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Trump Jabs at Intelligence Officials for 'Delayed' Brief


The president-elect took another swipe on Tuesday at the intelligence community that will be under his command in just a few weeks, once again in a tweet, NBC News reported. 

Last week Donald Trump had said he would meet with high-level intel briefers this week to hear more about Russian hacking of the U.S. election. 

Trump antagonized the intelligence community over the weekend, telling reporters gathered outside his New Year's Eve party that hacking is a "very hard thing to prove" and that he knows "things that other people don't know, and so [intelligence officials] cannot be sure of the situation." Trump promised to reveal what he proclaims to know Tuesday or Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!"

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Democrats to Fight Trump Supreme Court Nominee: Schumer


Suggesting that turnabout is fair play, the Senate's new top Democrat said Tuesday night "it's hard for me to imagine" Democratic senators' supporting a Supreme Court nomination submitted by President-elect Donald Trump.

In a measured but blunt interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York took on Trump over a number of issues, calling him a "fake" populist who was "dumb" to continue squabbling with the U.S. intelligence community.

But it was the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February that led to Schumer's strongest challenge to the president-elect. 

Senate Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's March 16 nomination of U.S. Appeals Judge Merrick Garland for more than nine months — more than twice as long as any other nomination to the court has gone without a vote. Garland's nomination expired Tuesday as the new 115th Congress was sworn in.

Photo Credit: AP

Teen Rushed to ER After Being Hit by Car in West Haven


A teenager was hit by a car in West Haven this morning and has been taken to the emergency room.

West Haven Police said officers and firefighters responded to Forest Road and David Streets at 6:35 a.m. and the teen was transported to a local emergency room for emergency treatment.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hitchhiking Falcon Road Trips on Car Windshield


A couple picked up an unusual hitchhiker during a New Year's Day road trip in the Southern California desert.

Marie Kubin was trying to snap a photo of a rainbow Monday during a drive from Julian to Borrego Springs in San Diego County. As they drove slowly on the side of the road to capture the colorful sight on the horizon, something else swooped into view -- a falcon landed on the car's windshield.

The bird remained perched on a wiper blade for about 20 minutes, having a look around at the desert landscape and his traveling companions. The couple waited on the side of the road with their new feathered friend, who eventually flew away.

Many on social media noticed the falcon had anklets, used with jesses to tether birds, around its legs. The loops suggest it might belong to a falconer and likely is used to being around humans.

The mystery was solved when the bird's owner, who identified the falcon as Pancho, stepped forward to say Pancho was just fine and back on his arm. 

Cisco Clibourne, the bird's owner who says they have an incredible bond, didn't think anything of Pancho's 20-minute disappearance -- until he got a call from his buddy.

"I’m on my way home and I get a text from a buddy of mine -- us falconers are really close," Clibourne said.

His friend asked if he lost his bird after seeing a video that showed a falcon who looked just like Pancho riding on a hood.

Clibourne said there was no way it was Pancho -- he was right there with him. Then he went online.

"I’m floored when I see the video," he said. "My mouth is wide open. I go, 'Oh my god, that is my bird.'"

Clibourne said when Pancho went missing for 20 minutes, he figured he was out having fun. He swung his lure, a line with a piece of meat to bring Pancho back, and back he came -- flying back 100 mph. 

He had no idea Pancho, a 9-year-old peregrine falcon he's had since the bird was a baby, was out hitchhiking across the highway. 

"I would have never in my wildest dreams thought this would have happened," he said.

Photo Credit: Marie Kubin

State Police Involved in Crash on Route 8 in Derby


A state trooper was involved in a crash on Route 8 in Derby and minor injuries are reported.

State police said the crash involving the state police cruiser is on the southbound side of Route 8, near exit 16, and the right lane might close.

Drivers are asked to reduce speed when approaching the area.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Virginia Woman Finds Anaconda in Apartment Toilet


This probably isn't something you thought you needed to be afraid of.

Think again?

A Virginia woman called Animal Control last week after she found a snake in a toilet in an Arlington County apartment. To repeat: She. Found. A. Snake. In. A. Toilet.

An animal control officer was able to safely remove the "lost and confused" snake and brought him to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the animal shelter said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

The snake is a juvenile yellow anaconda, the animal shelter said. Yellow anacondas can grow to be 13 feet long and to weigh more than 100 pounds.

