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Municipal Leaders Say Struggling Cities and Towns Need State Help

by | Apr 15, 2015 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, Litchfield, Norwalk, Norwich, Portland, State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol

Elizabeth Regan / CTNewsJunkie A delegation of municipal leaders converged Tuesday in Hartford to decry issues such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to cut town aid by $15.5 million and an escalating pattern of unfunded state mandates signed into law.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Tuesday that local leaders shouldn’t expect legislators to increase levels of state aid as they work with the governor’s proposal to come up with a final budget.

“Everything is speculative at this point, but I would advise the municipalities the amount of aid the governor put in the budget should be seen as the ceiling and not the floor,” Looney said.

The Connecticut Council for Municipalities said a $7 million decrease in state grants included in the governor’s proposal affects 69 of the state’s 169 cities and towns. At the high end of the scale, Hartford stands to lose $2.5 million in state funding from last year. At the low end, the small town of Portland would lose $165.

The governor’s proposed budget also makes municipalities participating in the resident state trooper program responsible for the full cost of the program, up from 70 percent. The proposal estimates a savings of $4.6 million to the state as participating towns pick up the total expense.

A CCM report said the cuts would add to already tight municipal budgets. Survey results from 61 cities and towns indicated that more than 300 full-time positions have been cut from general government and education operations in the past two years. Respondents also pointed to such effects as less road and equipment maintenance, fewer library hours, a change of emergency service providers from paid to volunteer, reduced youth and senior services, and capital project cutbacks.

During a morning press conference organized by CCM, Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis described the resident trooper program as a model of the type of regional programs that municipalities need to explore in order to continue to offer quality services amid declining revenue.

According to a CCM survey, the average cost increase to towns using one or more designated troopers from the Connecticut State Police would be $108,000, with the increases ranging from $39,000 to more than $310,000. The resident state trooper, while based in town, may be called out at any time to assist with other state police activity.

Francis said she wants to see the state funding reinstated and the overall program strengthened, and added that the resident trooper model is a collaborative success story that should be used more widely, not weakened through an unfair partnership with the state.

“We should not be encouraging small towns to create their own departments,” Francis said.

The local leaders at the capitol also were asking for the reinstatement of $12.7 million in revenue-sharing funds earmarked for municipalities that were raided in Malloy’s proposal to help address the state budget deficit. The money comes from a portion of sales and use taxes.

Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul said there are 1,200 unfunded mandates — laws which municipalities are forced to follow at their own expense — already on the books and 55 more proposed in the current legislative session.

Paul and members of the municipal advocacy group support a joint resolution to require a vote of at least two-thirds of the members of each house of the General Assembly to enact any unfunded mandate.

“What that will do in itself is cause the legislature to have a more in-depth conversation and understand all of the impacts across the board for any future unfunded mandates as they vote on that bill,” Paul said.

Multiple versions of the resolution have already died this session, with one remaining before the Appropriations Committee.

Framing the local leaders’ presence at the capitol was their dissatisfaction with the property tax as a tool to fund education. They said it is an unfair burden to place on taxpayers at the local level.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling called it the most regressive of taxes. “It’s income blind and profit blind,” he said. “If you have a job or don’t have a job, your taxes become due. If you make a profit or don’t make a profit, your taxes become due.”

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who co-chairs one of the two budget writing committees, said she is sensitive to the needs of taxpayers — but “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the budget the lawmakers will eventually pass.

“We’re doing our best to cause the least harm and try not to drive up property taxes because we understand that for both businesses and homeowners, that’s a really regressive tax,” Bye said. “Cities and towns don’t come ahead of funding for people with disabilities. We’re looking out for people and places. Towns are places. Human services are people, so they’re both in areas that are priorities for us.”

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(24) Archived Comments

posted by: cnj-david | April 15, 2015  6:16am

Time to cut the legislator’s salaries, benefits and their staffs. 

Time to quit using taxpayer money to fund Malloy’s trips to California to fundraise.

Time to get serious about a balanced budget.

