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Rep. Frey Supports Budget Fixes that Clarify Funding for Renters’ Rebate Program

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HARTFORD – State Rep. John Frey (R-111) voted in favor of language that clarified the portion of the recently adopted state budget addressing the Renters’ Rebate program.  The changes ensure that the program will be implemented the same way in the same way it was prior to the passage of the budget and qualified renters will continue to receive their rebate checks.

The Renters’ Rebate program is a state law that provides a reimbursement for Connecticut renters who are elderly or totally disabled, and whose incomes do not exceed certain limits. In the law, persons renting an apartment or room, or living in cooperative housing or a mobile home may be eligible for this program. Renters’ rebates can be up to $900 for married couples and $700 for single persons.

Prior to the revisions, the state appropriation for the Renters’ Rebate program was reduced by approximately half, with towns expected to cover the rest of the cost. With the changes, the state will fully fund this program as before and reduce towns’ municipal aid amounts by half of the amount of rebate checks in each town.

Rep. Frey said that 69 Ridgefield residents participate in the Renters’ Rebate program.

“Several renters in Ridgefield and people who care for them expressed their concerns about this portion of the budget to me over the last month, and understandably so because of the importance of these rebate checks in their lives and the cost it would impose on municipalities,” said Rep. Frey.  “The good news for municipalities is that, ultimately, this leaves them in a better position than when the budget passed, because the original version of the budget would have required towns to cover the entire cost of the Renters’ Rebate program.  With these municipal aid reductions, they are essentially only paying for less than half of the program.”

The House and Senate each called Sino die, which officially ends all special sessions for the year.

“It was encouraging to see this oversight taken care of as we finally gaveled out of session for the year, so that we can start to turn the page to next year, when we will have a lot of work to do if we want to keep making progress on resolving our crippling fiscal crisis,” added Rep. Frey.

Rep. Frey Votes for Compromise Budget that Restores Education Funding

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HARTFORD State Representatives John Frey (R-111) voted to approve a bipartisan budget on Thursday as it passed the House of Representatives with a 126-23 veto-proof margin. Following the Senate’s passage of the budget bill, it now heads to the desk of Governor Dan Malloy for signing or potential veto.

The legislature’s budget was a compromise between House and Senate leadership from both parties in the midst of the governor’s executive order, which included sharp funding reduction for town aid, education, and core social services – facts that had local leaders and residents worried about teacher layoffs and supplemental tax bills.

“When you consider where budget talks started at the beginning of the year and then look at where we ended up, the compromise budget represents the best possible deal for Ridgefield because it restores most of its state funding and protects property taxpayers here from the governor’s proposal to bill towns for a third of the cost of teacher pensions,” said Rep. Frey. “Voting for this budget was a difficult choice because it contained certain elements that I wasn’t comfortable with and really doesn’t address Connecticut’s unfunded pension liabilities, but the Town of Ridgefield should be able to make it through the 2017-2018 biennium in good shape as a result. There is still substantial work to fix our state’s finances and that will be my starting point when session begins next year but, for now, we can claim a small victory over the governor.”

When the General Assembly approved the governor’s SEBAC union contract in July, it limited the ability of the state to close its $5 billion budget deficit by trimming its bureaucracy and controlling pension costs. However, the legislators pointed to several structural reforms within the compromise budget that were retained from a Republican budget bill that passed last month. These include a bonding cap, a spending cap, a mandatory vote on all union contracts, and certain municipal mandate relief reforms. It also rejects several tax increases proposed by majority Democrats and the governor in previous budget proposals.

“Unfortunately, the SEBAC union contract that the legislature approved back in July locked in a sizeable portion of the spending side of the budget, so we were not able to achieve the savings in state government that really need to be made,” said Rep. Frey.  “For most of the year, it looked like another budget that increases taxes was inevitable – we had to resist proposals for electronic tolling, sales tax hikes, cell phones taxes, taxes on seasonal homes, and supplemental property tax bills.  Governor Malloy was insisting that municipalities contribute towards teacher pension liabilities – this would have cost Ridgefield $4 million.  The fact that all of this was stopped is an achievement. In addition, over $500,000 in ECS was restored.    I am also optimistic about the new structural reforms in the budget bill.  I have fought for implementing the constitutional spending cap, a bonding cap, and mandatory votes on union contracts for decades.”

