A municipal lobbying group is asking lawmakers to act quickly to adopt a responsible state budget. But getting their attention — now that lawmakers aren’t gathering at the state Capitol on a daily basis — is a challenge.
So the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities launched a TV ad earlier this week that will air on all Connecticut broadcast stations in Hartford and New Haven, and News Channel 12 in Fairfield County.
The 30-second spot features local leaders, business owners, and taxpayers.
It opens with a woman saying that “high property taxes” are going to cause her to lose her home. The owner of Vito’s Deli says that she’s concerned about the health of Connecticut’s cities.
“Local leaders listened and developed a plan for our cities to compete nationally,” New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart says in the ad. A mother on a playground then asks why government can’t be more efficient?
At the end of the ad they all ask state leaders if they are listening.
This year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal dramatically changed how cities and towns would be funded. He increased aid to 31 cities and decreased aid to the rest of the communities causing a mostly suburban General Assembly to struggle with a response.
“The truth is that, for too long, we’ve allowed certain communities to be disproportionately impacted by the state’s fiscal challenges,” Malloy said in February during his budget address. “While we’ve made advancements in recent years to address this inequity, I don’t believe that we’ve gone far enough.”
By the end of April, the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee was unable to adopt a spending plan and Democratic legislative leaders in the House and the Senate have since struggled to put together a line-by-line budget proposal they could sell to their caucus.
Democrats hold a slim 79-72 majority in the House. The Senate is evenly divided between the parties, but Democrats still have Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to break a vote.
Democrats have refused to take any revenue generating ideas off the table, even though they have warmed to the idea that cities and towns should help the state find $400 million to help fund teacher pensions.
Earlier on in the legislative session, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities had hoped legislative leaders would broaden the sales tax base, allow them to implement their own 1 percent sales tax, and change binding arbitration rules.
“The spot shows that Connecticut residents are concerned and want a state budget agreement that reflects the interests and pocketbook of the state’s property taxpayers,” Joe DeLong, CCM executive director, said. “The spot also emphasizes that municipal leaders have listened to their residents and have repeatedly put forth legislative initiatives that would protect property taxpayers in any final state budget agreement.”
But the rubber hasn’t hit the road.
Lawmakers still have time to reach an agreement because none of the large state payments to municipalities come due until September.
According to the Office of Policy and Management, which distributes the funding, there are only six programs that receive partial funding during the months of July and August. The first big payments, like the reimbursement to cities and towns for the loss of taxes on state and private property, is paid in September.
If cities and towns receive the full amount that’s $181.6 million for one year.
Lawmakers may feel a greater sense of urgency as the summer slips away.