My household doesn’t spend more than it earns, and we put away more than we earn so that we can retire.  It’s called a BUDGET, not a FANTASY—it’s way past time for Connecticut to do the same.

posted by: LE 2015 | April 15, 2015  7:05am

All the money is going to pensions and employee medical. We should expect Malloy reduce payments to cities as he helps his friends spike their pension ( Defonzo , Sullivan etc)

posted by: robn | April 15, 2015  7:06am

It would be relevant and interesting to see state aid to cities and towns expressed in a map chart as a ratio of per capita aid to per capita income town by town. That might give a clearer picture of which towns actually need aid.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 15, 2015  7:11am

Less money for the towns and munis, not more.  Less .......

They can raise taxes if they need to.  We are all tired of funding municipality—around the state.

HST

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 15, 2015  7:12am

Oh, and looking for reform?  Check out the municipality retirement program - makes the state look very cheap.  And has for years but no one has cared to pay attention.

HST

posted by: Luther Weeks | April 15, 2015  7:27am

Luther Weeks

Too bad S.B. 1041 died without a Committee vote. It was supported by all who testified including registrars, town clerks, and CCM. It would have reduced an unfunded mandate by 40%, while its main purpose was to strengthen the post-election audits.

posted by: art vandelay | April 15, 2015  8:44am

art vandelay

If the legislature was unable defund Malloy’s elimination of the Middlesex Community College Meriden Campus, there is no hope for any cuts whatsoever.  The only thing residents can look forward to are more taxes.

posted by: SocialButterfly | April 15, 2015  10:06am

@DrhunterSThompson: You say; “We are all tired of funding municipality—around the state>” You are not Gov. Malloy and his legislative Democratic budget overspending servants. Please speak for yourself.

posted by: dano860 | April 15, 2015  10:37am

The costs related to Resident Troopers is far cheaper than establishing a local P.D. They usually grow into egocentric money pits.
Cost reduction studies and renegotiated contracts with regards to pensions becoming 401’s will go a long way in starting expense reductions.

posted by: Jim in Mfg | April 15, 2015  11:49am

The Hemorrhaging of taxpayer money happens at all levels of Gov’t.  In Middletown, a fired police officer (in his 40s) has received a 2/3 disability pension.  He has just earned the equivalent of a multimillion dollar annuity.  He could be collecting these benefits for another 50 years while working only 16 years to earn this.  These public worker benefits are unsustainable.


Click here to read the Middletown Press article

posted by: Biff Winnetka | April 15, 2015  9:35pm

No worries…Ben Barnes said he expects April 15th State tax receipts to be up 25%.
I am SO looking forward to his eventual…“Errr, tax receipts were not as robust as forecast” comments.

posted by: Politijoe | April 16, 2015  7:39am

Politijoe

Over the last thirty-five years the corporate elite and their obliged politicians have sold America a bill of goods on the promise of globalization, unregulated free markets, privatization and wealthy tax cuts. A masterful slight-of-hand that has distracted the middleclass with irrational fears of Muslim presidents, immigrants, socialism and organized labor while pilfering our rights, squandering our treasure and creating a concentration of wealth not seen since the gilded age. Not coincidently, good Americans have been convinced to hate their own government, vote against their own interests and protect the very same casino capitalists and who have orchestrated the disastrous economic policies that have decimated the middleclass and working poor.

We must regain a better understanding of the role between government and markets and reevaluate the exploitation and the endless pursuit of wealth at all costs that is derived from the notion of unfettered capitalism. America needs to reexamine the course of perpetual war and culture of violence that remains so prevalent in our society and realign our values. The mistaken belief we can sustain the most expensive military in the world, the highest rate of incarcerated citizens on the globe and the smallest, least effective social welfare system with the lowest taxes in decades is an illusion. This is evidenced by our failing infrastructure, rising municipal taxes, underfunded educational resources and inadequate living wages to those who care for our most vulnerable. If America is to once again regain its promise of fairness, shared opportunity and middleclass growth, ordinary Americans will have to wrestle the political power back from the corporate elite through a mindfulness of politics as an antidote to the casino capitalists and Washington influence peddlers that seek to their own agenda at the expense of middle class economics.

