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Zip 06: Shoreline Officials Urge State Budget Veto Override

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Article as it appeared in Zip 06 online edition 10/5/2017

By Zoe Roos, Staff Writer/ Published October 04, 2017

As the days continue to tick by without a budget, shoreline leaders have united to publicly urge the legislature to end the budget impasse. On Oct. 4, Guilford First Selectman Joe Mazza (R), Madison First Selectman Tom Banisch (R), Durham First Selectman Laura Francis (R), Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove (R), and State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R-101) gathered on the Guilford Green to voice their support for a possible override of the governor’s budget veto.

Connecticut is now in the fourth month of the fiscal year with no approved budget. Since the fiscal year began on July 1, the state has operated under executive order and in early August, in what was seen as an effort to force legislators to produce a budget, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) laid out a grim picture of what would happen on Oct. 1 if there was still no budget.

As Oct. 1 has now come and gone, a veto override effort is underway to resurrect the Republican-sponsored budget that passed the house and senate after some Democrats crossed the aisle, but was then vetoed by Malloy. While the potential for a successful override is unclear, as it would require 101 votes in the House and 24 votes in the Senate, Kokoruda said legislators are going to continue to push.

“We are going to keep building momentum and hopefully, I know it is a long shot, but hopefully we will have an override and right now conversations continue on this budget,” she said.

While the speaker of the House of Representatives—Democrat Joe Aresimowicz—called members in yesterday and said that an override would not happen, Kokoruda said he tried to end the conversation for the wrong reasons.

“He called it silly what is going on right now,” she said of the speaker. “That selectmen are calling on their state legislatures to step up and support their constituents and not their caucus is what he is calling silly. Well it is not silly. It is our job.”

The month of October is critical because the first installment of the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) payment is due to municipalities at the end of the month. Cities and towns do not receive their ECS funds in one lump payment, but rather in a series of three payments throughout the year—the first one generally being in the end of October.

Mazza said a total loss of ECS would hit Guilford hard and he said he sees the cut as unfair because the governor is attempting to single out well-managed towns for reductions in state aid.

“We have dealt with our unions and the governor has failed to deal with his unions and now he is taking it out on our towns,” he said. “The Republicans have recognized that and the Republicans in the state legislature, with some votes from the Democrats, have produced a budget we feel is good for all of the towns and all of the cities and we encourage all the legislators to come together in a bipartisan way and to override the governor’s veto.”

Banisch said municipalities just need a budget that everyone can live with. While he said the Republican budget was not perfect, he said it included key elements like mandate reform, no tax increases, and no shift of the teacher pensions onto municipalities.

“The legislature must pass a budget based on the idea that we are all in this together,” he said. “Too many times the legislature has pitted cities against towns and vice versa. We are all interdependent and our leaders must become representatives for the state and not just their own district. A rising tide lifts all ships and it is time to work for the betterment of all instead of trying to divide cities and towns.”

Cosgrove said the conversation needs to move away from punishing well-managed towns.

“The bottom line is we all know we are in a fiscal crisis in the state of Connecticut, but municipal aid did not create that fiscal crisis—it is the unfunded liability that has created this fiscal crisis,” he said. “Therefore cutting municipal aid whether through education or other funding that towns receive is not a solution.”

Francis said Durham faces a slightly different challenge than neighboring towns because it is in a regional school district, but said a budget needs to be passed soon because the fiscal uncertainty is scaring residents and officials. Durham is slated to lose close to $4 million in aid, a number that would be devastating according to Francis.

“To the Town of Durham, that equates to about 6 mills,” she said. “Can you imagine getting a bill from your municipality that raises your mill rate by six? That is a 22 percent tax increase. How does a town react to that overnight? Municipalities cannot easily adjust to this level of cuts overnight without looking to burden our taxpayers.”

To view the full press conference visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqAZ-LaLE5Q.

To view a clip of Rep. Kokoruda speaking visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBlxA5iUj4s&t=7s.

