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.