posted by: art vandelay | April 16, 2015  10:39am

art vandelay

@Politijoe,
So what you’re saying is that if government confiscates money from the wealthy and distributes it accordingly to the needs of others, all will be well.  Sounds good to me!  Wait one second.  Didn’t they try that in Russia back in 1917, Cuba in 1959 & Venezuela?  If memory serves me correct, I don’t think it worked too well.  Greece, France, & Spain have tried a variation of what you’re proposing are they not?
Seems to me Greece, Spain & France are on the verge of bankruptcy, are they not?  Is this what you want for the United States?

Granted Capitalism has it’s faults.  Problem is there is not a better system out there.

As far as the “Gilded Age”.  I don’t see any new mansions being built in Newport lately.  I wish there were because I would know our economy is doing great!

posted by: Jim in Mfg | April 16, 2015  1:08pm

Art,
France is not on the verge of bankruptcy but certainly Greece is.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | April 16, 2015  3:36pm

France is ABSOLUTELY on the verge of bankruptcy.  The EU and ECB just won’t let that cat out of the bag.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that France would be the first major EU country to go down as they have clearly been the most progressive/socialist country in the EU for the longest period of time.

France will go down.  The “B” word will not be allowed to be uttered or printed, and the Eurocrats will come up with some new progressive wrapper to tidy up that bag of poo, but bankrupt that country is most definitely.

posted by: dano860 | April 16, 2015  3:39pm

Jim in Mfg, you are correct but I believe that Pres. Holland has a 75% tax rate in France. I remember hearing that the wealthy were bailing when he came into office.

posted by: Politijoe | April 16, 2015  3:46pm

Politijoe

Art: Unfortunately you have not contributed to the dialog and in your typical fashion have responded to a broad conversation with a rather myopic perspective. Adding to this, we now need to spend valuable time addressing your obvious misunderstanding of the issues and discuss semantics. For instance your response appears premised on the faulty assumption that government confiscates money from the wealthy and distributes it to the needs of others. Actually, progressive taxation has served our nation well for decades and to define it as wealth confiscation is simply incomplete thinking.Therefore, I’m unclear what your point is.

You’re comments comparing Greece and Spain with the U.S are superficial nonsense for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, you may want to do some additional homework on France’s economy. You’re comments regarding capitalism as the better system again is incomplete. What I’m referring to is unfettered capitalism and unregulated free markets…..Big difference.
And you obviously misunderstood my comments regarding the Gilded Age. I had cited the current level of wealth concentration in America which are at levels not seen SINCE the gilded age…. again big difference.

Art, with all due respect, there seems to be a pattern in your thinking… please read the information and reflect on the context before responding and contribute facts and substantive thought that support your conclusions. This creates a much better dialog instead of a sophomoric rant.

posted by: Politijoe | April 16, 2015  4:06pm

Politijoe

The conservative opinion regarding the plight of low-wage workers appears predicated on the premise that poverty is strictly a matter of choice and any attempts to address the inequities with-in the system are perceived as government intrusion. To suggest raising the minimum wage is a burden to employers and will force massive unemployment is unfounded. California raised its minimum wage 35% and saw no appreciable increase in unemployment. These limited perspectives lack context and cloud reality.

A significant majority of Wal-Mart and McDonalds employees are not high school kids but are in fact an average of 34 years old, many with families-which means they work 34-40 hours or more but still cant meet their basic needs of food, shelter and healthcare, a demographic known as the working poor.  A basic increase of 4-6% in minimum wages would increase the cost to consumers by only 1-2% within most industries.