Fortunately, animal control officers were able to find a specialist who will be able to care of the snake, animal shelter officials said.

"We highly encourage anyone thinking about having a snake as a pet to do extremely thorough research to determine whether they will be able to adequately care for their snake," they said. "...Plus, [no one] likes being surprised by a lost and confused snake in their toilet!"

True. So, so very true.

Information was not immediately available on whether the snake was believed to have been someone's pet.

Photo Credit: Animal Welfare League of Arlington
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LIRR Train Derails in Brooklyn, Roughly 20 Injuries Reported


A LIRR train derailed in Brooklyn on Wednesday, with initial reports suggesting 20 people were being treated for injuries.

The derailment happened at Atlantic Terminal. Pictures on social media showed the derailment took place on track 6, and that the train was tipped slightly at an angle.

The platform also appeared to be smoky.

As of 8:50 a.m. the MTA did not have any information on its website. 

"I don't know, all I remember is being on the floor," one visibly shaken woman who had been on the train told NBC 4 New York between tears. Several people complained of neck and back injuries, though overall most wounds appeared minor. 

Passengers described the train pulling into the station, followed by a crash and a loud boom, after which the train's doors opened.

This is developing. Check back for updates. 

Photo Credit: @sophieaka / Instagram
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Flu Cases on the Rise in Connecticut


While the holidays might be over, flu season is kicking into high gear in a big way. 

While you are supposed to get a flu shot in October, it doesn't mean it's too late to get one. 

"The flu season is just arriving here in Connecticut and it's a good time to get a flu shot if you haven't gotten one already," Dr. Virginia Bieluch, director of infectious disease at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, said. 

Dr. Bieluch said the flu vaccine is changed yearly to match the expected flu strains, although it does take a couple of weeks to take hold once you get your shot. 

"It should be an effective vaccine, as best we know," she adds. 

Dr. Bieluch has been seeing an increase in patients with the flu in the last few weeks. 

Statistics the state Department of Public Health released for the week ending Dec. 24 show that emergency room visits are above the threshold when such numbers are considered "elevated."

"Influenza is typically associated with high fevers, muscle aches, and feeling a lot worse than when you have a cold," she said. 

Dr. Bieluch said it really is a matter of holiday timing. Over two long weekends because of the holidays, many people might have delayed doctors’ appointments before trying to fit them in over the last few days. 

As for how to keep away from the flu germs and keep others from getting your flu: 


  • Wash or sanitize your hands 
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick. -- You are contagious several days after your first symptoms. 
  • Cough into your elbow.

Colony of Rats Found Roaming NY Thrift Store


A Long Island thrift store was condemned Tuesday after investigators say they found as many as 100 rats being raised in the business.

The owner of A Long Island Picker also faces animal cruelty charges following the probe, which was sparked by complaints of foul odors coming from the Ronkonkoma store.

Investigators looked into the unsavory smells and discovered dozens of domesticated rats roaming free inside the business. It’s believed that they were being raised to be sold or adopted as pets.

The condition of the rodents is unclear, but police confirmed the owner is facing animal cruelty charges.

Members of animal control were spotted removing the rats in boxes on Tuesday. 

Source of Boom That Rocked Southington Remains a Mystery


The cause of a loud boom that shook homes in parts of Southington, Wolcott and Cheshire remains a mystery.

Southington police said they received between 30 and 40 calls from people who reported a loud noise around 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Residents who called 911 reported a big explosion and many of the calls came from the southwest part of town and the police and fire departments responded to investigate the calls, but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Energy companies also checked in and reported nothing amiss.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Disney Recalls 15k Minnie, Mickey Mouse Sweatshirts


Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recalled about 15,000 infant sweatshirts emblazoned with Mickey and Minnie Mouse because of a choking hazard, the company announced Wednesday.

The garments are hooded sweatshirts with a three-snap closure, Disney said. 

Both of the sweatshirts have ears attached to the hood and artwork that shows the classic Disney characters.

They were sold at Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California and online through a Disney shopping app. 

Photo Credit: Consumer Product Safety Commission

Woman Behind Viral Michaels Tirade Stands Behind Her Reaction


Watch the full interview in the video clips below.

It has been nearly two months since video showing a woman’s tirade at a Chicago Michaels store went viral, but now the woman at the center of the footage that quickly took over the Internet, broke her silence. 

