colt to give union workers jobs, screwing replacement workers.  From the union’s perspective, this was a good investment, but Colt wound up going bankrupt anyway, and the state pension fund lost its investment., but Colt wound up going bankrupt anyway, and the state pension fund lost its investment.

This is one example.Bad investment. and this does happen.But there are other investment.Case and point.

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 10, 2017  6:32pm

Part Two

Look at New York In-State Private Equity Investment Program.This program invests in private equity funds that target technology-based startups and established businesses in the State seeking expansion capital. The program generates solid returns for the state pension fund and the one million members, retirees and beneficiaries who depend on it. As an added bonus, it spurs private sector investments and jobs—upstate and downstate—by investing in businesses that want to expand here. Since 2007, Comptroller DiNapoli has doubled the capital committed to this program.( Notice it spurs private sector investments and jobs—upstate and downstate—by investing in businesses that want to expand here)
  20 percent internal rate of return on fully exited investments.
  $293 million returned to the Fund on $179 million exited investments in 71 companies.
  More than $800 million has already been invested in over 300 New York State companies.
  $6.7 billion has been invested between the Fund and partner private equity firms, including $2.4 billion in upstate New York companies.

Company Profiles

  Rochester-based OyaGen Inc. Works to Find HIV and Viral Disease Cures
  Work Market Expands and Adds Jobs on Long Island


https://youtu.be/y8nCAwO21yo

Did you know also that New York,Public Sector workers can take Loans on there pesions at 6% and that goes back to the fund.

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/loans.php

Bottom line is this Tell the state when they come to the table with the union.Bring the true numbers and Good-faith bargaining.


My bad. To all.The Republicans will win this election

posted by: 1644 on December 11, 2017  4:29pm

3/5s:  Once again, your example prove the opposite of what you think.  On the topic of relevance of blame, you say,

“A whole lot.Case and point.You have real estate.If your tenants did not pay the rent you agreed upon.Who is at fault?”
Perhaps the tenant is not at fault.  Perhaps the tenant was laid off, or injured, and therefore became unable to pay the rent.  Does it matter to the landlord?  Not really, because the landlord still needs to pay his insurance, taxes, maintain the place, etc, and possibly pay on a loan.  Do you really think the city would care if a landlord said, I cannot pay my taxes because I didn’t get my rent?  Would the city waive taxes?  Would the mortgagee care if the landlord told it that he could not make his loan payments because his tenant did not pay his rent?

You are right on one thing:  the Republicans will win the next election.  SEBAC this, so the SEBAC agreement binds to state to large pay increases as soon as the Republicans are due in, and keep the present benefit scheme intact for 10 years.  After the, however, the state can remove collective bargaining rights completely, as they are purely statutory rights, and can also impose wage cuts so that the state can fund vested rights.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 11, 2017  7:07pm

posted by: 1644 on December 11, 2017 4:29pm

3/5s:  Once again, your example prove the opposite of what you think.  On the topic of relevance of blame, you say,A whole lot.Case and point.You have real estate.If your tenants did not pay the rent you agreed upon.Who is at fault?”

And How is that.The tenant is at fault for not paying the rent.The same with the state.they are not paying there part into the pension fund.You seem to be ducking the main question which is How come Connecticut can not do the same thing with it’s pension Fund that New York and Other states who do not have Sounded pension system.Can you answer that..Take a look at the top states.

How Well Funded Are Pension Plans in Your State?
April 5, 2017

https://files.taxfoundation.org/20170406115247/pensions-01.png


Bottom line is this Tell the state when they come to the table with the union.Bring the true numbers and Good-faith bargaining.