Last month, a bill that would have extended the budget deadline for local governments to June 30th died when Senate Republicans refused to consider it.
This was a shame, as towns are now scrambling to put together a budget without knowing how much municipal aid is coming their way. At a recent Town Hall Meeting in Cheshire, the room was filled with residents concerned about cuts to education funding in the Governor’s proposed budget.
Without the option of extending the deadline, it will be even more difficult for towns to craft a budget that is both balanced and provides a quality education for our students. The failure of this simple piece of legislation is a lesson in the need to put the concerns of our towns over political theater.
As legislators, playing the blame-game doesn’t help the towns we serve or get us any closer to a solution. I share my colleagues’ frustrations with the irresponsible fiscal practices that have created the current budget crisis, but that’s not a reason to block efforts to help towns navigate an unpredictable process.
Was this bill a band aid on a larger problem? Of course. But it took many years to get to this point, and the budget crisis cannot be solved overnight. In the meantime, we should try to ease the burden on towns however we can.
The Governor’s proposal is only the first step in the budget process, but its contents have given towns plenty of reasons to worry. As it stands, the budget would be devastating to Cheshire and many other towns – drastically cutting aid for education and forcing towns to foot the bill for a third of teachers’ pension costs.
I’m committed to working diligently with my colleagues to find better solutions. We should be honest with our constituents about what we can expect - in the face of such a large deficit, no town will remain unaffected by cuts. There is no solution that will please everyone, but our job as legislators is to advocate for a budget that is fairest to our towns and does not create an undue burden for middle-class taxpayers.
Our priority right now needs to be planning a better future for our state, not distributing blame for a budget crisis decades in the making.
It’s time to work together toward the goals we can all agree on: ensuring towns can continue to provide our children a high quality public education, limiting the burden on middle-class families, and promoting job growth and economic development that will lift up all of Connecticut.