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Second NH man pleads guilty in scheme to threaten journalists, vandalize their homes

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A second man has pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with threats and vandalism targeting public radio journalists in New Hampshire.

NEW HAMPSHIRE CORRECTIONS OFFICER FACES MURDER CHARGE AFTER INMATE DIES IN PSYCH WARD

Prosecutors allege that four men were involved in a plot to vandalize the homes of New Hampshire Public Radio news director Daniel Barrick, reporter Lauren Chooljian and Chooljian’s parents in retaliation for a report detailing sexual misconduct allegations against a prominent businessman.

A second New Hampshire man has pleaded guilty in a targeted vandalism spree against local public radio journalists. (Fox News)

Michael Waselchuck, 36, of Seabrook, was accused of throwing a brick through a window at Chooljian’s home in May 2022 and spray-painting the words “JUST THE BEGINNING!” on the front of the house.

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He pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and the use of a facility of interstate commerce, prosecutors said. He faces up to five years in prison on each charge when he is sentenced May 10.

One of the other defendants, Tucker Cockerline, pleaded guilty in December.

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Connecticut

Connecticut Sinks Deeper into Debt, Hidden Behind Budget Surpluses

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Connecticut Sinks Deeper into Debt, Hidden Behind Budget Surpluses


The U.S. and the State of Connecticut are sinking deeper into debt. The skyrocketing national debt receives widespread media attention, Connecticut’s almost none. Uncle Sam’s growing debt is highlighted and explained by huge budget deficits, while Connecticut’s increasing liabilities are hidden behind budget surpluses.

Yet, there’s another reason that growing debt in the Nutmeg State is largely ignored. The increase is caused mainly by overgenerous and underfunded state employee compensation. No one, certainly not union-friendly Democrats, wants to offend public sector unions by exposing this reality.

Actually, Democrats have employed active disinformation and willful indifference to misinform and uninform the public about the last two state labor contracts.

In 2022, Governor Lamont inked the SEBAC 2022 agreement, a four-year deal with three years of 4.5% annual pay boosts (combining wages and “annual increments”). Lamont is now negotiating the fourth year, which was left “open.” The three-year increase accumulates to a robust 14% compound increase. That doesn’t count $3,500 in pensionable bonus payments nor the separate pandemic pay averaging $1,000 per employee in 2023.

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When legislators approved SEBAC 2022, the Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the future cost of the agreement, excluding the impact upon the state employee pension fund. OFA stated “The SERS impact will not be recognized until FY 24.” There has been no official follow-up analysis of SEBAC 2022, even to assess its impact upon SERS.

Contrast this with the treatment of the SEBAC 2017 labor agreement negotiated by former governor Dannel Malloy. Malloy claimed that SEBAC 2017 would save the state $24 billion over 20 years. He and Democrat legislators passed a law requiring the State Comptroller to track the alleged savings on an annual basis over a decade. Every year, the State Comptroller prepares the “SEBAC 2017 Savings Report,”

Almost half ($9.7 billion) of the “savings” were fictional wage concessions that state employees never made.

The fantasy relies upon the preposterous notion that state employees are entitled to raises every year, as if annual raises are the equivalent of a birthright. If employees do not get a raise, the raise they don’t get is called a “saving.”  

So, who established the “raise they didn’t get” in 2017? Malloy did. In his budget proposal, he proposed hundreds of millions of raises. Then, he negotiated a better bargain for a few years and called the difference “savings.”

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How do we know this? From the documentation that Malloy’s Office of Policy and  Management published in support of his claimed savings. Under a header of “Wage Estimates were developed by OPM” (not an independent source), it states “Elimination of potential FY 2017, 2018, and 2019 increases: Removes all of the proposed RSA increase in the Governor’s recommended budget…”  [Emphasis added.]