Rep. Frey concluded by calling the passage of the compromise budget “the best option we had,” saying, “Majority Democrats put us in an unfortunate fiscal bind by passing the SEBAC union agreement. As Ridgefield legislators, however, we have a responsibility to get to work and be a part of the solution rather than stand back and watch the state fall apart. We still have a lot of work to do but the state will truly be in better shape when this budget becomes law.”

The governor will make his decision on whether to veto the budget bill or not in the coming weeks, although there is optimism that a veto could be overridden in both chambers.

Rep. Frey Welcomes Bipartisan Passage of State Budget

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Urges Governor to Sign Budget Bill into Law “as Soon as Possible”

HARTFORD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) expressed cautious optimism at the passage of the Republican budget through both chambers of the General Assembly early Saturday morning.

It was a historic day after three Democratic State Senators broke ranks and voted for a Republican budget amendment which passed the Senate earlier that afternoon by a 21-15 vote, and the House passed the same Republican budget bill afterward by a vote of 77-73 with five Democrats in favor. It now continues on its path to becoming law, although it is possible he will use the governor will use his veto power and block prevent that.

This budget closes the state’s $3.5 billion deficit without raising taxes or transferring the responsibility for teachers’ pensions to towns, preserves funding for school districts and municipalities, invests in transportation, and protects critical services like those for the intellectually disabled and the elderly. It also contains many structural changes, including consolidating government departments, reducing state employee overtime, restricting state borrowing, and implementing the constitutional spending cap.

“Connecticut just turned a page – it really cannot be overstated how unprecedented last week’s budget votes in the legislature were, or the significance this will have on the future of our state,” said Rep. Frey.  “For years now, I have insisted that our state cannot continue to raise taxes and increase spending and also expect to stop the persistent deficit cycle, grow the economy, and fully fund core government services.  Last week made it clear that now a majority of legislators representing both sides of the aisle came around and begun to realize that this state needs new fiscal policies that force Connecticut to live within its means in order to turn the economy around. I think families and businesses across the state can take heart in witnessing this seismic shift in Connecticut’s political landscape which should inspire hope that prosperity could be more achievable than many of us thought.”

Rep. Frey noted the legislature’s budget does not transfer the teacher pension costs onto towns, and also restores Ridgefield’s education funding back to current levels. “If this budget were to become law, towns would not have to raise property taxes on homeowners in order to cover costs imposed by the state, which would be a huge relief for our already-overtaxed residents.”

After the Republican budget passed the State Senate, Governor Malloy declared his intention to veto the budget bill passed by the General Assembly.  Rep. Frey urged the governor to reconsider, citing the “draconian” effects his executive order could have on local education and other state services.

“Our Democratic colleagues courageously put the wellbeing of Connecticut before party, and that is important to acknowledge, since it means that no matter what the governor decides to do there is bipartisan support in the legislature for securing a brighter future for our state,” said Rep. Frey. “If the governor decides to veto this budget, he would be obstructing a bipartisan budget that respects the will of the people and stubbornly standing in the way of progress for Connecticut. In any case, my colleagues and I will not be deterred.”

Rep. Frey: Adrift Four Weeks Without a Budget

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July 31, 2017

Adrift

To the Editor,

As of writing, the State of Connecticut is now four weeks without a budget for the next biennium after the closing of the fiscal year on June 30th – a situation so unprecedented that chaos and aimlessness of this magnitude has not been seen in recent state history.

What makes our current predicament so unprecedented is not just the fact that a budget has not been signed into law, but also the circumstances surrounding this year’s budget stalemate and the shocking abandonment of duty by the party that has held a majority in the House for 30 straight years. Having experienced many difficult years in Hartford, I’ve made some observations on how this year is unique.

For one, Connecticut remains mired in a historic and seemingly permanent fiscal crisis as a result of misguided budgets over the past few decades – this is no longer news to most people. Our cycle is to spend money we don’t have, raise taxes to cover the difference, and then suffer the consequences of taxpayers leaving for more tax-friendly states.  Now, Connecticut’s economic recovery lags painfully behind the rest of the country, while major companies announcing their departures from the state have become all too common.