“This wasn’t about race, this was not about political views, this was about very poor customer service and being told to leave without warning,” Jennifer Boyle said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5 that aired Tuesday. 

In the weeks that have followed the video’s release, the 29-year-old Lakeview resident said she has been attacked on social media and called “racist” and “unhinged” for her comments. 

How did the situation escalate to the point we saw on video?

The video, seen more than 4.5 million times, shows Boyle yelling repeatedly at a black employee at a Lakeview store and telling one employee to “shut your face.”

Boyle says an employee discriminated against her and mumbled that she must have voted for Donald Trump, but the employee is heard in the video denying that assertion. 

“And I voted for Trump, so there,” she said in the footage. “What? You want to kick me out because of that? And look who won. Look who won.” 

Why not leave? Why not get out of the situation?

Now, at the start of 2017, Boyle said she regrets not leaving the store and ending the situation before her viral tirade. 

“Looking at it now, I think that would have been the right thing to do,” she said. “I really believe that it was fight or flight kicked in and I felt that I needed to defend myself.” 

If you had to do it over again, you would have handled it differently?

Boyle maintains that she was discriminated against, and confirmed that the incident started over a reusable bag. 

Witnesses have argued the employees “did nothing to provoke this verbal attack and in fact treated all customers with professionalism and courtesy.”

"I wish I would have just been above, cooler heads prevail, been above reproach and would have just left and called corporate like I did do on Friday," she said. 

A few days later another video surfaced, at Peet's coffee. Do you think you have an issue with dealing with your anger?

The Michaels video wasn’t the first footage of Boyle in a heated diatribe to be posted online. A similar video showed her in a verbal altercation at a Peet’s Coffee in the city’s Boystown neighborhood months earlier. 

“Oh my God you’re a floor manager and you call people a b----, you’re a b----,” she is seen shouting. “I was treated like crap, Bobby.” 

But Boyle claims this isn't a pattern.

"I do not believe that I have an issue dealing with my anger," she said. "I believe that again, taking the high road and walking away from situations in that matter. What people don’t know is what was said to me at Peet’s."

This wasn't the end of this. What's happened since then?

Boyle called the backlash from the video “very scary” and “very difficult.” Her home address, cell phone number and email address were all published online, leading to what she described as lewd calls, vulgar emails and death threats. 

“There’s not one bone in my body that’s racist or homophobic,” she said. “And that’s the bottom line.” 

Are you sorry about anything you said in the videos?

But still, Boyle refuses to apologize for what happened that November day and stands by what she said. 

“I believe that I stood up for myself,” she said. “Again, everybody is a work in progress. We’re all human and I really believe that being above reproach is the way to be from now on.” 

What was your reaction to the Michael's employee receiving more than $30K via a GoFundMe page? 

Soon after the video was posted, a GoFundMe campaign aimed at helping the employee who became the target of Boyle’s tirade raised more than $32,000, well above its goal of $400. 

In a letter to those that donated to the campaign, the store manager identified only as Holli wrote "you have all single handedly changed my life."

"I've tried to be kind, I've tried to be fair, I've tried to share regardless if I was able to," the letter read. "I want others to smile when I smile back at them. Knowing deeply we all have a higher purpose."

Michaels said in a statement it does not “tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind against our team members or customers.” 

“We regret that our customers and team members were affected by this unfortunate incident and are grateful for the leadership of our store team in working to resolve it without further escalation,” the statement read. 

The company also tweeted later, “We appreciate the outpouring of support for our Chicago-based team member.”

Will there be another Jennifer Boyle video?

"No. Other than what men have posted about me on YouTube and the disgusting, derogatory, crude videos that people have created about me, no there won't be."

Photo Credit: Jessica Grady/NBC Chicago

Light Snow Friday Morning


A storm passing southeast of the region will be close enough to deliver a small amount of snow Friday morning.

Until then, it will be mostly cloudy and breezy. Cooler weather arrives Thursday, when temperatures won't climb above freezing in most spots.

Friday morning, temperatures will be in the teens and twenties – plenty cold for snow.

Some towns could pick up an inch of snow. The rest of Friday will be dry and temperatures will remain below freezing.

This weekend looks quite nice for skiing. It will be cold, with highs in the upper 20s, but high pressure will sponsor a blend of clouds and sunshine.

Another warm-up is in the cards by the middle part of next week, when highs could touch 40 degrees.

