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Last week the Appropriations Committee met with state agencies on the Governor’s budget adjustments. Friday was DSS Commissioner Mike Starkowski’s turn. Beyond the “lovefest” over the agency’s performance in meeting pre-set goals, there were several tense exchanges. Legislators expressed concern that the dept. has chosen not to implement several programs the legislature negotiated into last year’s budget but has chosen to fast-track some of the agency’s priorities. Rep. Gail Hamm expressed deep concern that the dept.’s Charter Oak Plan to cover the uninsured does not comply with mental health parity, which is required of private health plans under state law. She also asked if DSS had checked with the Attorney General to see if this is legal. The answer was no. Rep. Peter Tercyak asked under what authority DSS plans to sue advocates for poor people. He also wanted to know in which line item is the funding to hire outside counsel for that suit. Given that this was a budget hearing, might we expect a cut to that funding?

Posted by Ellen Andrews