Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed two bills Thursday, including a measure passed to quell anger over the state’s financial bailout of Hartford, and he cautioned lawmakers to fix significant errors in another law that imposes a surcharge on insurance policies to finance relief for owners of homes with crumbling foundations.
The Hartford bill was a legislative reaction to the extent of financial assistance extended to Hartford by MARB, the Municipal Assistance Review Board: The state will pay the principal on Hartford’s general obligation debt of about $534 million over the next two or three decades. Many legislators had envisioned assistance for just two years.
The vetoed measure, Senate Bill 528, would reduce non-education aid to the city by an amount equal to the emergency debt assistance Connecticut contractually pledged to Hartford — but not for five years, a compromise sought by Hartford lawmakers who argued that a two-year cap was onerous. The bill passed overwhelming in both chambers.
“It is clear that Substitute Senate Bill 528 is a reflection of indignation on the part of some legislators that MARB exercised its statutory authority in coming to the aid of our capital city,” Malloy wrote in his veto measure. “However, I believe it is critical that the state have a viable mechanism in place to allow it to intervene in the case of other troubled municipalities in a way that is both effective and that holds those municipalities highly accountable. The MARB statute provides just such a framework. It is workable, it is working, and it should be left alone.”
The original municipal assistance law groups distressed municipalities in four tiers based on their fiscal needs. Only two, Hartford and West Haven, have been placed in Tier III, a level that requires them to seek MARB approval of labor agreements and budget assumptions. In return, they become eligible for state aid once the review board approves a fiscal recovery plan.
No community is in Tier IV, which gives MARB greater oversight.
The restrictions in the vetoed bill are symbolic to some degree. That’s because the debt relief, which should continue for the next 20 to 30 years, is locked in by contract. But future legislatures still could override the mandates in the Senate bill and approve non-education grants for Hartford at any level it wishes.
The bill would authorize reductions to non-education grants to Hartford after five years of debt assistance if the city runs a deficit in excess of 2 percent of annual operating costs in a given fiscal year, or has a 1 percent deficit for two consecutive years.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven, one of the chief architects of the measure, called Thursday for legislators to override the governor’s veto.
“This veto demonstrates the governor’s arrogance and lack of respect for taxpayer dollars,” Fasano said. “Once again, when it comes to support for the city of Hartford, Governor Malloy completely dismisses the intent and the voice of the legislature.”
Fasano added that the bailout modification bill “was the result of extensive bipartisan negotiations, supported by the Hartford delegation and the Hartford mayor. It defines what state assistance Hartford will be receiving and also puts into place needed protections to ensure taxpayer dollars are not squandered.”
Errors in crumbling foundations bill
The legislature passed a bill intended to impose a $12 annual surcharge on homeowners’ insurance policies, contributing about $9.3 million annually to a relief fund for owners of homes with concrete foundations contaminated with pyrrhotite, a naturally occurring mineral that corrodes and causes massive cracking when exposed to groundwater.
Affected homes must be raised, allowing the removal and replacement of the crumbling foundations at cost of up to $250,000.
But Malloy warned Thursday of significant errors.
The $12 surcharge applies to each person named on a homeowners’ policy, not on each policy, meaning a couple would pay double. It also used the term “homeowners insurance” which covers renters and tenant insurance policies. And it would apply the surcharge to all policies “amended or endorses,” subjecting policy holders to the surcharge any time their policies were amended.
Malloy said he signed the bill, because it doesn’t take affect until next year, giving the legislature time to make the necessary revisions.
Animal protection registry bill vetoed
At the request of a major animal-protection group, Malloy vetoed a bill that would have created a public registry of persons convicted of abusing animals. First-time animal abusers would be on the registry for two years and those who commit subsequent offenses for five years.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warned that the bill would be counter-productive.
“The ASPCA cites studies concluding that registries result in an increase in plea bargains to reduced charges specifically to allow an individual to avoid registration,” Malloy wrote in his veto message.
The two states with animal abuse registries have few registrants — 14 in Tennessee and fewer than 20 in New York, he said.
“Cruelty to animals is a serious issue and individuals found guilty of cruelty to animals should receive appropriate punishment,” he wrote. “I do not believe that an animal abuse registry accomplishes this goal. There is no conclusive evidence that on-line registries protect the public and in fact, such registries have unfortunately had the opposite effect.”
The governor now has signed 207 and vetoed seven bills from the 2018 session. The General Assembly is tentatively scheduled to consider veto overrides on June 25.