Press Conference Wednesday, October 4, at 2:30 p.m.

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GUILFORD – On Wednesday, October 4th at 2:30 p.m. Shoreline lawmakers will hold a press conference regarding the state budget that passed the legislature with bipartisan support and how the governor’s executive order is impacting towns and communities. The press conference will take place at the Guilford Town Green.

 

WHO: Deputy House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, House Republican Caucus Chair Noreen Kokoruda, State Representative Devin Carney and Jesse MacLachlan, Madison First Selectman Tom Banisch, Branford First Selectman James B. Cosgrove, Durham First Selectman Laura F. Francis, Guilford First Selectman Joseph S. Mazza, shoreline district town leaders from Old Saybrook through East Haven and the 12th district.

 

WHAT: Press Conference

 

WHEN: Wednesday, October 4th 2:30 p.m.

 

WHERE: Guilford Town Green

 

WHY: To discuss how the governor’s executive order impacts towns and communities and what to expect going forward.

Kokoruda Urges Override of Governor’s Veto

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HARTFORD – State Representative Noreen Kokoruda today expressed disappointment that the governor vetoed the only state budget to pass the General Assembly with bipartisan support. Legislators are now are calling on support to override the veto.

“I am extremely disappointed that Governor Malloy refused to sign a budget that was bipartisan and one that fully funded core social services and education, provided aid to municipalities, and moved Connecticut in a more positive direction without any new taxes,” said Rep. Kokoruda. “The governor vetoed our budget with claims that it was not an actual budget, but he failed to put forth an alternative. The governor’s solution is to run the state through his executive order, which is the worst option. I am hopeful that my colleagues and I can still work together to overturn the governor’s veto and protect our state and communities from his draconian cuts. We need to change direction and the governor’s executive order will not achieve that.”

Shoreline Community Gathers to Unveil Gold Star Memorial

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As seen on Zip06 By Zoe Roos, Staff WriterContact Reporter

Published September 26, 2017. Last updated 03:46 p.m., September 26, 2017

It’s said there is no greater pain than losing a child. On Sept. 24, members of the Madison and greater shoreline community gathered on the Madison Town Green to unveil and dedicate the Gold Star Family Memorial, honoring those members of the military who have lost their lives in service to their county and their family members who have borne the pain of their loss.

Military personnel, police, religious leaders, town officials, members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion Post, and Gold Star families came together on the Green for the ceremony. VFW Post 2096 Commander Larry Brundrett opened the ceremony and explained the significance of the gold star. Brundrett said while the blue star indicates a member of the military is in service away from home, the gold star represents “that person who made the ultimate sacrifice during their service.”

The memorial is for all Gold Star families. Sharon Eaton of Guilford attended the ceremony. Her son, Army Staff Sgt. Richard S. Eaton, Jr., died on Aug. 12, 2003 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq from heat-related injuries after an extensive firefight. Eaton said she was grateful to see a memorial like this on the shoreline.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Brundrett said Bob and Helen Keiser brought the idea for the memorial to town. Their son, U.S. Army Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel, was mortally wounded on the morning of March 11, 2013, when a 20 year-old Afghan jumped into the back of an Afghan police pickup truck and killed the Special Forces team of which Keel was the leader.

Noting that Pedersen-Keel is the only Madison VFW member killed in action, “he is a special person in our ranks and a special person in this town,” Brundrett said.

National Gold Star Mother’s Day, also known as National Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, is observed annually on the last Sunday in September. American Legion Post 79 Commander Rich Nichols said Americans have always risen to the task of protecting freedom and liberty, leaving homes and families, and sometimes not returning.

“These families, and most specifically the mothers, are sometimes left to pay the very highest cost, the loss of a child,” he said, “in most cases, an exceptional child, one who has chosen and trained to defend us. Their grief stretches our comprehension, but our pride and our gratitude is all we can offer in consolation. This Gold Star Monument rests at the intersection of pride and grief.”

