Mayors from the state’s largest cities came to the state Capitol Wednesday to share a message: The governor’s budget could force them to lay off hundreds of municipal employees.
The only alternative would be to raise property taxes to make up for the $128 million cut in state funding they would get next year.
“We don’t think that the people can afford $160 [more in taxes] a month and we don’t think they can afford that loss of those members of public safety… We want a better budget than what has been proposed so far,” Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch told reporters Wednesday.
Municipal leaders have been grappling with budget deficits for years, including in the last two fiscal years when state lawmakers resisted cutting municipal aid.
Finch and other Democratic and Republican municipal leaders have been speaking out at every opportunity against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget. The Democratic governor has said he is holding municipal budgets harmless as he works to close the state’s budget deficit, but local leaders say they stand to lose millions if the governor’s budget is adopted.
The governor’s budget would reduce the amount municipal leaders receive from the state to pay for things like police and firefighter salaries and other operating costs while providing more funding to pay for construction projects.
“For Hartford, we have about a $13 million loss of revenue to our budget,” Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said. “Basically, this $13 million loss of revenue would mean about 300 people. That’s about the size of our entire” public works department.
The governor is also proposing that cities and towns no longer be permitted to collect property taxes on most motor vehicles, a move that would cost cities and towns $632.8 million a year, reports the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Jim Finley, the executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said after speaking with numerous legislators that he thinks that proposal is “dead on arrival… There are no votes for it.”
The governor’s chief of staff responded to the mayor’s criticism, saying, “Change is hard.”
“As town leaders know, every budget is about setting priorities. The Governor’s priority is to continue the effort to improve public schools and create jobs, and to do it without raising taxes. In fact, he is trying to ease the burden on middle class families by providing some much-needed tax relief,” Mark Ojakian said in a statement. “We understand that change is hard, but change is also necessary. Local leaders know that.”
The governor’s proposed budget directs more state funding to the education grant, but does not require that cities and towns spend that money on education.