Next Wednesday, newly inaugurated Governor Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz ’83 will unveil their first proposal on how to distribute the state’s limited funds and set the tone on its economic priorities.
Lamont and Bysiewicz will share their annual proposed budget for the Nutmeg State with the legislature on Wednesday. As the introduction of his first proposed budget approaches, Lamont has signalled an embrace of fiscal responsibility, despite projections that the current fiscal year will end with a significant surplus.
“My job on February 20 is to share with you a realistic and thoughtful budget that will jump start the Connecticut economy, and work for everyone,” Lamont wrote in an open letter to the state’s residents on Monday. “But my proposal is just the beginning of the conversation … I look forward to sitting down with your legislative representatives, with our friends in labor and business, and with other stakeholders, as we push toward an honestly balanced budget.”
In the cash-strapped Elm City, Mayor Toni Harp’s own proposed budget for the municipality will depend heavily on the numbers presented by Lamont and company on Wednesday. After the state’s executive presents the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the state legislatures will debate, potentially change and finalize the actual budget in the coming months. But the Lamont administration’s initial numbers will be used as a jumping-off point as municipalities design their own yearly fiscal roadmaps.
The new administration in Hartford follows the eight-year term of former Gov. Dannel Malloy, who became increasingly unpopular as the economy of the states and its major cities struggled. Malloy approved a 2018 bailout for Hartford, and he approved decreased funding in the current fiscal year for other major municipalities including New Haven and nearby Bridgeport, which have struggled with limited sources of revenue and fast growing expenditures for years.
Last year, the dollar amount that New Haven received from the state decreased from the prior year, likely due to the increased amount allocated to Hartford. To compensate and free up cash flows, City Hall adopted a number of unpopular measures, including an 11 percent property tax hike and a high volume restructuring of debt over the summer, which pushed debt service payments well into the next decade. Ultimately, with limited sources of local revenue, state aid critically factors into budget planning in New Haven.
This year, with Lamont at the helm, some are hopeful that the state’s fiscal responsibility will increase, and that more funding will be allocated to major metropolises. Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 told the News that he hoped cities would be given their “fair share” under the new administration.
Whatever the actual amount proposed, New Haven will structure its city-level budget planning around the expectation of receiving the amount specified in Lamont’s initial proposal. Mayoral spokesperson Laurence Grotheer told the News that Harp, whose proposed budget for the city is due to the Board of Alders just ten days after Lamont’s, “will use projected revenue figures for state aid based upon Governor Lamont’s proposed budget.”
Hartford has emphasized fiscal restraint in recent years. Both Lamont and Bysiewicz have appeared at events throughout the state and spoken about the necessity of a “debt diet” — reducing the state’s borrowing and financing through bonds — to decrease Connecticut’s overall amount of debt, as cost increases have outpaced the state’s economic growth.
Lamont was a successful businessman before he assumed the state’s highest office in his first foray into elected politics. His campaign stressed the importance of the state’s economic health, and his first month in office has proven consistent with this thus far.
In the latest monthly report, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo predicted an end-of-fiscal-year surplus of $460 million in the General Fund. Still, Lamont’s open letter asked that lawmakers and citizens remain tempered, given many of the more structural problems in the current fiscal scheme.
Lamont narrowly defeated Republican Bob Stefanowski s in November for the Governor’s seat.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org