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Council Could Wait on Budget

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

May 26, 2009

Here's the mid-day word on the city budget - several city councilors said today that while they're scheduled to meet tonight to discuss the mayor's budget vetoes and formally adopt a budget, both may just wait a bit.

Saying that the city council may need more time to reach consensus, and that Mayor Eddie A. Perez may need more time to reach a deal with city unions, Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch said today that the council could take up some, but not all, budget-related matters tonight. The council has until May 31 to act.

"We might end up trying to agree on some of the items and then probably recess or postpone the items that we cannot come to an agreement on," Winch said.

Last week, the city council reduced Perez's proposed $547.6 million budget by roughly $19 million. On Friday, Perez fired back, vetoing several council amendments and cutting his proposed budget by roughly $6.1 million. Perez apparently spent some of the weekend speaking with the city council's members to explain his rationale and seek support.

Taxes will most certainly go up next year for city property owners. The question now is how much, and at what cost.

One of the cuts the council made last week was to reduce the city's salaries and benefits account by roughly $6.4 million - a move that, absent union concessions, would have led to layoffs. On Friday, Perez cut that number in half.

Richard Rodriguez, police union leader and spokesman for the Hartford Public Services Coalition, said that although the city reached out on Friday in an e-mail, progress is a long way away.

"Any deal or agreement that comes out of any talks would have to be ratified by the membership of the unions," Rodriguez said. "And we're not even close to putting ink on paper at this point."

Winch, a Democrat, said it's time for the unions to negotiate.

"The unions want it all and they want to give nothing," she said. "We cannot decrease our mill rate without them giving concessions."

Councilman Luis Cotto, of the Working Families Party, said he's trying to protect union jobs.

"Our hope is that they don't have to resort to [layoffs], that they could just sit down at the table like adults," Cotto said. "The union people see [the city's financial] issues and they're willing to sit down."

Cotto also said he met with Perez over the weekend, and he suspects others on the council did, too.

"There's no deal making because there's no deals to be made," Cotto said of his meeting with Perez. "He wants me to know his rationale and wants to know if I have any further questions."

"He knows the $3 million for education," which the council cut and Perez restored, "is going to fail. But he can't accept it on the first go-round."

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, a Democrat, said he thinks council action on the budget will likely be delayed until later in the week. Meanwhile, Kennedy, a Perez critic, said he sees politics.

"The council is going to have to make the grown-up decisions because the mayor clearly has left the grown-up table," Kennedy said.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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