Along with the renewed warmth comes the chance for rain on Wednesday and Thursday.

Manchester High Dismisses Early After Security Guard's Death


The Manchester High School community is mourning the loss of a beloved security guard who died of an apparent heart attack this morning and students have been dismissed early.

Principal Jill Krieger said in a message to the school staff that the school community lost a special man, Barry "Mitch" Mitchell. 

"I recognize this is a huge loss to all of us," Krieger wrote. "Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."

School officials said Mitchell was a longtime and beloved security guard who was also a steady presence at dances, sporting events and other school activities. 

A Facebook account listed as being that of Olympian Michael Hartfield, of Manchester, says the athlete was shaken by the news.

The post says Hartfield met with Mitchell in November and shared his experiences of being in the Olympics in Rio and meeting President Barack Obama.

The Manchester Schools Twitter account says Mitchell died of an apparent heart attack and after-school activities have been canceled.

Photo Credit: Manchester Public Schools and NBCConnecticut.com
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Toshiba Recalls Additional 83K Laptop Battery Packs


Electronic company Toshiba America announced the recall of an additional 83,000 laptop battery packs as part of an expanded recall that began in March. 

Toshiba previously recalled 91,000 of the Panasonic lithium-ion battery packs, which are installed in 41 models of Toshiba Satellite laptops. 

Toshiba received five reports of the battery packs overheating and melting, but no one has been injured by devices. 

Users can go to the Toshiba website to check if their laptop is affected by the recall. 

If a laptop is included in the recall, Toshiba recommends users power off their computer and remove the battery pack immediately. 

Photo Credit: AP

State Senators Robert Kane and Eric Coleman Resign


Two state senators have resigned the positions they were elected to.

Robert Kane and Eric Coleman submitted letters of resignation today to the Secretary of the state and the resignations are effective immediately.

Coleman, a Democrat from Hartford who has served the second district, is expected to be nominated for a judgeship.

Kane, a Republican from Watertown who has served the 32nd district, is expected to be nominated for Republican auditor.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bloomfield Seeing an Economic Boom


State legislators returned to the capitol Wednesday morning to begin another session. They plan to address a $1.3 billion deficit at the state level and might be called on to help several cities facing budget shortfalls, including Hartford.

But not every town is facing large deficits.

Bloomfield, which borders Hartford, is booming.

The town has seen record growth in building permit fees. Over the last fiscal year, July 2015-June 2016, the town projected it would take in about $800,000 in permit fees. Instead, it collected a whopping $2.5 million.

This fiscal year, town leaders again projected about $800,000 in building permit fees and it has already surpassed that by $100,000 in the first six months.

A big contributor this year is an apartment building, with 215 luxury units, under construction behind Bloomfield Town Hall.

“When I started they had one building official. Now they have three. Two of them are working 10 hours a piece overtime every week,” said Jose Giner, the director of planning and economic development for Bloomfield.

Giner credits the town’s success to his predecessor and the town council, for laying the groundwork for zoning and economic development.

He said what sets Bloomfield apart is that town leaders recognize there is a lot of competition to attract business, not just between municipalities in Connecticut, but between states.

Giner said that when town leaders see a good opportunity, they go for it.

“Do an analysis. If you think it’s good, then find a way to get it done. A lot of times you have boards and commissions in other towns that obstruct a lot of things,” Giner said.

The next project town council members will be contemplating is a Trader Joe’s warehouse, near the Amazon Fulfillment Center off Day Hill Road. On Wednesday night, a subcommittee plans to discuss a tax abatement package of 50-percent for four years.

If approved, it would go to the town council for a vote on January 9.

Many residents of Bloomfield are supportive of all the growth.

“As long as they do it the right way, yea it’s a good thing for the people, jobs, the town. Anything to bring more people into the area,” Paige Pichette said.

“I think bringing in business is good for the town. We have schools to support,” Jerry Guerrero, Jr. said.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Read Gov. Malloy’s Full 2017 State of the State Address


Following is Gov. Dannel Malloy's full 2017 state of the state address, as it was prepared:

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Lt. Governor Wyman, and my fellow state officials, ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, honored members of the judiciary, members of the clergy, and all the citizens of our great state: thank you for the honor of inviting me once again into the people's House.

Let me offer my sincere congratulations to those of you taking on new and important leadership roles, as well as those who have been reelected into leadership positions. I also want to congratulate the new members sworn in earlier today. I look forward to working with all of you.