Facts are stubborn things and they clearly indicate there is a much bigger problem than the patriotic platitudes and frontier solutions most conservatives cite. Thirty million Americans are in low-wage jobs. Most earn between $7.25 and $10 per hour, averaging about $300 weekly. Average rents are $1200 monthly, leaving nothing without a spouse or second job to support utilities, fuel, childcare, food, clothing, transportation and healthcare costs, to say nothing of the flippant and obviously unrealistic suggestion they should just go to college. The annual community college costs today is $10K In many cases the working poor don’t qualify for government assistance in any form thereby creating further disincentives within an already regressive system.

The inequity is most striking when wages are compared to productivity. In the last thirty years American productivity has significantly increased, even doubled but wages have remained stagnant. Which when taken into account would put the minimum wage at about $17 an hour today. The U.S. lags far behind European nations on this issue, in part because we have propagated a mythology of bootstrap independence that simply doesn’t live up to the reality of middle-class mobility. This is largely because Europeans have a different set of priorities one of which includes strong labor unions. In America many are actually afraid of their government, in contrast the governments of Europe are afraid of its people.

posted by: Politijoe | April 17, 2015  6:21am

Politijoe

My apologies, that last post was actually intended for an entirely different story (the $15 hour wage)

posted by: art vandelay | April 17, 2015  11:24am

art vandelay

@Politijoe,
I believe I have contributed intelligently to the dialog.  I must compliment you however in being an excellent student of Saul Alinsky.  “When your ideas and messages are challenged, attack the messenger”.  Yes government does confiscate wealth. It’s called the income tax.  The income tax has not served our country well.  The initial goal in 1913 was to tax only 1/4 of 1 percent of the wealthiest to pay off debts incurred by the Civil War.  Once the debt was retired, our country would have been better off abolishing it.  Instead the revenues fueled an ever expansive and growing central government.  A strong centralized federal government was something the founding fathers feared most.  They were excellent students of history.  They realized the large centralized governments of Rome, Athens & Cairo led to the destruction of these great empires.
It was presidents like Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon, and Obama who were instrumental in expanding it.

I’m sorry but I cannot comprehend the progressive’s belief that hamburger flippers, and coffee servers are indeed career positions capable of supporting a family.
Low paying entry level jobs are just that.  Entry level with the intention of developing into more meaningful and skilled jobs. It’s progressives & liberal extremists who have destroyed many well paid skilled manufacturing jobs in this country through ever increased taxing and regulations.  The result now is these are the only jobs left which now must be considered career positions.  If the large centralized government were reduced along with stiffening regulations, maybe some of the manufacturing will return.  As Ronald Reagan once said “Government is the problem, not the solution.”

posted by: RJEastHartford | April 18, 2015  3:32pm

Politijoe brings forth the points that all working people, wether professional or non-professional should be engaged in discussing. The “free market” has really never existed, policies have always influenced the market: trade, monetary, tax, accounting, regulatory, and employmennt—immigration, especially today. Money influences policy, more so today, clearly the result is, as Politijoe points out, is the concentration of wealth. An at-will employee (college or non-college educated) today has no leverage or power. Accounting rules FASB made pensions prohibitive for any employer, a sop to Wall Street, off shoring of jobs (where is your iPhone made? Child labor laws there?) heated up exponentially with NAFTA, today as technology leads in the economy, all tech companies and now other companies demand more H1b working visas to bring “qualified workers from other countries”, essentially to replace higher cost workers as independent contractors. does this policy distort the market? Who does it favor? Essentially it is a lie, and beginning to be exposed in Congress. All these policies, including tax inversions benefit the companies ROI, period. As worker productivity rose, wages adjusted for inflation declined. Yet balance sheets are flush with cash (held overseas), stock buybacks are prevalent, equity is up, debt is down or is cheap to finance mega mergers, (what happened to antitrust oversight?). Today the problem is not scarcity. Tax rates for business could be zero, these highlighted policies would not change. Small business takes the brunt, they cannot benefit from most these policies, rather their customers earnings and security have evaporated or been severely constrained driving down their revenues while their costs increase. This is also a competitive advantage to the box retailer, pharmacy, auto parts, and home improvement/hardware store.
The worker needs help, as we move to a just in time workforce….no matter what the job. The worker is absorbing all the risk in the market. My son or you daughter will be subject to thiese policies, the test of which will be not the job they get initially, but rather their earning power between the ages of 25 to 50. I believe it will be much lower than mine historically. It is already considering pension, healthcare and salary increases. I doubt any politician will turn their back and “double cross” their benefactors: the “street”’ money center banks, private equity and MNE & investors and adjust these policies in favor of the at- will employee aka the middle class voter.

