A former mayor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, likes to remind his former municipal colleagues that he’s maintained municipal aid to cities and towns during his tenure.
Malloy told hundreds of municipal leaders Tuesday at the annual Connecticut Conference of Municipalities meeting that he doesn’t intend to “shift the state’s burdens to local communities that rely on the property tax.”
However, municipal leaders aren’t willing to sit back and hope Malloy remembers the plight of local officials as he gets ready to negotiate about $220 million in budget cuts with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.
Municipal officials and their largest lobby organization want a seat at the negotiating table even though only about 16 percent of the 2016 state budget goes to municipalities.
“If the governor wants a bipartisan approach to the budget, here we are,” South Windsor Town Manager Matt Galligan said.
He said CCM represents 158 towns and their local leaders who want to make sure their residents get the most out of their tax dollars.
“We think we need to be at the table with the governor and the legislature to say, ‘How are we going to move Connecticut forward’?” Galligan said. “If you want real bipartisan, you want some real good solutions, solutions that we do every day to make our communities better, we’ve got them.”
But Malloy and legislative leaders will be meeting privately to discuss spending cuts for a special session.
“I’ve called the legislators,” to the table, Malloy said.
The governor said he doesn’t favor cutting municipal aid, but he’s not going to put any preconditions on the negotiations with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said they’re asking to be in the room.
“Anybody can send a bunch of ideas and then have them dismissed out of hand, which is the pattern. We don’t want to do that,” Boughton said. “There are global decisions being made. Decisions that impact our municipalities. We want to be at the table.”
He said there’s already been discussions about cuts to municipal aid.
“We know that they’re going to go there eventually. We want to be part of that discussion going forward,” Boughton said.
Joe DeLong, executive director of CCM, said when elected officials shut out municipal government, “you’re really shutting out your communities.” He said the group is not a “special interest.”
But Malloy said there’s a limit to the size of the table. He said inviting local elected officials from 169 cities and towns would be unprecedented and crowded.
Malloy pointed out that he invited lawmakers to the table because it’s their job to balance the state’s budget.
Malloy has the power to rescind up to 5 percent of any line item and 3 percent of any fund without seeking legislative approval. The governor doesn’t have the power on his own to cut municipal aid without the legislature’s approval. However, he also doesn’t have to offer to negotiate spending cuts with the legislature until the deficit reaches 1 percent of general fund spending.
On Tuesday, Malloy refused to predict what would happen when he sits down with legislative leaders to work on adjusting the budget.
He said his decision to invite lawmakers to the table comes from his frustration that none of them offered any alternative budget cuts over the past five weeks after the first round of $103 million in rescissions was announced.
“I did expect when people say they don’t like things that we’re doing that they would have alternatives,” Malloy said.
He said they “now have to come in” and have those discussions.