The Hartford City Council Condemns a Congressional Budget Proposal
Alms for the rich.
By Jon Campbell
March 08, 2011
The Hartford City Council passed a resolution Feb. 28 condemning a congressional spending bill that will mean deep cuts in federal funding. In an 8-1 vote, the council called on Congress to oppose HR 1, the temporary funding measure that would cut deeply into federal spending of all kinds, including programs for the poor, which officials call essential for the city's residents. Congress approved the measure the president signed it into law last week.
Hartford's resolution carries no weight of law, but authorizes Mayor Pedro Segarra to work with Connecticut's congressional delegation to oppose the steep cuts contained in the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, which funds the government only for the next two weeks. All five of Connecticut's congressional representatives voted against the bill, which contained steep cuts to federal programs. Among the reductions was a $2.5 billion cut to the Community Development Block Grant program, a loss of about 60 percent. The temporary measure funds the government through mid-March, but Congress is negotiating a longer-term spending bill that also will likely contain cuts to those same programs, endangering what local officials say are essential services for the most vulnerable.
Councilman Ken Kennedy spoke about the symbolic nature of the council's proposal, which called on Connecticut's Democratic legislators to vote against a bill that all of them already opposed.
I find myself very supportive of this resolution, even though it goes against my own policy of not passing resolutions like this because they have no binding effect, said Kennedy. He said the issues at hand here were too important to stay silent.
The only member of the city council to vote against the resolution, newly appointed Republican councilman Corey Brinson, said he did so to send a message about what he called excessive government spending, and a tax rate that he said impairs job growth. Brinson spoke in broad terms about the role of government in public life.
I'm going to be voting no' on this because I think the house Republican caucus is moving the country in the right direction. By cutting spending therefore we can lower taxes, therefore we can create jobs. While there may be disdain for the wealthy in this country, the reason why America is the success story that it is, and has grown the largest fortune that all of us benefit from, is because we have wealthy people in this country, Brinson said.
Councilman Luis Cotto of the Working Families party said the priorities of the federal government, and where it chooses to direct its funding, was the main reason for his support of the council resolution.
We're dealing with a big pot of money, of which over 50 percent at the federal level is spent on defense. And the house Republicans have turned a blind eye to this fact, and they've chosen to attack moderate-income and low-income people, who tend to be people of color, Cotto said. The spending bill passed by Congress contained an increase in military spending and reductions in discretionary spending, mostly related to social services.
Hartford wouldn't be the first city to pass a local resolution as a way to register displeasure with actions taken at the federal level. In 2005, a long list of Vermont towns passed resolutions calling for the end of the Iraq war. It didn't work. A number of cities also passed resolutions condemning Arizona's SB 1070, a controversial 2010 state law that, among other things, called on local police departments to verify citizenship of the people they encountered. Dozens of cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Boston, filed resolutions saying the law was poorly conceived and could lead to racial profiling.