GOP Viewpoint: Cuts in aid

December has been a month of bad surprises from the Malloy administration, adding that the latest notification of cuts to education funding takes the cake by coming only one day before the money was supposed to be sent to towns.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of giving and promise. Instead, these drastic cuts to education funding in the middle of the fiscal year is another rotten apple from Gov. Malloy’s bag of bad gifts. Last minute cuts to schools and $30 million freeze in money promised to municipalities continues a sadly predictable trend. The governor is a Scrooge to our communities and children, while playing Father Christmas to state employee unions. Happy New Year indeed!

In addition to ECS funds previously withheld from the state, funding towns in the 26th Senate District will not receive in January and April 2017 includes:

  • Bethel $119,449 (1.5%)
  • New Canaan $339,255 (50%)
  • Redding $83,699 (31.7%)
  • Ridgefield $234,100 (29.1%)
  • Weston $118,049 (30.9%)
  • Westport $443,947 (48.8%)
  • Wilton $202,441 (30.4%)

Making matters worse, the administration adds insult to injury when Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Secretary Ben Barnes suggests the cuts will have “minor adverse consequences” for municipalities.

This savings target the Malloy administration is trying to achieve was not included in the original budget approved by the General Assembly. Rather, the governor used his line-item veto power on June 2, 2016, to change this, which means the administration chose to wait six months to inform municipalities exactly how these reductions would be distributed.

We should be headed in exactly the opposite direction as we start a new session. Budget and state contract negotiators should consider first and foremost that the Democrat leadership has already taxed its people to the hilt. The state has lost people and jobs for the last three straight years. Numbers don’t lie. That is why the state faces continual financial crisis.

Instead of cutting school funding that will lead to increasing local property taxes, Sen. Boucher suggested the administration should look into renegotiating employee contracts covering wages and fringe benefits. Local municipalities have already done this.

In a recent Connecticut Mirror article, “Union concessions still key focal point,” Sec. Barnes confirmed that Connecticut no longer can afford its “extraordinarily generous retiree health benefits, and if our employees wish to maintain them at that level, they are going to have to pay more, or we’re going to have to reduce the generosity of those benefits.” He is quoted saying, “We need to look at COLAs (cost of living adjustments) … we have not gone far enough on restructuring our fixed costs.”  Sec. Barnes acknowledges that even more labor savings are needed and should be part of the next biennial budget.

It’s clear from the administration’s own assessment that we can no longer afford expensive pension and health care benefits state employees receive. State taxpayers have already made significant sacrifices. It’s time for state workers to do their part.

This column was written and submitted to The Press by Senator Toni Boucher.