Malloy Wants To Avoid School Cuts; Budget Answers Coming Feb. 16
January 07, 2011
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has repeatedly called for the shared sacrifice of everyone in the state to help pull Connecticut out of its projected $3.5 billion budget deficit.
But in his first full day in office, Malloy said Thursday that he hopes that cities and towns can avoid any cuts in education cost-sharing funds from the state.
"It is my desire to do that — to hold communities harmless,'' Malloy told reporters in his Capitol office. "That's a goal that I have in preparing a budget to send to the legislature. ... There are many goals I have. We're going to try to accommodate all of them. That's a very important one.''
The state sends more than $2.5 billion annually to cities and towns, and the biggest single grant is the education cost-sharing money allocated to all 169 municipalities.
"It is a big nut. It's a high priority,'' Malloy said.
But Malloy did not rule out other potential cuts in different categories of state funds for cities and towns. While education cost-sharing takes the lion's share of the money, the state also provides funds for road improvements, adult education, and payments in lieu of taxes, among others.
"I haven't said they will be held harmless of any cuts,'' Malloy said. "Everything is on the table. Everyone is invited to the table.''
Malloy has opposed cutting education money to the cities and towns for months, but now he has the power to do something about it after being sworn in Wednesday afternoon as the state's 88th governor. He spent four hours Monday — before the inauguration — with his budget team and is starting to make the decisions that will be unveiled Feb. 16 in his budget address. He stressed, though, that the key decisions have not been made and that the budget is "a work in progress.''
He did not reveal the nuts and bolts about potential tax increases and budget cuts that are expected.
"We're just not ready to answer in greater detail what shared sacrifice means,'' Malloy said.
With a $19 billion state budget that covers everything from dental care for prison inmates to salaries for more than 50,000 state employees, Malloy's budget team has been closely scrutinizing the numbers.
"This is in high gear,'' Malloy said.
When asked for the "most significant thing'' that he would do in his first full day as governor, Malloy responded, "My wife's not in the room, but I spent some time with my wife, which … is probably the most significant thing I'm going to do. Having you folks here [for a news conference] — that's pretty darn significant. Sitting down later today to continue the process of working on personnel and hiring some additional people is pretty significant. I mean, they're all significant. Don't make me choose between all the things that I love to do.''
Malloy said he would remain largely focused on the budget in the coming weeks — as opposed to offering a wide-ranging legislative agenda.
When asked about repealing the death penalty, Malloy said his administration would not be pushing to abolish the ultimate penalty.
"That's a question for the legislature,'' Malloy said. "That's not an issue that I'm going to spend a lot of political time on.''
During the gubernatorial campaign, Malloy said he would sign a bill that eliminates Connecticut's death penalty in all future cases. That bill, he said, would not affect the conviction and death sentence for Steven Hayes in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in their Cheshire home in 2007.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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