Connecticut’s budget priorities couldn’t be more backwards

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To all my neighbors in the 107th: I want to give you an honest budget. I want to make structural changes to the way our government runs this state, because it’s our prized community at home that’s suffering. The way our businesses and schools are being treated is not acceptable. This is not the reality that our taxpayers deserve; I won’t accept another deficit in six months, and I wouldn’t expect you to accept one either.

It’s an honor to serve you, and I take my job very seriously. So while the budget that we voted on this past Friday technically didn’t increase taxes and in fact cut some state spending, I couldn’t support the disservices that came with it, and the false notion that taxes were not increased. Our significant cuts to municipal aid will inherently lead to tax increases at the municipal level.

The best part of my job is getting to see young students from our district come visit me in Hartford with bright faces and bright futures ahead of them. The $32.2 million cuts to Education Cost Sharing (ECS) and $4.3 million cuts to Special Education funding made in the budget would be direct cuts to those futures, and I can’t condone it– especially knowing that the money is instead going towards building up politicians’ campaigns, or a new stadium in Hartford.

Priorities in our capitol city couldn’t be more backwards. They’re cutting funding for support groups for the spouses of deployed soldiers, but funding some busway that only a small percentage of the population uses? I know we have to make hard cuts here – there’s no other way to bring Connecticut out of this fiscal crisis – but I do not support doing it like this.

Connecticut still faces budget deficits of $1.3 billion in 2018 and $1.8 billion in 2019, and we are headed towards a 27.5 percent spending growth by FY 21. Meanwhile, the state is relying on revenues from things like drinking, smoking, gambling and delinquent taxpayers. $115 million is recorded as expected from “unidentified savings” and “miscellaneous revenue.” Twenty-nine towns across the state will not get property tax relief on car tax because mill rates were increased. Hospitals will lose $139 million, DCF clinics will lose $1 million, DMHAS will lose $13.8 million, and fire training schools will lose 24 percent in funding.

What we need instead are votes on union contracts, a true spending and bonding cap, overtime accountability, and the municipal mandate relief that so many towns and cities are desperate for. I proposed these ideas in a plan that would have not only saved Connecticut hospitals and schools, but turned our fiscal situation right around and sent it down the right path towards prosperity, rather than more crisis, years down the road.

Our work is not done for this year. We are preparing to be called back into session possibly next week. I will continue to fight for Brookfield, Danbury and Bethel and hope that my calls for a just budget, government and future are heard.

State Rep. Stephen Harding represents the 107th District, which includes Danbury, Brookfield and Bethel.

What do you think?

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