Democratic lawmakers had planned to hold a rally Thursday at the Amistad Academy in New Haven to protest Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget cuts to charter schools, but hours after announcing the rally it was suddenly postponed.
“In the last 24 hours there have been encouraging talks between the Senate Democrats and Gov. Rell’s office regarding funding for Connecticut’s charter schools and CommPACT schools,” Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, and Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said in a statement postponing the event. “It is our hope that we can now work with Gov. Rell to save this critical funding.”
Following a ceremonial bill signing at the Vernon Middle School Thursday, Rell said she had sent out an email to all the legislator’s Wednesday asking them to talk to their leadership about any proposed budget cuts “they simply cannot live with.”
“It really is a little bit of a start, if you will,” Rell said. “You just can’t simply say no cuts.”
“We all recognize the importance of education,” Rell said. “I am responsible if you will for helping to increase funding for education in the 2007, 2008 budget year. I worked very hard to maintain that funding this year.”
But Democratic lawmakers don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with Rell’s characterization of her support for education.
“The governor’s budget proposals call for significant cuts to these schools, some of which are among the highest performing urban schools in the state,” Williams and Looney said in their statement Wednesday. “We believe these cuts are not in the best interest of Connecticut.”
But which cuts are Democratic lawmakers willing to live with?
“Our state has an $8 billion shortfall we have to make cuts in spending,” Rell said. “They are not pleasant. No one wants to make cuts. I don’t want to make cuts…but cuts are absolutely necessary, if we are to address this shortfall.”
Rell said she expects to receive responses from the rank-and-file lawmakers sometime today, regarding the cuts they simply cannot live with.
“Connecticut has to make some cuts before we can talk about revenue,” Rell said.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, was giving reporters a tour of Meriden and a firsthand look at the cuts Rell’s budget proposal has in store for the city, from the closure of Meriden’s courthouse to fee increases for individuals who ride public transit.
In a brief phone interview following the two-hour tour, Donovan said he would continue to fight to have all these cuts restored. “We hope she changes her mind,” Donovan said.
He said Thursday’s tour highlighted the harm Rell’s budget would create for the people of his community.
The 40 percent increase in bus fare amounts to an increase of more than $182 a year for someone who makes far less than those making between $250,000 and $300,000 year, Donovan said. He said even those making between $250,000 to $300,000 a year would fair better under the Democratic plan because the progressive income tax would only increase their taxes about $250 a year.
Click here to read more about the proposed public transit fare increases.
“I will continue to keep fighting for the people in my community,” Donovan said.