State, city officials blast Malloy budget

A panel of eight state senators and representatives unanimously criticized Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year at a Saturday Board of Alderman meeting for cuts that could cripple city services and leave local government with few options to make up lost revenue.

Malloy’s budget — which was announced earlier this month and must address a projected $1.2 billion deficit for the fiscal year — stipulates $43.8 billion in spending over the next two years, marks a five percent increase over the state’s current level of spending and does not include any major tax increases. It also proposes to redirect state dollars into local capital improvement funds, which would require cities to use the money for projects such as building new roads or purchasing new equipment, not to pay the salaries of public works employees or subsidize pensions and healthcare. While Malloy claims the distribution of funds will remain the same for New Haven, State Rep. Roland Lemar said the reallocations will have a “devastating impact” on government layoffs and social services.

“It is somewhat disingenuous that the city has to reorder its priorities in order to accommodate the state’s budget,” said Lemar, who represents New Haven and served four years on the Board of Alderman. “It is incumbent on us to fight back and fight together on this.”

In the wake of the proposed funding modifications, the state delegation was especially critical of Malloy’s decision to denounce increasing taxes for millionaires to augment revenue during his public appearances as a means of pandering to his wealthiest constituents in Fairfield County. They said Malloy’s budget is $400 million over the state’s spending cap, which state Democrats cannot pass without a three-fifths majority in the House — an advantage they currently lack.

“This budget and tax package is not a real package,” State Rep. Toni Walker said. “It is [Malloy’s] manifesto for re-election. We have a budget that is placed before us that we can’t pass.”

The state delegation viewed the meeting as an opportunity to bridge state and local government, forming a coalition to amend the budget so that it may respect the challenges of urban-based communities. Lemar said he anticipated an “extraordinary push back” against Malloy’s proposal from Connecticut mayors and local delegations.

The redirected funds also include $6.9 million from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund, a state fund distributed across 169 municipalities. Walker, who represents New Haven, said the Elm City was one of the fund’s “biggest winners,” and such a change would represent a significant blow to the city’s ability to balance its budget.

Malloy also proposed to cut several revenue drivers for New Haven, including the state’s car tax, which yields approximately $3.5 million annually for the city and represents a total of $560 million in revenue for municipalities statewide, said Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, who represents New Haven. Lemar said the elimination of the car tax would result in higher property taxes and layoffs of public officials like police officers and firefighters.

In addition, legislators criticized Malloy’s proposal to reduce resources for mental health services and eliminate $1 million in New Haven public school transportation funds.

New Haven’s new budget is due to the Board of Aldermen on March 1.

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