Let me note, since we were here last together, we have lost some dear friends, including Mary Fritz and Betty Boukus, both of whom served in this house. Our hearts are heavy as we continue to mourn their passing.

As always, let us thank Connecticut's brave men and women serving our nation around the globe.

Thank you, as well, to my dear friend and the best Lt. Governor in the country, Nancy Wyman.

And finally thank you to my wife Cathy and our three sons for their love and support.

This past September, the Connecticut General Assembly met in a special session. You met to take historic action in support of our state’s economy and our incredible workforce.

The legislation you voted to support – and that I signed into law – protected 8,000 jobs at Sikorsky Aircraft. Equally importantly, it shored up thousands more jobs up and down Sikorsky’s supply chain, and across every corner of our great state. It nearly doubled their spending with local suppliers to almost $700 million per year over the next decade and beyond.

Thank you for that work.

In recent years we’ve secured similar investments from United Technologies and Electric Boat. Taken together, these agreements cement our leadership in advanced manufacturing around the globe.

A decade ago, if any of us had told our constituents that in 2017 not only would Electric Boat would be ramping-up their production rather than winding it down, not only would Pratt and Whitney be planning to put thousands more people to work, but that Sikorsky would be committed to Connecticut for another generation to come… well, they wouldn’t have believed us. They would have told us that we were overly optimistic at best, and naive at worst.

And yet, here we are today. Working together, we have turned what many once considered impossible, into a reality.

Together we’ve protected Connecticut’s aerospace and defense industries for a generation and likely beyond. More importantly, we’ve given these employers, and the tens of thousands of employees who work for them, something that is vital in today’s world:

We’ve given them predictability.

We know that predictability creates confidence. And we know that confidence creates growth.

When we give people reason to believe that their job is here to stay, we’re giving them the confidence to purchase a home, to buy a new family car, or to start a college fund. In other words, we’re giving them confidence to take part in our state economy.

And it’s equally true for their employers. Predictability allows businesses to expand, to make new hires, to put down new roots right here in Connecticut. This is what companies and their workers are looking for. They deserve it, and it’s on us to provide it.

That’s what I want to talk to you about today – about what we’ve done in recent years to make our budget more predictable, and our economy more sustainable. And about how we can continue that important work this legislative session.

I’m going to discuss three key areas that I believe we should focus on this year in order to balance our current budget, and also continue our progress towards long-term prosperity.

The good news is that, for each of these three areas, positive change has already begun.

To start, we need to continue making state government leaner and more cost-effective.

The responsible way to do that is by setting priorities, and allocating our resources where they are needed most. Because the truth is, we simply can’t afford to continue doing everything we’ve done in the past.

In recent years, commissioners and state employees have been hard at work finding creative ways to continue providing essential services while also saving money. These cuts were not painless. Important work had to be phased out so that other vital services could continue. But the results are plain to see.

Last year we cut nearly $850 million to bring our current fiscal year in balance. In so doing, we spent less in the General Fund than we had in the previous year for the first time since 2002.

We’ve reduced the number of state agencies by 28 percent since 2011 — shrinking from 81 agencies down to 58.

During that same time period, we reduced the size of our executive branch workforce by nine and a half percent. We now employ 5,000 fewer full-time employees than we did in 2008.

And don’t let anyone tell you that these reductions are only in front-line employees. We’ve reduced the number of state management positions by 28 percent.

While we had to go through the unfortunate, but necessary, process of layoffs last year, the vast majority of these reductions have come through attrition.

We’re also spending less on overtime. With your strong partnership and encouragement, overtime costs dropped 14.5 percent last year, saving the state $37 million.

All told, excluding higher education, the executive branch workforce is at the smallest it has been since Ronald Reagan was president.

And now, in this biennium, we need to continue that work, ensuring we reduce spending responsibly and with great care.

Commissioners will need to once again work with their staff – and with you, our legislative partners – to find additional savings. Like families across Connecticut, just because we responsibly managed our budget in recent years doesn’t mean we can take this year off. We must continue to live within our means, spending only as much revenue as we have, and no more.

In September, my administration asked agencies to begin thinking about what additional cuts would mean. Having further explored these options, many of their recommendations will be included in the budget I present to you next month.

Cuts in specific areas, or outright eliminations, should not be taken to mean that certain work is not valued. It simply means that we can no longer afford to do it all, and that our spending must be focused on the very core, essential services for our residents.

