EDITORIAL: No budget action in Hartford leads to chaos

EDITORIAL: No budget action in Hartford leads to chaos


Our lawmakers in Hartford were supposed to come up with a state budget no later than midnight on June 30. They didn’t. Then it seemed that something might happen on July 18. It didn’t. Meanwhile, the state has been operating under executive orders from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Now that the kids are about to go back to school, the latest guess as to when a budget might materialize is maybe sometime in mid-September. Or maybe not.

How long will this situation be dragged out?

Connecticut’s towns and cities, with no idea how much state aid they’ll be getting in Education Cost Sharing grants this October (the single largest form of financial aid from the state), have been scrambling all summer, trying to figure out ways to keep those schools running.

How are the municipalities supposed to cope with this chaos?

To make matters worse, if Malloy’s revised executive budget order of last Friday stands, many towns will be getting nothing at all. The revised order completely eliminates education funding for 85 municipalities, including Southington (for a loss of $20.3 million), Berlin (a $6.2 million cut), Durham ($3.9 million), Middlefield ($2.1 million), and North Haven ($3.8 million). Under the same drastic revision, Wallingford would lose $19.2 million, Cheshire almost $9 million, and Plainville $8.2 million.

Some towns will also be losing PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds and other state grants, although the governor would restore some funding for social services.

The state’s most troubled school districts, which in this area include Meriden and Hamden, would not be cut. Last year, Meriden received $60.3 million in ECS money, and Hamden almost $27 million.

But how are the other towns going to make up the difference? They’ve already sent out their property tax bills for the year. And if they send out another batch of big tax bills, that will hit many taxpayers like a ton of bricks, especially retirees on fixed incomes. This is unacceptable.

Local officials say they can’t absorb those cuts, and are urging lawmakers to take action quickly. “We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said.

“I tried to avoid all of this,” Malloy said, not having expected the budget stalemate to last this long. But on Friday he revised his 90-day order to last up to a year, if necessary.

“Republicans have done everything in our power to move the ball forward,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, “but our efforts to even get Democrats to call our budgets for a vote were denied.” He urged the Democrats to “share their own complete plan to counter the governor’s devastating approach.” Fasano went so far as to question the legality of the governor’s latest move.

Lawmakers must close a $3.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years, and Malloy maintains that he would veto any of the existing proposals from both parties. As for the possibility of a mid-September vote, Malloy said of his fellow Democrats, “I don’t think they’re that close, quite frankly.” As for Fasano, he said, “This is a guy who sits in the cheap seats and throws shots, and gets nothing done.”

So here we are: The sniping continues, but no apparent progress has been made. We will have to muddle through, since no magic solution has emerged. It will be up to the voters to apportion blame for this mess and, on Election Day next year, cast their spell.

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