Report by Paula Antolini
October 26, 2016 2:58PM EDT
Sen. Boucher Votes to Restore Municipal and Education Funding, Prevent Historic Property Tax Increases
Hartford – Today, State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) voted to approve a budget that starts Connecticut on a path to fiscal stability and recovery. The bipartisan budget would eliminate the Governor’s executive order that deprived schools, communities, and nonprofit social service organizations of essential funding for more than 100 days.
Sen. Boucher said the budget impasse went on for an unnecessarily long time and that the matter could have been resolved in September.
“Connecticut is the only state in the US without a budget,” she said, “but this did not have to be! We had a Republican crafted budget that actually passed with Democratic support in the state Senate and then in the House. All it needed was a Governor’s signature. Instead of accepting the people’s will, he vetoes it in a most partisan fashion putting our towns and schools at risk. He did this despite warnings from the rating agencies that the lack of a budget could cause further downgrades.”
Sen. Boucher credits the vetoed Republican budget as the foundation for a new budget proposal that took of weeks of intense negotiations. She said the final product involved enormous give and take from all parties.
“The financial situation in Connecticut is now so dire that major compromises were essential to crafting an agreement. As a legislator, I was elected to do a job. To let the Governor continue to run the state under his merciless executive order while schools, municipalities, and nonprofits starved would have been the height of irresponsibility. The time to get this done is now and we did it in a bipartisan fashion and with a veto proof majority,” she said.
“This budget prevents what seemed to be Governor’s two top budget objectives, which were cutting education funding to suburban schools and passing $400 million in teacher pension costs onto towns. He knows that doing those two things would have caused municipalities to raise property taxes to historic levels. Instead, our budget eliminates that threat and accomplishes it without a new tax on second homes, a cell phone tax, expansion of the sales tax, or the creation of tolls. This by no means completely eliminates the financial challenges ahead for Connecticut, but it is a major step forward and brings stability to town and school budgets throughout the state.”
The budget restores funding to municipalities cut by the Governor’s executive order. Under the new budget, towns will receive:
- Bethel – $7,855,050 more
- New Canaan – $ 338,757 more
- Redding – $311,103 more
- Ridgefield – $717,094 more
- Weston – $327,459 more
- Westport – $939,909 more
- Wilton – $573,531 more
As with any compromise, Sen. Boucher said no party got everything it wanted from the budget.
“While all may disagree on many aspects, compromise was essential to removing the barriers that prevent the state from moving forward. Plenty of armchair quarterbacks will take pot shots for compromising on some of the accomplishments that were achieved in the budget that was vetoed. However, those critics are not the ones with the responsibility to make these decisions. They are not in Hartford until very late at night or early in the morning. They are not taking time away from their families or the jobs that are their livelihood to serve the people of our state,” Sen. Boucher said.
“I was incredibly torn about voting for this budget after Republicans’ earlier legislative victory. I could have walked away and said ‘no’ to compromise. Connecticut is at a critical juncture and walking away would have assured the financial ruin of our state. To allow 88 communities to be stripped of their education funding and the inevitable massive increase in property taxes would have been an unconscionable dereliction of duty. It also would have meant not getting some of the important structural changes that are included in this compromise.
“A major concession to Republicans in this budget was finally instituting a spending cap that 82 percent of the public voted for after the 1991 income tax was enacted. The budget includes a bonding cap and a requirement for a legislative vote on all future union contracts. It replenishes the Special Transportation Fund without enacting tolls. It eliminates the income tax on Social Security and private pensions for middle-income retirees, and brings the inheritance tax in line with federal levels. Also, it provides major municipal mandate relief we have sought for many years. These are huge accomplishments and we have next session to keep working on further changes to the budget document that passed today. Of this I am certain.”
The budget now moves to the state House of Representative for a vote.
Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.