Legislators Meet with Municipal Leaders to Discuss State Budget Situation

May 10, 2017

Legislators & Municipal Leaders

State Senator Henri Martin (R-31) today were joined by State Representatives Whit Betts (R-78), William Petit (R-22), and John Piscopo (R-76) in a meeting with central Connecticut municipal leaders. The legislators invited the municipalities for a roundtable discussion on the proposed Republican budget and its impact on communities.

Sen. Martin said legislators wanted to tell municipal leaders the thinking behind the Republican budget proposal and their priorities during the current budget negotiations

“Certainly the news that tax revenues are more than $400 million below what was expected makes the budget process more difficult,” Sen. Martin said. “I know one thing we will try to do is maintain municipal funding levels. We would like our budget proposal to serve as a framework for the negotiation process.”

Rep. Betts said his caucus would like budget discussion to focus more on cuts than raising revenue. He said some of the administration’s tax proposals would be particularly harmful.

“The proposed hospital tax would be devastating to Bristol Hospital,” Rep. Betts said. “We cannot afford to lose it both as a major employer and a medical provider for Bristol residents. There are other ways to close the budget gap.”

Several of the municipal leaders related that manufacturers are telling them that one of the biggest impediments to growing their business is the ability to find skilled workers.

Rep. Petit, who serves on the legislature’s Commerce Committee, said he and his colleagues are working on the issue.

“I know I’m the new kid on the block here, but I can tell you that the Commerce Committee is very aware of the problems businesses are having finding skilled workers,” Rep. Petit said. ”We know one of the things that needs to be done is to get the needs of the industry in tune with the younger generation. We need to start reaching kids much earlier to let them know that high-tech manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs that offer them a career.”

When asked about a timeline for when budget negotiations would be complete, the legislators said there is no way to know.

Rep. Piscopo said the projected $5 billion deficit over the next two years makes budget negotiations even more challenging.

“Unfortunately, municipalities don’t have the luxury of waiting for the legislature to develop their budget,” Rep. Piscopo said. “This puts them in a terrible position, but we hope changes can be made that will make future budgets more predictable. Our towns really deserve to know what to expect.”

After the meeting, local leaders said they appreciated that legislators reached out to them to let them know how Republicans crafted their budget and their priorities during negotiations.

City of New Britain Chief of Staff Jodi Latina said she was glad legislators invited municipal leaders to talk about the budget and ask questions.

“It’s great because as the budget negotiations progress, we know exactly where these legislators are coming from,” Latina said. “It is extremely important that Senator Martin included urban areas like New Britain into his thoughtful budget process.”

Thomaston First Selectman Ed Mone said this budget year has been particularly difficult for towns because they do not know what kind of municipal and education funding they can expect.

“Towns have been kind of left in the lurch this year,” Mone said. “This meeting helped us understand some of the dynamics that go into the budgets and we certainly appreciate knowing about the formula they proposed to determine what we receive in state revenue so as to create more predictability in the local budgeting process.”

Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee said he found the meeting to be very productive.

“It certainly seems like they are taking the right approach in terms of how to handle things,” Lee said. “I certainly support an (Education Cost Sharing) formula that has a predictable and fair appropriation for communities.”