And to be clear, saving money isn’t just about cutting line-items, or reducing headcount. Agencies will continue to modernize systems, reduce waste, and increase productivity in order to cut costs as much as possible before impacting services, or the valuable employees who provide them.

Together, we can continue to make state government more efficient, more sustainable, and more reflective of our economic reality.

The second area I’d like to talk about are the obligations we have to Connecticut’s state workers, educators, and retirees.

Connecticut’s state pension systems were created 80 years ago, but not a single dime was deposited into the account during the first 30 years of its existence. It was a pay-as-you-go system.

Over many decades, legacy costs, insufficient contributions, lower-than-assumed returns, and early retirement packages left us with a significant unfunded liability in the state’s employee and teacher retirement systems.

The stark reality is that, after 80 years, the state has set aside only one-third of the money necessary to responsibly fund its obligations.

Let me put it in context. Of the $1.65 billion that we will pay next year into the state retirement systems, 78 percent of that – or nearly $1.3 billion – is what we’re paying to make-up for what past administrations and past legislatures failed to do.

Simply put, our generation is paying for Connecticut’s past mistakes.

Is it frustrating to do that? Of course. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

It's also the right thing to do. Our state retirees dedicated their lives and careers to public service. We need to pay them the pensions they were promised.

Let’s also acknowledge and thank today’s state workers for their efforts in support of Connecticut residents and businesses. In 2011, we worked at the bargaining table to help put Connecticut on a more sustainable fiscal path. Together we changed benefits, reduced longevity pay-outs, restructured state pensions, raised the retirement age, and required all employees to pay for a portion of their post-employment benefits.

We saved the state $1.6 billion on our unfunded liability in the immediate two years following that agreement – and a total of $21.5 billion over the following 20 years. Had we not realized that level of savings, our current $1.5 billion projected deficit would be much, much worse.

Since making this agreement in 2011, the state has honored its commitment to fully fund the pension obligations each and every year – finally doing together what should have been done for the prior 80 years.

Building upon these years of work, my administration recently came to a crucial agreement with our state employees and our retirement commission, an agreement which will make our pension payments more affordable, and yes, more predictable.

Independent analysts are taking note. Moody’s Investors Services, a national credit rating agency, deemed this to be ‘a credit positive’ step for our state. And the plan’s actuaries say these changes will ‘enhance the stability’ of our pension system.

I urge you to support these important reforms.

Today, despite all this hard work and real progress, it’s clear we have more work to do to make our short and long-term labor obligations more affordable.

Fixed costs continue to increase every year, hampering our ability to maintain vital public services. Pension obligations for both state employees and teachers are on track to cost the state an additional $360 million in the next fiscal year compared to this current year. Clearly, the fiscal challenges we face during the next biennium are very real.

In the weeks ahead, my administration will continue working with labor leaders to find solutions for bringing employee costs in line with our economic reality. These talks have been frank and direct so far, and I’m appreciative that state workers are taking part in them.

It’s very hard, but we must reach an agreement on how to make our pensions and benefits more affordable, as we face these fiscal challenges together. We must recognize that a responsible and balanced solution to our budget problem is one that includes state employee concessions.

These changes can and should be reached respectfully, and at the bargaining table. Our state must honor its legal obligation to our public servants and state retirees, while at the same time keeping our promises to Connecticut taxpayers.

Here's another promise: We will not remake the poor decisions of the past. We will not saddle future generations with fiscal cliffs and unpayable fixed costs. Responsible changes must be made — and they must be made this year.

As our past record demonstrates, when we come together, hold realistic expectations, and seek common ground, we can deliver results.

The third and final area I’d like to focus on with you today is how we go about distributing aid to our towns and cities – primarily how we fund public education.

The state provides a total of $5.1 billion in municipal assistance. That’s more than one fifth of our overall budget this year, making it our biggest single expense – not state employee pensions, not Medicaid, not debt service, not salary and benefits of our employees; town aid accounts for the largest portion of our state budget.

It simply would not be fair for us to talk about continued state agency reductions, or talk about the need for labor concessions, without talking about new ways to provide town aid.

Of the $5.1 billion distributed to municipalities, 81 percent of that – or $4.1 billion – is educational funding. That doesn't include school construction financing, which accounts for approximately one quarter of Connecticut’s bonded debt.

