February 12, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Everyone knows that
the alternate name for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
is Connecticut's Crying Mayors, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano
And crying - or, more politely, complaining - about proposed
state and federal budgets that could force cities such as New
Haven and Hartford to raise property taxes is just what DeStefano
and Mayor Eddie A. Perez did together in a press conference in
"The heart of the matter is that when state and federal
governments continue to do what they're doing, which is cutting
budgets, the only source [of new revenue] I have is the property
tax," Perez said after the press conference.
And in a city with a high rate of poverty and a large percentage
of its real estate exempt from local taxes, Perez says he's in
"Our goal here is to prevent some of the cuts," he
According to estimates from the governor's office, Connecticut
stands to lose about 8 percent, or $97 million, in certain key
federal aid programs - including the popular Community Development
Block Grant program. On the state level, Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed
a $15.3 billion state budget this week that the mayors said failed
to adequately address property tax reform.
"The governor recognizes that she had to make difficult
choices," said Rell spokesman Rich Harris, adding that Rell
did what she could to increase education, transportation and
other funding. "And one of the reasons she had to make them
is she's cleaning up a mess that has been left behind by the
Democratic leadership in the General Assembly."
At the press conference, Perez spoke of the loss of federal
dollars coming into the state.
Specifically referring to the block grant program, Perez said
he expects a $3 million loss in federal revenue to the city,
money that has been spent on homeownership programs, development
subsidies for new housing, urban revitalization programs, riverfront
development, and even public safety.
"A cut of $3 million of CDBG means we have to make this
up somewhere else," Perez said.
DeStefano, who is running for governor, criticized Rell on transportation
funding and property tax reform.
First, he said that Rell's $1.3 billion over 10 years for transportation
isn't enough to buy the system the state now has. DeStefano took
swings at Rell's vision of property taxes.
In her budget address, the
governor spoke of the false cry of property tax reform, calling
it false "because in the end
it is the same beleaguered taxpayer footing the bill - and finding
no relief whatsoever."
"The governor doesn't get it, and if you're middle class,
you get it," DeStefano responded Friday.
"It's not all the same dollars, and it's not the same pocket
that the dollars are coming out of," he said. "It's
coming out of working, middle-class families." Harris, Rell's
spokesman, said the governor's job is much more difficult than
that of two dissenting mayors.
"It's easy to criticize when you don't have to offer specifics," Harris
said. "The governor unfortunately has to."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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