At the ceremony, First Selectman Tom Banisch spoke about the history of the Gold Star and the sacrifice it represents, and thanked all who helped make the monument a reality including Swan Funeral Home in Madison, which donated the monument as part of its 100th anniversary in Madison.

“Today the Madison community commemorates this memorial to Gold Star Families here and across the country and we thank Bob and Helen Keiser for their sacrifice…through their efforts the idea of a Gold Star Memorial for Madison has come to fruition,” Banisch said.

Helen Keiser thanked everyone for attending and spoke about how her son loved coming home to Madison.

“We would like the emphasis on Sept. 24 to be on the town of Madison and its commitment to remember Gold Star Mothers and Families,” she said in a statement. “We are the face that represents thousands of families.”

Myths vs. Facts Bipartisan Budget

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Does the budget decimate UConn/UConn Health Center?

The Republican budget passed with bipartisan support by the legislature provides $1 billion in state aid to UConn and UConn Health Center over two years. This is a $200.1 million reduction to the anticipated $1.2 billion in state aid UConn would have received had the university not been touched by any budget cuts. While this is a cut of approximately 17%, this budget also for the first time allows for purchasing and contracting flexibility so the university can save money and enhance revenues in other ways that do not rely on taxpayer dollars.

There are policy changes that will allow in direct savings for UConn; like requiring professors to teach one additional class and eliminating the tuition waivers that allow UConn and UCHC employees and their dependents to attend UConn for free. Yes there are cuts to UConn, like every other agency. The difference between other state agencies and our flagship university to raise revenue or trim costs are substantial. UConn has alternative ways to support their organization through the school’s Foundation and fundraising or additional federal grants for research. While we have supported large investments over the years, we simply cannot afford it until our state is back on course. UConn still has an extremely healthy budget and now even greater flexibility to attain funding in ways that do not overly burden taxpayers. All of those avenues should be explored fully and pursued.

It’s also important to note that UConn is overstating it’s reductions by using the fiscal year 2017 original budget as the base, rather than what they actually received in 2017. It is only fair to compare the actual dollars taxpayers invested last year.

Does this budget change hospital taxes?

The budget proposed by Republicans and passed with a bipartisan vote in the legislature does not allow municipalities to tax local hospitals and preserves the small hospital pool. It also accepts the hospital settlement agreed to by the Connecticut Hospital Association and the governor’s office which includes tax changes our state hospitals lobbied for and meets all their requests to help them operate more efficiently and better meet the needs of their patients. This budget will also phase out the hospital tax over time and increases Medicaid rates which protect hospitals from changes on the federal level.

What does it do to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The Republican budget that garnered bipartisan support in the legislature would implement a graduated schedule for the Earned Income Tax Credit which provides 5% for single individuals, 10% for those with one child, 15% for those with two children, 25% for those with three or more children. By implementing a graduated scale we can make sure to preserve as much of the credit as possible for those who need the support most. Unfortunately facing a massive deficit of historic size we had to make the difficult decision to reduce this program in part to protect other core social services including SAGA. In addition, there are some who say a case could be made that it is not actually a tax cut, as over 80% of recipients never paid state income tax. Regardless on your opinions about the program–we prioritize children in the graduated scale model we worked hard to define.

Does this budget better serve the I/DD Community?

It is the only budget to fully fund day and employment services for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It also does not carry forward reductions imposed by Governor Malloy to employment and day opportunities services for the intellectually disabled. In addition it adds funding to help individuals on the wait list access services.

Is this budget balanced?

Yes, OFA shows surpluses of $70 million surplus in 2018 and $40 million surplus in 2019.

How do we balance the budget?

– We rein in government as much as we can. We consolidate agencies and eliminate top heavy positions like Commissioners and their deputies.

– We make targeted spending cuts while simultaneously protecting core services.

– We implement 10% reductions to certain agency accounts.

– We implement overtime savings of 10 percent, a hiring freeze of non-24-hour employees, and cut the legislature’s budget.

