It was a homecoming of sorts for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The former Stamford Mayor and president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, told a group of local officials Wednesday that they won‘t have to worry about the state‘s funding commitments next year.
“It is our full expectation that we will honor our commitments already made to you, no matter how difficult those circumstances may prove to be,” Malloy said.
After a brief pause, the Connecticut Convention Center ballroom gave him a round of applause.
Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson said the state does operate on a biennium budget, so municipalities had an idea of what they would be receiving next fiscal year. However, “getting some confirmation at this point of the year is always helpful,” he said.
Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said as a local official he’s always worried about the education funding because it counts for about roughly 10 percent of the overall budget.
With local budgets being drafted in the next few months, the news was exactly what local elected officials wanted to hear.
This year’s state budget was Malloy’s first and many of the decisions he made were unpopular, but municipalities didn’t feel too much of the pain.
Malloy told the group that he could have done what other, neighboring states did, and asked them to share a cut equivalent to about $1 to $1.5 billion.
“Imagine how much more difficult it would have been if there was a $1 billion less in state dollars going to each of you,” Malloy said. “We rejected that because it wasn’t good for you, but it wasn’t good for us.”
He said passing the cuts along to local governments would have increased property taxes.
“I also understood at my very core that if we raised property taxes the highest obligation many corporations already pay state or municipal government that we would be literally cutting off our nose despite our face,” he added.
Malloy said he didn’t do that because he understands municipal government and he surrounded himself with people from municipal government.
Leaving the budget battle behind him, Malloy said he’s already pivoted toward the special session and jobs.
He said state government needs to be more like local government, more responsive to the needs of the citizens and businesses.
In order to better frame the discussion about jobs Malloy is hosting an “Economic Summit” Thursday in the same convention hall.
In a brief question and answer session, one local elected official wanted to know when Malloy would be announcing which towns will receive the $20 million in local grants approved by the Bond Commission.
Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, said they are working on prioritizing a list of $30 to $40 million in projects, only $20 million of which will receive funding. And unlike in previous years, the state has decided to only fully fund projects instead of doling out smaller amounts of money to several municipalities.
The projects that will receive funding are those most likely to help spur economic development, Barnes said.
Until decisions are made local elected officials will be sitting on pins and needles, possibly hoping, like the local elected official who asked the question of Malloy, that the announcement is made before the November elections.