The longest budget impasse in state history has finally come to an end, as Gov. Dannel Malloy on Tuesday signed a majority of the Connecticut General Assembly’s veto-proof budget, which passed both the House and Senate on Thursday. But municipalities, including New Haven, are still grappling with what the plan’s deep cuts will mean for their local governments.
The $41 billion budget eradicates the state’s projected $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years, though some specifics of the budgetary cuts are still up in the air. But New Haven representatives and administrators are still sifting through the more than 800-page document to determine how the bill will affect the city.
“With a state budget in place, the state can begin to reassure vendors and make plans for the remainder of the fiscal year,” mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. “It really is unprecedented for the state to have gone four months into the fiscal year without a spending plan in place.”
Connecticut was the last state in the country to pass a budget. The bill passed by a 126–23 vote in the House and a 33–3 vote in the Senate.
With the budget, Democrats were able to allocate more money to cities and higher-education than would have been the case under proposals brought forward by Republicans, whose bill passed both chambers in mid-September was vetoed by Malloy days later. In the recently approved bill, Republicans placed caps on state spending and borrowing. The bill also includes provisions that require the legislature to vote on all state-employee union contracts.
Typically, progressives lean toward protecting Connecticut’s impoverished cities, whereas the conservatives work with the outer, more rural areas of the state, said New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81. Nemerson added that Connecticut is one of the most “non-integrated states” when it comes to urban and rural communities, one of the leading reasons it took so long to come up with a budget.
“The biggest change is that, for the first time in memory, you have a bipartisan budget,” Nemerson said.
Many city officials remain unaware of the budget’s intricacies: No one knows exactly how the budget will directly affect New Haven and the state-provided social services currently in place. According to Michael Gormany, the city’s acting budget director, New Haven is still reviewing the more than 800-page budget document for information on municipal aid and other state programs that affect the city.
New Haven has a dense population of immigrant and impoverished families that rely on the social programs in place.
“Each one of [these programs] [comes] with a big price tag, so how is that handled?” Nemerson said. “Who stands forward?”
The reality is that no one truly knows how all these programs will be financed moving forward.
But despite fiscal uncertainty in the state, Mayor Toni Harp wrote in a June 5 letter — which prefaced the city’s budget — that New Haven will continue to provide essential public safety, public education and economic development services.
State Sen. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, was one of the 23 members in the House who vote down the bill, making her one of about 10 Democrats in that chamber to reject the bill.
“Under this budget, the disparity between social classes will continue to grow and the voices of our most vulnerable residents will remain unheard,” Porter told the News. “By eliminating services and programs that our working families rely on, we are limiting our citizen’s ability to thrive in our state.”
Porter added that the tax structure needed to be fixed in a more equitable fashion in order to move forward and address the fiscal challenges in New Haven. She is currently advocating for other methods of raising revenue to compensate for the tax decrease in this new budget.
“We’re very happy that our legislators fought for us and got New Haven as much as they could in this budget climate. I think we were happy about that,” Nemerson said. “We just have to see all the details.”
Grace Kang | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Nov. 1: A previous version of this article quoted Matthew Nemerson as saying that “our legislatures fought for us.” In fact, he said “our legislators.”