Reps. Frey and Ferguson vote for budget that restores education funding

State Representatives John Frey (R-111) and Michael Ferguson (R-138) voted to approve a bipartisan budget on Thursday as it passed the House of Representatives with a 126-23 veto-proof margin.  Following the Senate’s passage of the budget bill, it now heads to the desk of Governor Dan Malloy for signing or potential veto.

The legislature’s budget was a compromise between House and Senate leadership from both parties in the midst of the governor’s executive order, which included sharp funding reduction for town aid, education, and core social services – facts that had local leaders and residents worried about teacher layoffs and supplemental tax bills.

“When you consider where budget talks started at the beginning of the year and then look at where we ended up, the compromise budget represents the best possible deal for Ridgefield because it restores most of its state funding and protects property taxpayers here from the governor’s proposal to bill towns for a third of the cost of teacher pensions,” said Rep. Frey.  “Voting for this budget was a difficult choice because it contained certain elements that I wasn’t comfortable with and really doesn’t address Connecticut’s unfunded pension liabilities, but the Town of Ridgefield should be able to make it through the 2017-2018 biennium in good shape as a result.  There is still substantial work to fix our state’s finances and that will be my starting point when session begins next year but, for now, we can claim a small victory over the governor.”

“Today government worked the way it should have for the people of Connecticut. This budget compromise protects the state’s most in-need citizens as well as the taxpayers of the city.  We still have much to do before our state is firmly on the path to economic success,” said Rep. Ferguson. “This budget is not perfect and it doesn’t solve all of Connecticut’s problems but I believe this bipartisan agreement is a first step to restore the state’s economy. It shows that we have heard the people of Connecticut loud and clear.”

When the General Assembly approved the governor’s SEBAC union contract in July, it limited the ability of the state to close its $5 billion budget deficit by trimming its bureaucracy and controlling pension costs.  However, the legislators pointed to several structural reforms within the compromise budget that were retained from a Republican budget bill that passed last month.  These include a bonding cap, a spending cap, a mandatory vote on all union contracts, and certain municipal mandate relief reforms.  It also rejects several tax increases proposed by majority Democrats and the governor in previous budget proposals.

“Unfortunately, the SEBAC union contract that the legislature approved back in July locked in a sizeable portion of the spending side of the budget, so we were not able to achieve the savings in state government that really need to be made,” said Rep. Frey.  “For most of the year, it looked like another budget that increases taxes was inevitable – we had to resist proposals for electronic tolling, sales tax hikes, cell phones taxes, taxes on seasonal homes, and supplemental property tax bills.  Governor Malloy was insisting that municipalities contribute towards teacher pension liabilities – this would have cost Ridgefield $4 million.  The fact that all of this was stopped is an achievement. In addition, over $500,000 in ECS was restored.    I am also optimistic about the new structural reforms in the budget bill.  I have fought for implementing the constitutional spending cap, a bonding cap, and mandatory votes on union contracts for decades.”

Reps. Frey and Ferguson concluded by calling the passage of the compromise budget “the best option we had,” saying, “Majority Democrats put us in an unfortunate fiscal bind by passing the SEBAC union agreement.  As Ridgefield legislators, however, we have a responsibility to get to work and be a part of the solution rather than stand back and watch the state fall apart.  We still have a lot of work to do but the state will truly be in better shape when this budget becomes law.”

The governor will make his decision on whether to veto the budget bill or not in the coming weeks, although there is optimism that a veto could be overridden in both chambers.

State Representative John Frey represents the 111th district, which covers Ridgefield. He is the Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Bonding Subcommittee and a member of the Banks Committee and Committee on Legislative Management. 

State Representative Michael Ferguson represents the 138th Assembly district communities of Danbury, New Fairfield, and Ridgefield.  He is a member of the General Assembly’s Education, Transportation, and Internship committees.