posted by: dano860 | April 19, 2015  9:27pm

When the income tax was implemented by the Democratic, no Republican, no wait Unaffiliated Governor Weicker, the original flip flopper, it was to be a ‘temporary’ tax too.
Remember his commercial? “,an income tax will be like throwing gas on a fire.” Well he did just that and the money hasn’t stopped or slowed spending. It hasn’t improved our infrastructure, it hasn’t pulled the poor into the middle class. It has created more people on the dole. It has created more agencies that are going to solve problems but never do.
More money is never the answer for the government.

posted by: Politijoe | April 20, 2015  1:17pm

Politijoe

Rjeasthartford: WOW…. excellent summary.
If we could only get the the conservatives on this site to just slow down long enough to r.e.a.d. the information instead of react to it with emotional fear-based rhetoric they would begin to understand the threat isn’t who they think it is.

The corporate elite and their obliged politicians have sold America a bill of goods on the promises of globalization, war, unregulated free markets, privatization and wealthy tax cuts. What this represents is decades of failed polices that support unfettered capitalism that systematically exploits everything in its path in an endless pursuit of wealth. Historically,  the Republican Party acquired campaign funding predominately from wealthy individuals and industry. In contrast, Democrats secured funding from organized labor, middle class civic organizations and the working class. With the erosion of labor unions and civic organizations over the last few decades the Democratic Party has been increasingly compelled to seek campaign funding from the very same interests as Republicans -big business and the wealthy. This has created government policies that reflect the interests of the few and manifested in inequitable taxation polices, extreme concentrations of wealth, wage inequality, corporate citizenship and perpetual war. The most disastrous part of this debacle is the fact we have a large uninformed electorate that has ignored all of this, in the name of false patriotism and American exceptionalism. They have been distracted with fears of Muslim presidents, socialism and immigrants. They have bought into the war on poor people instead of the war on poverty. These are willing accomplices who vote against their own interests and protect the very same corporate elite and the politicians in their thrall who are forcing them to dig their own graves.

The unfortunate reality is the corporate elite and casino capitalists will never freely relinquish their economic hold. Americans must regain a proper understanding of the complimentary and balanced roles of government and the marketplace as an antidote to the casino capitalists and Washington influence peddlers, only then can we begin to return to a system responsive to the needs of America’s middle class and working poor. The immediate steps required to begin this process is repealing Citizens United. Concurrently we need to establish a nationally subsidized public campaign fund and establish a national automated voter registration process.

posted by: Politijoe | April 20, 2015  2:01pm

Politijoe

Art: You’re comment “I must compliment you in being an excellent student of Saul Alinsk, when your ideas and messages are challenged, attack the messenger”….again another assumption not to mention gross misunderstanding of Saul Alinski.

For the record, I’m not attacking you, I am however, seriously questioning your rationale and methodology.  For instance when you stated ” Government does confiscate wealth. It’s called the income tax”. ……. Art tell me are we talking exclusively about income tax or any taxation? Should there be property or real estate tax, sales or excise taxes, tariff or capital gains? What about inheritance or estate taxes? Are all these a form of government extortion?

Additionally, how would we be “better off” abolishing this?

As you indicated Ronald Reagan did state on the campaign trail   “Government is the problem, not the solution.” However once in office he established the EMTALA, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, advocated for an assault weapons ban, increased taxes over 17 times and passed EPA regulations.

The obvious point is moderate governance not extremism.  We have a challenge in our society, which is the belief that illusion is knowledge. Progressive taxation is the membership dues to a civilized society. Suggesting otherwise is simply incomplete, hypocritical thinking.

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