Towns and Cities Need Lawmakers to Get to Work, Not Delay Budget Process

April 3, 2017

By Senator Len Fasano

There’s one thing Connecticut Republicans and Democrats appear to agree on when it comes to the state budget this year: Governor Malloy’s proposed budget in its current form is not passing the legislature.

It’s good that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to recognize the irrationality of the governor’s budget, which includes deep and unmanageable cuts to municipalities that would without a doubt result in local tax increases. But the fact that the governor’s budget is completely unworkable also leaves a lot of uncertainty for our towns and cities. If Gov. Malloy’s proposal is dead, what will the final budget look like? What funding can towns plan to count on this year? Our towns deserve answers.

Instead of adopting a sense of urgency to provide answers, some lawmakers recently tried to pass a bill that would have taken the pressure off the legislature to address these questions. The bill would have allowed towns to bypass their charters and push out their local budget writing deadlines. I opposed this bill, because I firmly believe that rather than asking 169 towns to change their budget schedules, lawmakers at the Capitol need to commit to doing our jobs and adopting an aggressive schedule to complete the state budget.

The proposed bill would have allowed municipalities to push out their local budget timelines, but did not provide for a date certain for when the state would adopt its budget. Towns could extend their deadlines, but we the legislature could still not pass a budget before their new deadlines. That’s not fair to town officials or the taxpayers they represent.

In addition to failing to identify a date certain for the state to do its job of passing a budget, the bill before the legislature was poorly drafted and was only released hours before Democrats tried to hold a vote on it, giving limited time for deliberation. As written, the bill would have wrongly allowed towns to pass budgets without holding referendums, public hearings, or having an opportunity for public input. When I suggested working together to fix this aspect of the bill and make other changes to strengthen the proposal, such as committing to a date to finish the state budget, my efforts for bipartisanship were flatly rejected.

I believe it’s unfair to ask municipalities to change their timelines because it puts the onus on towns and cities to cater to the legislature without any commitment from the legislature to do its part. Instead, state lawmakers should be showing our willingness and ability to buckle down and focus on doing our job. Towns and cities need to know what to expect in the state budget so they can complete their own budgets. Lawmakers’ main focus should be working together to address these questions, not delay answers.

Senator Len Fasano serves as the Connecticut Senate Republican President Pro Tempore. He represents the 34th Senate District including Durham, East Haven, North Haven & Wallingford.