Senator Boucher Rejects Sweet-Hartford Deal

May 7, 2018

Hartford – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) today voted against legislation that guarantees state payment of the capitol city’s debts for the next five years. The bill approving revisions to the state’s contract with Hartford passed the state Senate and moves to the state House of Representatives.

Sen. Boucher said the original legislature approved in October 2017 as part of the bipartisan budget provided two years of financial assistance to the city of Hartford. The contract negotiated by the Governor’s administration in 2018, however, subverted the legislature’s intent for the financial agreement. It made the state responsible for paying more than $500 of the city’s debt over the next 20 to 40 years.

“I wasn’t happy originally that we went in this direction (of bailing out Hartford) in the compromise budget,” Sen. Boucher said, “but there was enough in there to protect towns from drastic budget cuts, and we had the constitutional spending cap to protect us from future out-of-control budgets like the ones that led Connecticut into this endless cycle of the state never coming out of recession.”

Sen. Boucher said the administration’s actions violate the intent of the bill approved by the General Assembly and are a slap in the face to taxpayers and the rest of the state’s municipalities.

“Past bad practices have gotten the city of Hartford into this position and the taxpayers of Connecticut should not be responsible, particularly when other municipalities have dealt with problems by tightening their belts, cutting expenses, and asking employees to contribute more to their pensions and health care,” she said. “I voted in favor of the Senate Republican amendment that attempted to go back to a two-year agreement with the city. When that failed, I voted against the five-year plan. My position has always been that the best avenue for Hartford has been to declare bankruptcy like the city of Detroit, which has worked out well for them.”

More than a decade ago, the city of Waterbury came to the legislature for financial assistance, Sen. Boucher said. Rather than bail the city out, the legislature created an oversight board for Waterbury and required restructuring of the city’s contracts.

Sen. Boucher said she also questions the five-year plan in light of statements by one of the members of the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB). Bart Shuldman wrote comments about the five-year plan on the CT Mirror website that raises questions about whether the city actually will move away from its financial problems.

“The City of Hartford developed a 5 year plan that showed their budget returning to a deficit in the 3rd year. Year 3 the deficit was projected at $2.5 million, then in Year 4 the budget deficit would grow to $4 million and then in year 5 the City of Hartford would run a $9.4 million deficit,” Shuldman wrote. “In addition to projecting more deficits the City of Hartford plan included getting even more money from the state, $4 million per year. Their plan needed the state to keep bailing them out every year of the 5 year plan.”

After questioning the plan, Shuldman wrote that Hartford quickly submitted a plan showing surpluses as the result unknown labor cost savings.

Sen. Boucher said Shuldman’s questioning of the “new” five-year plan makes her wary that the bailout approved by the legislature will be the end of the state’s assistance for Hartford. She fears Connecticut taxpayers will be paying for Hartford’s poor decision making for years to come.

“This just doesn’t seem to be a responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “We have to ask if this really is the best course of action. I don’t believe it is.”

Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.