Voters across the state began to realize how years of bad budgets have hurt their family finances, their children’s education, and their businesses, which is why there is more partisan parity in the legislature this year than in the past. A razor-thin House majority makes it more difficult for the majority party to push through legislation, which is why concerning bills like the toll bill could not pass.  It also puts pressure on certain Democrats who campaign on being fiscally responsible moderates and are wary of allowing a budget that increases taxes.

Another notable development is how closely families and businesses across the state are tuned into the intricacies of a budget process normally followed only by Hartford insiders. Because of the severe and direct impact of the state budget crisis on Connecticut families, I regularly speak to constituents who express fear and anger over the legislature’s failure to do its job of passing a budget.  Passing a budget that can turn the state around affects people’s livelihoods and so it befits them to become well-versed in the process.

I can tell you the majority leadership’s dramatic abandonment of their duty to pass a budget has never been seen before. Even though I have long supported the fully-vetted, no-tax increase, balanced budget proposal submitted by House Republicans, only the majority party may call votes on the floor of the House, which limits our influence to pass a budget.  That power resides with the House Speaker, who thus far has steadfastly refused to call our budget or even discuss it on the floor of the House, in spite of the majority party’s failure to produce their own budget at multiple deadlines.

Significantly, never in recent memory has the state been without a budget because of the Speaker’s refusal to call a vote on a budget. While previous budget crises have resulted from various governors vetoing budgets passed by the legislature, four weeks into this fiscal year the legislature has not even discussed the issue.

With those unprecedented conditions, it makes it even more heartbreaking to read reports of how the state budget crisis has hurt local communities. Towns are scrambling to make up for shortfalls in their own budgets left by the withholding of expected municipal aid.  Road repair services were cancelled, major capital purchases are being put off, and at least one Connecticut community will be forced to delay the first day of school.

This passive choice to drift aimlessly in the midst of ugly budget cuts that have real-time consequences on people’s lives and business prospects is unconscionable. That’s why I have joined the House Republicans in using every legislative maneuver we are aware of to try and force a vote on a budget that will get us back on track.  Thus far, our efforts have been rebuffed by the majority party – even the so-called “moderates” have ignored our proposals and blocked them from receiving a vote.

Taxpayer advocates in the legislature have been iced out of the process in favor of those who cater to union interests.

Right now, we are adrift in an economic storm without a budget, without a direction, and without a will to succeed or accept new ideas. Something has to change.

State Rep. John Frey represents the 111th Assembly district in Ridgefield.  He is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Bonding Subcommittee.

 

Rep. Frey Criticizes Governor’s Veto of Affordable Housing Reform Bill

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Calls for Legislature to Override Veto

HARTFORD – State Rep. John Frey (R-111) panned Governor Malloy’s decision to veto the bipartisan 8-30g affordable housing compromise bill, HB 6880 after the announcement was made on Friday.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Frey, was a modest step towards affordable housing reform which hoped to offer towns an attainable goal of developing and reaching a moratorium to achieve greater control over developments. It received 116 votes (77%) in the House and 30 votes (83%) in the State Senate.

“I consider this an outrageous move by the governor,” said Rep. Frey. “The bill he just vetoed was the product of bipartisan discussion and mutual compromise, and it took hard work to pass the House and Senate as broadly as it did. If the governor won’t accept the careful and prudent ideas in HB 6880 to provide fairness and contemporary changes to the 8-30g statute, then he has truly given up trying to help municipalities. I’m really not sure what else we can do to get his attention about how serious of a problem this is.”

Under the current 8-30g statue, towns like Ridgefield had very little chance of ever achieving the high bar for a moratorium that allowed predatory developers to sidestep local zoning laws.

In spite of this setback, Rep. Frey noted that the bill passed with enough support to potentially override the governor’s veto. Each year the legislature has a veto session to consider whether to override vetoes by the governor. An override requires a two-thirds vote by each chamber (House & Senate) which would mean the House of Representatives would need 101 votes and the Senate would need 24 votes.

“I will not be deterred on this issue. I urge the legislature to override the governor’s veto and get this bill passed so the voices of Ridgefield residents and concerned citizens across the state will be heard. We can still do the right thing here,” Rep. Frey added.