Op-Ed: Cutting aid to Connecticut’s municipalities is not the answer

Throughout his campaign for reelection, Gov. Dannel Malloy touted his administration’s expansion of state aid to municipal governments, an expansion that stood in stark contrast to the cuts made by many of his fellow governors nationwide, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Yet just days after the November election, possibilities were predicted of an ever widening budget deficit for this year and years coming, the Secretary of the State Office of Policy and Management even going so far as to say that “We have entered into a period of permanent fiscal crises in state and local government, it seems.”

Op-ed submit bugDuring his candidate interview with the Connecticut Council of Police-AFSCME Council 15, Gov. Malloy pointed to these increases — $1.4 billion over the first three-plus years of his administration – as a reason to endorse him. Those increases would help prevent police furloughs and layoffs, along with shifts away from defined benefit pensions in favor of risky defined contribution 401k’s suffered by departments across the country.

By keeping police officers on our streets, coupled with other factors, Connecticut enjoyed a historic decrease in crime – the lowest murder rate in 40 years and a 10 percent drop in overall crime, violent crime dropping at double the national average.

Yet with billion dollar deficits facing the state this year and years to come, municipalities should be worried.

One of the biggest things that could jeopardize the economic recovery, lackluster when compared to many other states, would be cuts to local governments. During the recession, many municipal employee unions, police included, made major concessions including significant increases in healthcare and pension contributions, all while taking zero pay increases. In other words, we took pay cuts to help our towns and cities weather the economic storm.

Cuts to municipal government aid would not only jeopardize public safety, but jeopardize the economic recovery. Less money in the pockets of working families means less money in the pockets of Connecticut’s small businesses.

The Connecticut Council of Police urges Gov. Malloy to heed his own words: “I won’t balance the budget on the backs of towns and cities.”

Not only is it good political rhetoric, it’s even better public policy.

Patrick Gaynor is president of the Connecticut Council of Police-AFSCME Council 15 and is also a captain with the Meriden Police Department.

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