Municipal leaders in small towns across the state are stunned by and struggling to understand the logic of Gov. Malloy’s proposed biennium budget. They are stunned because they are being penalized for managing their municipal spending in a fiscally conservative way. And they are struggling to understand how a state budget that is in desperate need of drastic cuts — a $1.7 billion deficit is projected in 2018 and $1.9 billion deficit is projected the next year in 2019 — is instead receiving a band-aid of nearly $200 million in new fees and taxes, while municipalities and local taxpayers are now expected to shoulder the state’s responsibilities.
This Governor is penalizing good governance and rewarding bad choices. His proposal aims to cut funding to smaller municipalities that work diligently to keep costs to a minimum and instead provides additional aid to larger cities that have mismanaged resources and spent money irresponsibly. His proposed budget shifts approximately $300 million from 130 towns — including East Haddam, East Hampton and Colchester — and then increases $300 million of aid to 30 large cities and towns.
To add insult to injury, the Governor also plans on borrowing another $250 million to renovate the XL Center in Hartford, ostensibly to lure a NHL Ice Hockey Franchise to the Capitol city. Some of you may remember I compared a previous biennium budget proposal with the recollection of my brother throwing snowballs at me during childhood. He would always throw one snowball straight up in the air, and then hammer me with another one right to the face while I was distracted looking up. That is exactly what this proposal to lure a professional ice hockey team is — a snowball in the air. It’s a distraction to keep folks from focusing on the larger and more important fiscal issues we face.
The Governor aims to make a total reduction of $1.3 billion — but municipalities will pay $400 million of that amount, and $700 million is slated to come from as of yet un-negotiated union concessions. His proposal also includes an array of miscellaneous fees and penalties that would raise $56 million more in FY2017-18 and $96 million in FY2018-19. These additional fees and penalties include gun permits, record filing, cremation services, urgent care center licensing, cigarette taxes and even boosting deposits on bottles and cans containing carbonated beverages–increasing the deposits from .05 to .10 cents. Costs for gun permits for legal and law-abiding citizens have increased almost 850% over the last five years! I believe these increases are an infringement on our constitutional right to bear arms and I intend to fight them.
In public education funding, severe cuts will impact the vocational technical system, special education services and school transportation. The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant, the state’s largest program for local school aid, would be revised to provide greater funding to urban communities and reduced funding to smaller ones. Incredibly, there is a $10 million increase in funding to Charter Schools.
Our seniors didn’t fare well either. Cuts to elderly tax relief, elimination of Dial-a-Ride services and a refusal to add more dollars to our already underfunded meals programs at senior centers will put those who cannot afford essentials in precarious circumstances.
There are many other changes to the budget and the best document I’ve seen is available from the Office of Fiscal Analysis website. On a previous post I shared the Appropriations Committee budget schedule and directions on how to submit testimony. I still hope you take the time to share your thoughts!
If all of this is not bad enough, the Governor’s proposal now makes municipalities responsible for approximately one third (roughly $400 million) of the cost of public school teachers’ pensions. This major policy change should not be dumped onto municipalities without a comprehensive plan. It is very likely this additional expense would lead to an increase in local property taxes. In addition, the Governor whacks the middle class by proposing to eliminate the $200 property tax credit which benefits more than one million homeowners in the state.
All of this is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth.
If you have immediate questions on how to testify or other inquiries, please send them to www.repziobron.com