Gov. Malloy’s budget proposal fails to provide a vision for the type of come-from-behind strategy the state desperately needs. The budget and economic stakes for the state of Connecticut have never been higher. Our state needs to mount the kind of historic comeback we saw in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Instead the budget proposed by the governor fails to make the first down.
I agree with the governor’s statement that all residents need the opportunity for success and that, so far, state government has failed to build a good educational or transportation system. Unfortunately, the governor’s playbook doesn’t show us how to achieve these things. It continues to fumble our children’s educational needs and deserves a personal foul for eliminating the property tax credit and passing an $11-billion increase in unfunded pension liabilities on to our children.
The budget calls for changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula that funds local schools and proposes to separate special education costs from that funding. Special education funds would be paid to towns on a sliding scale with communities being reimbursed between zero and 55% of their costs. The new ECS formula just moves money around and does nothing to address the root problems that are hurting education in our cities every day. Money alone does not equal educational opportunity. We must find out why the money currently going to our cities isn’t getting to our children.
A possible example of this is that between 2010 and 2014 Hartford Public Schools’ student population grew by 2.89%. At the same time, the number of teachers increased by 4.2%, while central office staff increased by 66.7%.
I’m also bothered by the governor’s proposal to shift a third of teacher retirement pension costs onto municipalities, which will almost certainly result in property tax increases.
These proposed changes to ECS and special education funding, along with the governor’s proposal to require towns to pick up the additional cost of teacher pension costs, will make it impossible for many town, especially in Fairfield County, to fund education without significant increases in local taxes.
The governor’s budget also proposes $700 million in savings from state employee unions and an additional $256 million in spending cuts, but did not provide details for how those would be achieved. Let’s not forget past promises by the governor of union givebacks, which never seemed to materialize.
The bottom line is that Connecticut’s budget situation calls for tremendous drive, vision and grit to get us into the end zone. Instead, the governor’s proposals are an incomplete pass and the result is that our economy gets sacked.
The Ridgefield Republican Town meets monthly on the third Thursday in the large conference room of Ridgefield Town Hall starting at 7:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend, listen and participate with their comments. Go to our website: www.ridgefieldcygop.org
Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.