The raises that workers “didn’t get” were figments of Dan Malloy’s imagination – they were “potential,” “proposed” and “recommended.” There was no existing wage contract under which unionized state workers were legally entitled to raises that they gave up in negotiations with Malloy.

Malloy claimed these wage savings in the fiscal 2018-2019 budget – and over the next 18 years. That is how the fantasy number balloons to $9.7 billion. Why not $48.5 billion over the next century?

Malloy’s claim was ludicrous in the first place, but this exercise in make-believe has become embarrassing even to the State Comptroller who wrote in the recent Report “In general, savings estimates of prior policy changes become more tenuous the more time passes…”

Wait, it gets worse. While employees agreed to three years of wage freezes, then they received two healthy 3.5% wage increases. In addition, most still received five years of “annual increments” (aka “step increases”) that average 2% per employee, and Malloy paid a $2,000 bonus to those who did not receive “increments” and $1,000 to those who did. Factoring in “increments” (but not bonuses), employees enjoyed three years of 2% annual increases and two of 5.5%. That accumulates to a compound 13.7% increase over the five-year period. Not bad.

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The entire exercise involved sleight of hand where Malloy backloaded wage increases, so he could create the illusion of “savings” at the front end.

While SEBAC 2017 has been distorted by this elaborate exercise in disinformation, Lamont’s SEBAC 2022 deal has simply been ignored.

Except that the Nutmeg Research Institute chose not to ignore SEBAC 2022 and commissioned a study of it by The Townsend Group, which I head. We found that SEBAC 2022 increased the unfunded liability of the SERS pension fund by a whopping $4.5 billion, or 11%, and that it has increased state labor costs to a current annual running rate of $8.5 billion, a level $836 million, or 11%, higher than costs in fiscal 2021 immediately before SEBAC 2022 took effect.

It is time for Lamont to impose a back-loaded wage and increment freeze in the fourth “open” year of SEBAC 2022. Otherwise, the Nutmeg State will fall even deeper in debt.

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Maine

Maine educators ask lawmakers to fund bills that would raise their pay

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Maine educators ask lawmakers to fund bills that would raise their pay


AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine educators are asking lawmakers for higher pay.

They say low pay has led to staffing shortages across the state.

Members of the Maine Education Association gathered inside the State House to push lawmakers to fund two bills they think would address the problem.

The MEA says there’s over 7,000 certified teachers in Maine who are choosing not to teach, and districts can’t hire for crucial support staff positions like ed techs, bus drivers and custodians.

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LD 974 would increase wages for school support staff, while LD 1064, which passed the house and senate last session, would increase the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 a year.

”Don’t get me wrong. As teachers, we have one of the coolest and most fun dogs in the world,” RSU 68 teacher Kendrah Willey said.

“We love our kids, but we also deserve to make a livable wage and fairly compensated for our time, just like any other hard working Mainer,” Willey said.

Lawmakers say LD 974 would cost roughly $14,000,000, while numbers on LD 1064 are still being ironed out.

There is optimism legislators will fund both bills as there seems to be enough bi-partisan support.

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Massachusetts

Coast Guard medevacs man far off Nantucket, fishing crewmember transported to Massachusetts General Hospital

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Coast Guard medevacs man far off Nantucket, fishing crewmember transported to Massachusetts General Hospital


A fishing crewmember was injured off of Nantucket on Thursday, according to the Coast Guard, which conducted a medevac and helped get him to Massachusetts General Hospital.

A 50-year-old crewmember on the fishing vessel Rachel Leah reportedly sustained facial injuries about 150 nautical miles off of Nantucket.

“It was reported that the 50-year-old crewmember sustained a large laceration on his face after a tight line was released and struck him,” the First Coast Guard District for the Northeast posted. “First aid was reported to be administered.”

A USCG Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew responded to the scene. Also, a HC-144 Ocean Sentry was launched due to the distance offshore.

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“The patient was transported to the Mass. General Hospital Trauma Center in stable condition,” the First Coast Guard District posted.





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