Now that I’ve put what we spend into context, let me say this – of course Connecticut should be spending lots of money on local education. We all believe that investments in education are a down payment on our state’s future. Our budget must reflect those values.

The question is, in a time of scarce state resources, are we spending this money in the best way possible? Are we ensuring that all students, regardless of the life circumstances into which they are born, regardless of what town or city they live in – can receive a quality public education?

I don’t believe we are meeting that standard. And I will point out that a recent court decision says that, as well.

It’s why I have long-advocated that we direct our support to those municipalities that are struggling the most — so that we can level the playing field for our students and our taxpayers.

While we have made progress on this front in recent years I still believe we have not gone far enough. Connecticut needs a new way to calculate educational aid – one that guarantees equal access to a quality education regardless of zip code.

Our state constitution guarantees it, and our moral compass demands it.

We need a formula that appropriately measures a given community’s burden. A formula that recognizes specific challenges faced by local property taxpayers. And a formula that takes into account the impact those challenges have on the education provided to our children.

The budget that I will present to you next month will outline a more equitable system for providing town aid. It will be based on the local property tax burden, student need, and current enrollment.

The system will be designed to be more fair, transparent, accountable, and adaptable – meaning that it will provide flexibility to fit the needs of a given community.

The result will be a fairer distribution of our state’s limited funds.

And if we are successful in this effort, there will be an important ancillary benefit – we can help ensure that no Connecticut city or town will need to explore the avoidable path of bankruptcy.

To be clear, that kind of help shouldn’t come without strings attached. If the state is going to play a more active role in helping less-affluent communities – in helping higher-taxed communities – part of that role will be holding local political leadership and stakeholders to substantially higher standards and greater accountability than they’ve been held to in the past. We should do it so that increased aid doesn't simply mean more spending on local government.

Those are the steps I believe we need to take on town aid funding. The budget I propose next month will lay out a detailed path for getting there.

Now, based on prior experience, I can assume that the proposal I put before you will not be exactly what arrives on my desk a few months later. I understand that. That's how it works. And I’m ready to partner with you.

But understand this – we need real change. Change that leads to a better, more equitable system for town aid. For the sake of our collective future, there is no reason to wait.

So let’s get to work.

I began today by talking about our recent historic partnership with Sikorsky. But of course, it’s not just about the aerospace industry.

Regardless of region, employment, or income, people in every industry and at every income level are counting on us to get it right.

A family in Farmington where both parents work in the insurance industry deserves the reassurance of a more stable business climate – one that keeps their jobs here in Connecticut.

A math teacher in Norwalk should have the peace of mind that her pension and benefits will be intact when she retires after decades of hard work.

A New London High School graduate, following in his father’s footsteps building submarines here in Connecticut, is owed a stable job with livable wages – enough to buy a home and raise a family.

If you don’t think we can do it for these people, and for all people in our state, if you don’t think we can help our constituents and make their lives and their careers more positive and more predictable, I ask that you look no further than the progress we've made in recent years to see exactly what is possible when Connecticut works together.

Years of good economic development are helping to grow jobs. In fact, since the end of the Great Recession, we have recovered 85,000 jobs.

Through the Small Business Express program, more than 1,600 companies have retained 18,000 good jobs and are now creating even more.

The Manufacturing Assistance Act has helped 150 companies since 2011, retaining 34,500 jobs and growing 8,500 more jobs.

All told, unemployment is now at 4.7 percent – its lowest level since 2007.

In 2012, we worked across party lines and passed comprehensive education reforms. Today, thanks to great teachers and principals, our students are some of the best readers in the country.

And after years of decline, our graduation rates have risen for five years in a row and are now at their highest point in Connecticut’s history.

We’ve made monumental advancements for our most vulnerable children in Connecticut, as well.

Many people have doubted that we would finally be in a position to resolve the 25-year-old Juan F. case, which has kept DCF under federal oversight. For too long, this has been an embarrassment for our state, and an unacceptable situation for our children.

But today, the end of that federal oversight is within reach. We are finally ready for Connecticut state government to reclaim its responsibility for Connecticut kids. Please join me in support of this progress.

We are also improving our transportation system as we speak, thanks to the investments we've made together. The on-time and on-budget completion of the Q Bridge project means that, on a daily basis, 140,000 motorists are getting to where they need to go with greater ease.

