It was all smiles after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget address at a press conference held by group of municipal leaders, who said it was nice to have a former mayor sitting in the governor’s office.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said that overall Malloy seemed to have made cities, towns and their property taxpayers a priority in his proposed budget, despite the state’s fiscal crisis.
“This is a brave new world I think we’re entering here and I know that everyone here is enthusiastic to be here and support our governor’s budget because both as a lawmaker and as a mayor, I can tell you that no one has ever uttered the kinds of words that Dan Malloy has uttered today,” said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.
The state hasn’t had a governor, in recent history, who looks to balance the budget without deep cuts in municipal aid, he said.
“We’ve always got a target on our backs,” he added.
The message from CCM was surprisingly unified despite varying party allegiances. Roxbury First Selectman Barbara Henry, a Republican, said she would have liked to hear more from Malloy about mandate relief and spending cuts but, overall, she thought the governor had kept true to his word.
Finch said that many of the things that go along with governing a municipality are the same regardless of your party.
“We fix potholes, we put out fires, we arrest criminals, and we teach the kids and there’s no Republican and or Democratic way to do that,” he said.
Level funding of local education grants was high on the list of priorities and had CCM “breathing a sigh of relief”.
Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said the state’s portion of the education cost sharing grant accounts for about 10 percent of his overall budget.
“A reduction in that would have just severe, severe consequences on our local property taxpayers so I’m truly thankful to the governor and hopeful with the state legislature that we will be able to maintain this funding,” he said.
While noting the proposed budget was just the beginning of the debate, CCM President and Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said Malloy’s support of diversified revenue options for municipalities could give towns flexibility. The budget, which has proposed giving towns new authority to levy property taxes on things boats and airplanes, would help relieve their reliance on traditional property taxes, Glassman said.
There was some bad news in the budget for municipalities, but local officials were focused on the positive and weren’t willing to comment much on the small hits they took.
Cuts made to payments in lieu of taxes for manufacturing equipment would result in the loss of $48 million to towns. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the impact on those cuts will depend on the location, but it was too early to tell what the consequences would be in his city. A $5 million cut was also made the priority school district grants.
DeStefano said that many of the leaders had issues to take care in their own cities and said it was nice to have a governor who is dealing with the state’s problems so they could deal with theirs.
“A lot of us have some problems to solve back home that are somewhat of our own making. I’ve signed every bargaining union agreement that exists in New Haven so I have ownership of some of the unsustainable pension plans and health care plans that we have to fix,” he said.
DeStefano said he was happy to hear Malloy’s emphasis on growing jobs. New Haven has the second largest number of jobs in the state and half of those jobs are held by people who live outside the city, he said.