– We include long-needed structural changes to achieve future savings such as a strong spending cap and bonding cap. The Democrat budget included a spending cap which recommends not counting our growing pension debt.

Why does OFA show a deficit in the out years?

All budgets proposed show deficit in the out years because the state’s financial problems cannot be resolved in one year. That being said, the Republican out year deficits are less than what was projected in the Democrats’ budget which includes many new tax policies like cell phones and non-prescription medicine (for example, in FY20 the Republican budget shows $1.2 billion deficit while the Democrat budget shows $1.4 billion deficit. In 2021, Republican budget shows $2 billion deficit while Democrat budget shows $2.1 billion deficit.) However, unlike the Democrat budget, the Republican budget also includes tax reductions to pension income, social security income, and inheritance/estate tax. We have heard our retirees and seniors loud and clear! They want to stay here and we want them here, too. These tax reductions contribute to the deficit on the surface because we are taking in less revenue, but they are likely to actually lower the deficit once implemented by sparking economic growth. In addition, the Republican budget contains a strict spending cap (as voted for nearly 25 years ago, but never enacted) and other long term structural changes to achieve future savings, restore confidence in our state, and therefore have a positive effect on the economy that cannot be calculated by OFA in the projections they show.

Does this budget change taxpayer funding for campaigns?

This budget eliminates taxpayer funding for political campaigns under the “Citizens Election Program” (CEP). The state cannot keep up with managing funds for this program that is a mere shadow of the original program meant to keep elections clean. In an extremely challenging budget year, this budget makes the decision to end taxpayer funding for political candidates – an expense which is expected to balloon to $50 million for the next election cycle with no additional money to be found in escheats which has previously funded the program. Democrats have actually underfunded this program in their own budget proposal by $10 million also putting the program in jeopardy because the state simply does not have the funds to support what this program has grown into.

Does this budget change teacher pension contributions?

This is not a tax on teachers. This budget does increase contributions teachers’ pay towards their own retirement from 6% to 8% at maximum, which remains below the national average of over 10% for teacher contributions. It was important in this budget to minimize the increase while also stabilizing this fund so the state can keep the promises it makes to our teachers who dedicate their lives to serving our state and its students. This is an increase that teachers pay into their own pensions; therefore it is all money that every single teacher gets back when they retire as it is part of their retirement savings. This is money that will be used to make the teachers’ pension plan more solvent and benefit teachers in the long run. In addition, this budget does not shift any teacher retirement costs onto towns and cities. Shifting any portion of this opens the door to more burdens being placed on municipalities and taxpayers. This is the state’s responsibility and we stood firm on not letting the state push off any amount of this obligation onto our cities and towns.

To make sure that the intentions behind the legislation adopted by the General Assembly are crystal clear, since partisan folks are distorting those intentions— the leadership of the Republican caucuses will put a request in writing immediately to the Teacher’s Retirement Board (TRB). While normally the TRB sets the state contribution amount every two years, this is too important to wait for the normal process. The money will be held in the General Fund UNTIL the TRB sets the amount as required.

Our intentions are crystal clear. This money will be deposited to the teacher’s pension fund, as was explained during the budget debate. Period.

Here is a link to the Teacher’s Retirement Systems latest evaluation: http://www.ct.gov/trb/lib/trb/forms…

THREE CHOICES FOR TEACHERS

  • Support the bipartisan budget that gradually increases the pension contributions for teachers 2%, while also keeping the income tax exemption of 50% promised in the last session. This budget also promises level funding for every school district.
  • Support the Democrats proposed budget that passes a significant portion of the teacher’s pension payments to local taxpayers and municipalities. This mandate will force towns to consider laying off teachers or programs and their education funding cuts many communities. It also fails to keep the promise to exempt 50% of their income tax, dropping it down to 25% retroactively to January 1st 2017.
  • Support the Governor’s Executive Order which slashed education funding by almost $600 million and passes the burden of the teacher’s pension fund onto taxpayers.