HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont met for about an hour Wednesday with municipal leaders to discuss a variety of things, including his proposal to have them pick up a portion of teacher pension costs.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said they had a good discussion but he declined to provide any details about what was on or off the table.
When it comes to teacher pension costs, O’Leary said he thinks local elected officials “believe we should have some skin in the game for our teachers. Having said that I think we need to be heard as to offering up alternative sources of revenue diversification.”
O’Leary said the governor and his staff are open to some ideas, but he refused to offer any details.
In the past, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities has lobbied for broadening the sales tax base, allowing towns to implement their own 1-percent sales tax, and changing binding arbitration rules.
“Everybody likes a lean budget in the abstract unless it impacts their particular budget,” Lamont said Wednesday, adding that O’Leary was forceful and he knows where he stands.
What’s unclear is where the governor stands.
“Let’s let the negotiations play out,” Lamont said, declining to offer details.
He said they know where he stands “on a state that has to live within its means. Now I’m working within that confine to determine the best way to continue funding our towns and cities, holding them harmless, keeping faith on education, and keeping within our budget.”
So does the legislature know where Lamont stands?
The legislature’s Education Committee stripped language from a bill that would require “non-distressed municipalities” to pay 25 percent of teacher pension costs and “distressed municipalities” to pay five percent of the same.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he believes towns should be contributing something to teacher pensions if they are going to pay their teachers above the median salary.
“This will be an added expense on the municipalities, but it is also a controllable expense,” Aresimowicz said.
In defending the proposal earlier this month, Lamont said, “Look it’s the right thing to do … We’re picking up all the legacy costs.”
He said the state didn’t put money into the system for years, but “going forward I believe it’s important the towns have a little bit of a contribution there. The wealthier communities will pay a little bit more.”
Lamont said they are working their way through the teacher pension crisis and will also be reamortizing the unfunded liability over a new 30-year period and they will reduce the investment return from 8 percent to 6.9 percent. He said they can do those things without violating the 2008 bond covenant, which will require them to continue making the payments.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he may not have gotten along with former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy but he knew where the governor stood.
As far as Lamont is concerned “no one knows where he stands on anything in this building,” Fasano said.
“I don’t know how one leads the state down a path if you don’t set parameters,” Fasano said.
Lamont believes he is drawing some bright lines.
“We’re drawing some lines. People know where I stand on not raising income tax rates,” Lamont said Wednesday.
On Friday the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that would add 2 percent to the 6.99 percent capital gains rate that Connecticut’s wealthiest residents already pay as part of their income taxes. The bill was proposed by Democratic lawmakers on the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.