And with CTfastrak, more people are riding Connecticut transit buses to work. Exceeding all initial projections, average ridership on CTfastrak is as high as 19,000 people per weekday.

And finally on the criminal justice front, Connecticut is leading the nation, and is now safer than it has been in fifty years.

Our prison population has dropped significantly, and high-risk, violent offenders are serving more of their sentence than ever before. Recidivism has declined substantially. This progress has allowed us to save taxpayers $70 million in the current fiscal year.

All of this work – all of it – is making Connecticut a better, more desirable place to work and live.

I need to do one other thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to stress the importance of predictability and stability in the wake of November’s presidential election.

I have no desire to rehash or re-analyze the results – we all get plenty of that from cable news. But I do want to offer two brief thoughts on what we can learn from November, and how it might impact our work here at home this session.

First, it is now more clear than ever that too many Americans feel disconnected from their government. They feel the system isn’t working for them – that they aren’t able to take part in the American Dream.

While we might disagree on the role of government in that effort, on whether it should be more active or less, I offer to you that a greater degree of predictability in government – in all government, at all levels – will help reengage and reinvigorate our democracy.

Second, regardless of your party or who you voted for, most of us can agree that this presidential transition has been nothing if not unpredictable. It has left some people and some communities feeling anxious and uncertain.

But let me remind you of this – our state has a long legacy of acceptance, compassion, and fairness. Regardless of whether your family settled in Connecticut 300 years ago or three days ago, you are welcome here.

As the people of Connecticut navigate a changing national landscape, we will continue to ensure that every state resident is treated with dignity and respect.

That will not change. Not now. Not ever.

This year, here in Connecticut, we must focus on these historic strengths as we also work to make our budget and our economy more vibrant. We must continue our progress together.

I’m asking for your partnership. I’m asking that we approach this session and this budget in a spirit of authentic, bipartisan collaboration.

Next month, I am going to come back to you with more details on the topics I laid out today: about how government should continue to become smaller and more effective; about how we can continue working with our partners in labor to create a sustainable benefit system that we can afford not just now, but into the years ahead; and about why we should find a fairer way to fund public education, so that we can ensure dollars are going to where they are needed most.

All of it will be geared toward building a more predictable budget and a more sustainable Connecticut economy.

We are in this together, and together we shall prevail.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the great State of Connecticut.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Impaired Driver With Child Onboard Flipped Car, Crashed into Vehicles: Police


A woman was driving under the influence with a 3-year-old child in the car when she flipped her vehicle over in a New London shopping plaza, where it caught fire and crashed into five other vehicles, according to police.

Police responded to New London Shopping Center, at 322 South Frontage Road, at 6:49 p.m. Tuesday after receiving several reports of a car rollover and possible fire.

Police said 23-year-old Giana Velez, of New London, had another woman and a 3-year-old child in the car. Investigators determined that she had been going north on Interstate 95, got off at exit 82A and onto South Frontage Road, where she lost control of the car while traveling at a fast speed and flipped it several times in the parking lot. 

The car caught fire, witnesses said, and hit five other cars that were parked and unoccupied. All five vehicles were disabled because of the crash.

No one was injured and police said Velez is not the 3-year-old's mother but she is a relative.

Velez was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and, or drugs, child endangerment while driving under the influence, reckless driving and operating under suspension.

She was released after posting bond.

Police ask anyone with information to call the New London Police Department at 860-447-5269 submit anonymous information through the New London Tips 411 system.

Photo Credit: New London Police

Westport Man Accused of Sexting Minor Had Child Porn: Police


The Westport man accused of sexting with a child from Colorado has been arrested and charged with child pornography, as well as enticing a minor and other charges. 

Police said they were alerted to an inappropriate sexting relationship between 47-year-old Paul Jude Letersky, of Westport, and a Colorado child and searched his Riverside Avenue home around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, where they found more than 50 digital images of child pornography. 

Officers arrested Letersky at the scene on a first-degree child pornography charge and served a warrant charging him with enticing a minor and risk of injury connected to the original complaint. 

He is being held on $500,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Stamford Court on Jan. 13. It’s not clear from the online docket if he has an attorney. 

The Westport Police Detective Youth Division and the Southwest Connecticut Technical Investigation Unit, which includes officers from Weston, New Canaan, Norwalk, Greenwich and Connecticut State Police are investigating. 

Photo Credit: Westport Police
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