Democratic mayors from nine major Connecticut cities met Wednesday in Hartford to voice concern over Gov. John G. Rowland’s state budget for the next fiscal year.
The $12.9 billion state budget unveiled Feb 7. left many mayors displeased with the level of funding for local education and the reduction of aid to cities and towns.
The mayors said the new budget would force them to cut services or raise taxes, and they urged lawmakers to return up to $100 million in state aid to cities and towns.
“Is the governor saying we should raise property taxes?” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. There has not been a rise in taxes in recent years in the city.
DeStefano estimated that the new state budget will mean a loss of around $3 million for New Haven.
Other mayors were also apprehensive about the possibility of raising taxes.
“He’s been cutting taxes while we’ve been freezing them or raising taxes,” Meriden Mayor Joseph Marinan said. Marinan and his counterparts have already had to raise taxes more than once.
According to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the governor also proposed to cap payments in lieu of taxes and will eliminate the revenue sharing grant, which sent $34 million to municipalities this year for property tax relief.
The changes to the budget were made in order to accommodate increased costs of prescription drugs, healthcare and hospitals. Also included in the budget were proposals to restructure a variety of welfare programs, from mental health to juvenile justice.
The state is expected to run a surplus of around $500 million or more, which is limited by a constitutional state spending cap Rowland has said he will not exceed, to the dismay of city and town leaders. $120 million of the surplus will go toward avoiding school construction debt, and $50 million will be for improving transportation.
The most controversial proposal was the plan to stop the $25 million grant to the state’s Pequot and Mohegan casinos. This money is expected to go to school-aid funds.
House Speaker Moira K. Lyons said the Democrat-controlled legislature will probably restore the casino funding, and add “tens of millions of dollars” toward Education Cost Sharing.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.