Town And City Leaders: Malloy's Budget Isn't So Bad
April 14, 2011
Even though Bridgeport has endured three years of budget cuts and is willing to accept more financial sacrifice, the "Plan B" budget being assembled by the governor's staff is far too steep a price, Mayor Bill Finch said Wednesday.
"It's simple: B is for bad," Finch said. "We can't take a hit like what's being proposed there."
Flanked by dozens of mayors and first selectmen from throughout Connecticut, Finch told reporters that the far better solution to the fiscal crisis is for state workers to accept concessions.
"In my city, we're down 200 positions from three years ago. Employees pay 25 percent of their insurance premiums; new employees pay half. We need state workers to share in this sacrifice, too."
At a press conference aimed at building support for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget plan, Republican municipal leaders joined their Democratic colleagues in declaring that Malloy's proposed budget was vastly preferable to the alternative.
Malloy's original budget plan would keep state aid flowing to cities and towns, and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is lobbying hard to keep it intact. Faced with the possibility of devastating cutbacks if the governor's plan fails, leaders of big cities and rural towns put aside differences and endorsed it.
Among the state's 169 communities, the objections to Malloy's proposal are plentiful: Shoreline towns resent a new tax on boats, wealthy suburbs are against expanding the conveyance tax, and mid-sized cities dislike losing a set of economic development incentives. Even so, more than 36 municipal leaders at the Capitol agreed Wednesday that they can live with Malloy's budget.
Going to Malloy's "Plan B" budget, though, would be disastrous, they said.
The problem is that Malloy's budget banks on $1 billion in concessions from state workers to balance the books, and time is running short on negotiations with state unions.
In case the unions don't budge, Malloy's staff is developing a contingency budget — "Plan B" — that slashes other state spending, including municipal aid. Towns and cities would lose about a third of their state funds.
"The 'Plan B' budget is ridiculous," said Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham, whose city would lose $9.2 million of its $25.7 million in state aid. Bingham said he suspects that "Plan B" is a "scare tactic," but acknowledged that it would do severe damage to Torrington's budget if it went through.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra described "Plan B" as potentially "catastrophic." Figures released Tuesday by Malloy's office showed that Hartford would lose $86.3 million of its projected $240.7 million in state aid. To balance that off by raising local property tax would require a nearly 24-mill tax increase.
Under "Plan B," five of Connecticut's most financially troubled cities — New Britain, Meriden, New London, Waterbury and New Haven — would lose a combined $180 million. Many of the biggest losers would be the poorest cities that already struggle with under-achieving schools.
"It would disproportionately impact students in the most academically fragile school districts," said Dianne Kaplan deVries, director of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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